FT UK Government to Look at Extra Runway in South East


Third one at Heathrow won’t be enough to satisfy passenger demand says official

The government will set in motion in December the process to determine which UK airport will get a new runway, before ground has even been broken for the last runway it approved. Sarah Bishop, deputy director of aviation policy in the Department for Transport, said in a speech to a transport think-tank that government forecasts for aviation growth from 2015 were “already looking quite out of date” and that the south-east of England could need a new runway by 2050, “so we need to be on the front foot and set out the decision-making framework for considering that question”. Ms Bishop said the government would launch a consultation in December to examine whether it needed a new airports commission, like the one which awarded Heathrow a third runway; a site-specific government-led white paper; or “a more market-led approach” with a “more permissive National Policy Statement”. The Davies Commission, which endorsed Heathrow’s new runway in July 2015, predicted at the time that another new runway might be needed by 2050 but said its environmental impact had to be considered “if further expansion is not to materially affect the UK’s ability to meet current and future climate obligations.” It also said: “There would not be any credible case, however, for a fourth runway at Heathrow.” Heathrow has said its new runway will be ready in 2026, if it passes a series of legal and planning challenges. Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “It truly beggars belief that a further runway is even being mooted. Given environmental targets are struggling to be met with the existing Heathrow plans, yet another new runway would make a laughing stock of the UK’s commitment to the environment.” The DfT sounded a note of caution in a later statement: “The Airports Commission has set out that there would likely be sufficient demand to justify a second additional runway by 2050, or in some scenarios earlier — although this does not necessarily mean that this would be justified on economic or environmental grounds.” Heathrow said: “What is clear is that a third runway is urgently needed now and our focus remains directly on delivering this for Britain. We have always been clear that we would accept a commitment from government ruling out a fourth runway at Heathrow, but that is a matter of government’s policy to enforce.”

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