New runway ‘should be at Heathrow, not Gatwick’, says report

A long-awaited report into airport capacity has recommended that a new runway should be built at Heathrow rather than Gatwick.

After three years of investigation, the UK Airports Commission said Heathrow was best placed to provide “urgently required” capacity.

It chose a new, full-length runway at Heathrow rather than expanding one of the airport’s current runways or building a new one at Gatwick.

Heathrow, from above

The commission also recommended a “comprehensive” package of measures to make Heathrow’s expansion more acceptable to the local community. This includes a ban on night flights from 11.30pm to 6am, legally binding limits on noise, a new levy to fund insulation for homes, schools and other community facilities around Heathrow, and an independent noise authority.

Commission chairman Howard Davies said the conclusions were “clear and unanimous”. He warned that London’s airports were showing signs of “strain” and the entire system would be full by 2040 without action.

The British Government will now consider the recommendations, but the commission said a firm decision was needed soon, as bringing a new runway into operation would take at least a decade.

No new full-length runway has been built in south-east England since the 1940s, while other countries have kept pace with the growing demands of an expanding aviation industry, said the commission. Its 242 page report also recommended that a fourth runway at Heathrow should be “firmly ruled out”.

The cost of building a new runway is estimated to be around £17.6bn, said the commission, with billions more in transport costs.

The commission said a new runway would generate up to £147bn in economic output over 60 years and create more than 70,000 jobs by 2050.

Regular daily services to around 40 new destinations would be added, including 10-12 new long-haul flights.

Gatwick had presented a “plausible” case for expansion and was well placed to cater for growth in European leisure flying, but was unlikely to provide capacity which was urgently required – long-haul destinations on new markets, said the report.

“Heathrow can provide that capacity most easily and quickly. The benefits are significantly greater, for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy,” said Sir Howard.

The commission had ruled out a new airport in the Thames Estuary, favoured by London mayor Boris Johnson, as “unfeasibly expensive and hugely disruptive for many businesses and communities.”

A new runway at Heathrow would provide the necessary capacity until 2040 at least, said Sir Howard.

“Beyond that the position is uncertain and will be strongly dependent on the international policy approach to climate change.”

A ban on night flights would affect 16 which currently land at Heathrow between 4.30 and 6am. This would only be possible with expansion, said the commission.

A “noise envelope” would be agreed, legally binding Heathrow to stay within limits. This could include stipulating no overall increase above current levels.

The commission also recommended that Heathrow should compensate residents who would lose their homes – estimated at 783 – at full market value plus 25% and reasonable costs.

The airport should also be held to its commitment to spend more than £1bn on community compensation, the report said. It also called for an aviation noise authority to be set up, with a statutory right to be consulted on flight paths.

New investments in railways should be made and a congestion charge for cars arriving at Heathrow should be considered, it was urged.

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