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Airports Commission close of consultation

Our recent report London 2036: an agenda for jobs and growth highlighted the importance of enhanced global connectivity to support London’s continued competitiveness as a leading world city.

As part of the Airports Commission’s current consultation, a cross-section of London First members this week participated in a round-table discussion with Sir Howard Davies and Commission members on the importance of additional airport capacity for the London and UK economy.

We were encouraged by the commission’s continued determination to publish their report shortly after the election, potentially in June. Working with Let Britain Fly, we will continue to press the political parties to commit in their manifestos to make a quick decision on airports expansion guided by the Airports Commission’s final recommendations.

The Commission’s consultation on its assessment of proposals for additional runway capacity at Gatwick and Heathrow airports closes on Tuesday 3 February. A summary of the case being made by each of the scheme proposers can be found here:

Gatwick Airport’s proposal

Heathrow Airport’s proposal

Heathrow Hub’s proposal

London First’s response to the Airports Commission is as below:

London First has long called for an increase in air capacity in the South East to support the growth of London, the wider region and indeed the country as a whole. The economic arguments for such expansion are clear and familiar and recently articulated in London 2036: an agenda for jobs and growth which we published in January on behalf of the London Enterprise Panel.  This report concluded that London is the leading global centre for business and talent: the city attracts more overnight international visitors, more international students, and more FDI projects and more large international subsidiaries than any other.   But we face growing competition from other cities and – amongst other actions – need to enhance and improve our airport capacity if London is to maintain its position.

 The task is urgent. London Heathrow has been full for over a decade, and Gatwick and Stansted are forecast to be full by the mid-2020s. London has fewer weekly flights than its European rivals to seven of the eight growth economies identified by the IMF and over 20 emerging market destinations are served by daily flights from other European cities but not from London. Twenty times more trade is done with countries with which Britain has a direct air link; and 40%, by value, of Britain’s exports go by air. We therefore strongly welcomed the Airport Commission’s conclusion in 2014 that “there is a case for at least one net additional runway in London and the South East by 2030”.

Our preferred approach to determining where such runway(s) should be built would be to let the market decide. As the Commission has also noted, in the UK runways stand “in contrast to most other large transport infrastructure” as their costs “are likely to be borne entirely or predominantly by the private sector”.

However we recognise the deep concerns felt by many within London and the wider South East over the broad impacts that the construction and, in particular, utilisation of the any new capacity will create; and that it is right that public policy seeks to take these into account in a broad planning process.

The Commission’s consultation document identifies the range of issues which need to be taken into account in reaching a decision. The crux is the trade-off between the different economic benefits; costs; and environmental impacts of the three schemes. We have not conducted our own evaluation of the three schemes the Commission has short-listed; and accordingly propose neither to second-guess its analysis nor its conclusions in 2015. Our focus will instead be on moving to a swift implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.

 Contact: Michael Millar,  

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