Heathrow dealt huge blow as Government delays airport expansion decision


Adam Marshall, the acting director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, accused ministers of “a cop out” after Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, said it would be “at least October” before an announcement is made about where to build more runway capacity in the south east, reports The Telegraph.

Mr Cameron had been due to unveil a decision in early July, but the surprise vote to leave the European Union and his subsequent resignation, which sparked political chaos, scuppered that plan. He also postponed a decision in December, and it will now fall to his successor.

The fresh delay, which came almost exactly a year after the Government-appointed Airports Commission recommended Heathrow should have a third runway, sparked widespread anger.

Terry Scuoler, the head of the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, branded it “a missed opportunity to let the world know that post-Brexit Britain is open for business” and “extremely frustrating that internal party politics prevents a key infrastructure decision from being taken”. The Confederation of British Industry estimated Britain now stood to lose £22.5bn in trade with major emerging markets to Germany and France.

“If you’re outside the EU, you’ve got to have a plan for how you’re going to trade with the rest of the world,” said Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye. “Heathrow’s the only game in town to do that.”

Expanding Heathrow to avoid a capacity crunch has long been controversial. Britain’s biggest airport, which is almost full, handled 75m passengers last year and there are worries a third runway will increase air and noise pollution. Theresa May, a leading contender to succeed Mr Cameron, is concerned about the impact expansion would have on her Maidenhead constituency, which is near the airport.

The delay is a fillip for two rival schemes: a second Gatwick runway and an independent proposal to lengthen an existing Heathrow runway. The leaders of both projects said that it increased their chances of receiving the green-light from a future prime minister.

It is embarrassing for the Government, however, because the Airports Commission spent £20m and almost three years coming up with its recommendation for a third Heathrow runway.