UK Airport Expansion Debate Delayed Again

Britain’s coalition Government has delayed talks about expanding airports in the congested south-east of England for the second time. Proposals, including those for a third and possibly even fourth runway at Heathrow; a second runway for Gatwick and/or Stansted, and the construction of a new airport in the Thames Estuary, were originally to have been discussed in March, but were delayed until the summer. Now the start of the consultation faces further delays lasting several months. The go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow was given by the then Labour Government in 2009. However, after the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition was formed following the May 2010 General Election, the new government swept aside all plans for new runways in the south-east of England. Current official Conservative and Lib Dem policy opposes a third runway at Heathrow and new airports in the south-east. However, throughout this year, there has been increasing speculation from political and industry specialists that some Conservative Members of Parliament recognise the business need to increase UK airport capacity, especially in the south-east of England. If political decisions could be delayed until after the next election; should the Conservatives win a majority, it would enable them to push ahead with airport development without having to override their existing anti airport-expansion manifesto pledges. Despite the delayed airport development talks, a government white paper published today concerning regional and environmental aviation issues mentions the possibility of improving Gatwick and Stansted’s transfer passenger facilities.