Following meetings with the Conservative Shadow Transport Secretary's advisors at Party Conference, BAA announced that would not submit a planning application for a 3rd runway at Heathrow ahead of the General Election, which is expected in May.
This means that a potential Conservative Government would not face having to pay huge sums in compensation for wasted work if the scheme had gone ahead. Theresa Villiers, the Shadow Transport Secretary, had previously stated that the scrapping of the scheme would be a manifesto commitment.
Lobby groups against the runway were understandably cheered at the news. The 2M Group, representing the Mayor of London and an group of local authorities opposing the 3rd runway were ecstatic, with Edward Lister, spokesman for the group saying: “The third runway will never happen and they know it. It’s a spectacular result for the campaign.”
Where next for air travel from London?
Given that BAA have taken their foot off the accelerator with regards to Heathrow expansion in order to accommodate the new political reality, all eyes should be on the Conservatives to outline how they see London's air travel developing. Sadly, this is where their plans fail to stack up. Westminster and City Hall are, at the moment at least, pursuing different objectives. Westminster is talking of High Speed Rail linking the rest of the UK with London and its airports, City Hall of a new Estuary Airport two-miles off Sheerness.
However, with Conservatives also against second runways at Gatwick and Stanstead they may soon agree with the Mayor that a new international hub will be required.
Cheekily nicknamed 'Boris Island', the Mayor's plans for an Estuary Airport two-miles off Sheerness have been quietly gathering pace. Doug Oakervee has been advising the Mayor on the feasibility of the airport, and as the Evening Standard recently reported, opportunities for funding the £40bn project, even in these financial times, are present. BAA have also indicated that they are now prepared to consider this option, following the stalling of their plans for a 3rd runway at Heathrow.
The Mayor believes that, should the feasibility studies not throw up any significant hurdles, the airport could be built in 10 years and dwarf the capacity at Heathrow, linking to central London, CrossRail and the Eurostar with high-speed rail links. Should the environmental concerns be overcome, this is certainly a bold scheme with many potential benefits.