Cameron delays decision on whether to build a new Heathrow runway
The UK government has delayed its decision on whether to build a new runway at Heathrow – the country’s busiest airport.
Prime Minister David Cameron previously said that he’d make a decision by the end of the year on the proposed 23-billion-pound runway at Heathrow.
However, the government said on Thursday that it needs more information on the environmental impact of a third runway before making a decision.
“The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come,” Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said Thursday.
“We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon.”
There were other factors in play that made delaying a decision more convenient, namely Zac Goldsmith’s fierce opposition to the expansion plans.
Mr Goldsmith, Tory mayoral candidate, said earlier this week that if Mr Cameron broke his pledge not to expand Heathrow it would be “an enormous betrayal”.
According to Sky News, Zac Goldsmith had a meeting with the PM on Tuesday and essentially “held a gun” to his head. A source close to the Goldsmith mayoral bid team was quoted by Sky News as saying: “Zac said that if the word Heathrow appeared in the announcement, he’d walk.”
The decision on whether to expand Heathrow isn’t expected to be made until summer 2016.
The move to put off an announcement comes despite a report by the independent Airports Commission in July concluding that expanding Heathrow would be in the country’s best interest to meet the growing demands of business travelers and tourists.
The airport is currently operating at full capacity. Heathrow says that adding a new runway would add an extra 100 billion pounds to the economy and bring in over 120,000 new jobs.
UK industry is frustrated with the expansion delay
“It defies belief that having set a target to double our exports, the government is refusing to approve the extra air capacity to help it,” Terry Scuoler, chief executive of the EEF manufacturers group, told The Financial Times.
He added: “This sends another very damaging signal to inward investors who will question exactly how far the UK really is ‘open for business’.”
Carolyn Fairbairn of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: ”We urgently need to increase our runway capacity to spur trade growth, investment and job creation. We cannot fall into the habit of simply commissioning new evidence, instead of the Government taking the tough decisions needed at the end of the process.”