Airport expansion – what’s next?

In December 2013, new runways at Heathrow and Gatwick were among the options that were short-listed by the Airports Commission for expanding UK airport capacity. The three short-listed options included building a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow and creating a new runway at Gatwick. There were also suggestions of building a new airport in the Isle of Grain in north Kent. So far, The Airport Commission has splashed more than £2.1 million in the two years it has spent considering airport expansion in the South East, according to The Independent. So what can we expect from the final report which is due next summer?

Sir Howard Davies was asked in 2012 to investigate the options for expanding the UK's aviation capacity and to try to come up with a plan. The Commission’s analysis revealed that one net additional runway was to be needed by 2030. It came to their attention that the capacity challenge is not yet critical, but it will become so if no action is taken soon. A new runway at Gatwick Airport at a length of more than 3,000m is being considered along with a new 3,500m at Heathrow Airport and an extension to Heathrow’s existing northern runway, which will enable it to be used for both take-offs and landings.

These shortlisted proposals have already prompted a rigorous debate across the UK. The Major of London, Boris Johnson, has said that putting a new runway at Heathrow would be a "catastrophe". Following the commission's report, Mr Johnson said he continued to support the creation of the Isle of Grain airport in north Kent. According to the BBC, the Commission calculates that an Isle of Grain airport would cost up to £112bn, which is around five times more expensive that than three short-listed options will cost!

The Evening Standard has recently revealed that the commission has already spent £2,163,041 and a further £107,000 has been spent on top of that figure on rent. Despite that, Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce, has criticised the Government for its delay in formally responding to the commission’s December report. He said: “The appalling delay by the Government in spelling out what it plans to do to gain capacity does not help to instill confidence. Every day of delay could hamper Britain’s export potential.”

Supporters of Heathrow's expansion say it will be quicker and cheaper than other options and will help to maintain the UK as an international aviation hub. Heathrow's owners submitted evidence to the commission arguing that a new runway could be in place by 2029, allowing 260,000 more flights. On the other hand, Gatwick Airport have said that their figures show that a second runway at their airport will inject £56 billion into the UK economy between 2025 and 2050, adding 4.5 million tourist visits per year over the same period.

At I love Meet and Greet we are very intrigued to see what the Commission’s overall recommendations will involve!

By Sarah Anglim at 6 May 2014

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