The Government’s airport commission says the UK should consider further expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick airports to increase the UK’s air capacity.
Ministers set-up the commission, which is chaired by former Financial Services Authority boss Howard Davies, to investigate options for future expansion.
The coalition has previously promised not to expand Heathrow before the 2015 General Election.
Expansion at the airport is opposed by some local residents and all parties on the London Assembly as well as by Mayor Boris Johnson who backs the construction of a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary.
The commission’s interim report says this idea will be subject to further consideration but is not included on the formal shortlist.
The short-listed options are:
- A new 3,000m runway at Gatwick Airport
- A new 3,500m runway at Heathrow Airport sited north-west of the existing airport
- Extending Heathrow’s existing northern runway to enable it to be used for both take-offs and landings
In July the London Assembly said any ministerial “u-turn” over Heathrow expansion would be unacceptable.
Research previously carried out by the Assembly’s Transport Committee suggested that Stansted, Luton and Gatwick all have sufficient capacity to meet future demand.
Commenting on the interim report’s findings, Committee chair Val Shawcross AM said: “Rather than further blight the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living near Heathrow or under its flight paths, the focus should be on making the most of that existing underused airport capacity and improving transport links to all London’s airports.”
Mayor Johnson insisted that “a new airport in the inner estuary is the only credible hub option left”.
However Colin Matthews, Heathrow’s Chief Executive, said: “A third runway is the quickest, cheapest and surest way of connecting the UK to growth.”