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Airports Commission shortlists options

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Sir Howard

Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission has today published a consultation considering proposals for the expansion of runway capacity at Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Three options are on the table for consideration – two different proposals for expansion at Heathrow, and one at Gatwick.

Analysis has been made of the cost of each proposal, the effect on local communities (noise, loss in property value and disruption), environmental impacts and economic benefits.

The media have already picked up on the fact that all of the original plans were substantially under-priced: Gatwick to the tune of £2bn, and both Heathrow schemes between £3-4bn more.

The Airports Commission is inviting public comment on its assessment, which will be use to ‘inform [their] recommendation to the government’ when it is published in the summer of 2015.

The three options being considered (which have been worked up further by their promoters since the previous, interim, report) are:

  • an additional runway to the south of the existing runway at Gatwick Airport (Gatwick Airport Ltd)
  • an additional runway to the north west of the existing northern runway at Heathrow Airport (Heathrow Airport Ltd)
  • an extension to the existing northern runway at Heathrow Airport to operate as 2 separate runways (Heathrow Hub Ltd)

There are pros and cons to each of the plans and the consultation document is worth reading in full. For those who want a short summary of the key points, the Today Programme this morning featured a debate between the Chief Executives of both Heathrow and Gatwick arguing their cases (available as a podcast for the next 7 days).

The Commission is, of course, not due to report back until after the General Election. That timing is a considerable fudge but will allow political parties to sharpen their arguments towards the various options.

The Mayor (now the candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, where Heathrow is based) maintains his opposition to Heathrow expansion and has, the Evening Standard reports, recently met with representatives from Gatwick.

A broad consensus seems to be holding amongst the main political parties that Heathrow expansion is a step too far. Whether than stands beyond the General Election remains to be seen, but it’s hard not to see Gatwick being considered an agreeable compromise option, even for the Lib Dems who are opposed to airport expansion more generally.

The consultation papers can be found here and it will run until 3 Feb 2015.