Much of the business community has responded with predicable outrage at the decision to postpone a decision on new runways.
Although it might be being overdone for effect, it’s understandable. Following the Airport Commission’s backing for of a third runway in in July, Heathrow and its business backers had every reason to feel they had it in the bag. Now they are being asked to play six months of extra time.
The Government has been accused of playing politics; of postponing the decision until after May’s Mayoral elections in order to stop the Conservative mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith, from resigning his Parliamentary seat in the middle of the Mayoral campaign.
Zac Goldsmith has played a blinder in his opposition to a third runway but it would be a mistake to see this decision as all about Zac.
The Government has understood the real problems with a third runway at Heathrow and, given those difficulties, it has understood it needs to keep alive the option of an extended runway at Heathrow (as proposed by Heathrow Hub) and of a second runway at Gatwick.
The Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin was very clear on this point on the Today programme this morning.
The last Labour Government tied and failed to build a 3rd runway at Heathrow. The obstacles are enormous:
- Pollution levels that could exceed the EU legal limits
- 250,000 more planes a year over the capital city that already experiences more aircraft noise than any other place in Europe
- The demolition of almost 800 homes
- The need to put part of the M25 in a tunnel
- A cost to the taxpayer of the associated road and rail infrastructure that could run into billions
These are big, big concerns. With or without a Mayoral election looming, they would justify more time being spent in the long grass to get them right.
This article was originally published on hacan.org.uk