Airports Commission says Britain should build third Heathrow runway

Britain should build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, a government-appointed commission into the country’s airport capacity said in a report that could cause a political headache for Prime Minister David Cameron.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (REUTERS) – Britain should build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, a government-appointed commission into the country’s airport capacity said.

The report could cause a political headache for Prime Minister David Cameron.

After a three-year study, the Airports Commission selected a new runway at Heathrow over two other shortlisted options, arguing that it offered Britain the best way to add “urgently required” long-haul routes to new markets and boost the economy.

“The economic benefits of expanding Heathrow are much greater than expanding Gatwick. What we really need in London in the future is new links to emerging market destinations. Heathrow is a very strong long-haul airport, Gatwick is much more oriented towards European and low-cost flight and we therefore think you get much more economic bang for your buck by expanding Heathrow,” the commission’s chairman, Howard Davies, said on Wednesday (July 1).

It is now up to the government to decide whether to accept the Heathrow option that Cameron, in 2009, said would not happen under his watch.

Cameron said on Wednesday he would take a decision by the end of this year on how London’s airport capacity will be expanded.

“I am very clear about the legal position that if we say anything now before studying the report actually you can endanger whatever decision is made. But the guarantee I can give to the honourable lady is that a decision will be made by the end of the year,” he told the House of Commons.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has long opposed Heathrow expansion and proposes an alternative plan to build an entirely new airport in the Thames Estuary east of the capital.

“It’s a third runway at Heathrow, it will lead to hundreds of thousands more planes over London and it will lead to a massive increase in noise pollution and fumes. So I don’t think it’s different. I think that the difficulties will be very very great in bringing this to birth,” he said.

The Heathrow recommendation was accompanied by a package of measures to limit the noise and environmental impact of a new runway, in an attempt to allay concerns that have prompted protest and political division.

Lawmakers broadly agree that southeast England needs a new runway to remain economically competitive, but building one near densely-populated West London is a politically toxic issue.

A previous expansion plan was scrapped in 2010, but the new proposal was described by the Airports Commission as “fundamentally different”, citing its more westerly location and accompanying conditions to ban night flights and a government pledge not to add more runways later.