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Heathrow: third runway gets report backing

by James Renoux-Wood Wed 1 July 2015, 9:40 am

The Airports Commission has released a final report backing the building of a third runway at Heathrow, saying it would add 147 billion in GDP over 60 years and create 70,000 jobs by 2050.

Heathrow Airport

Support for expansion at Heathrow was unanimous, but comes with a package of measures to address environmental and community impacts. Expansion at Gatwick has not been ruled out with the report saying the scheme is still feasible. 

But the commission’s report on Wednesday morning (1 July) stated that Heathrow’s case was the strongest for future airport capacity, delivering the greatest strategic and economic benefits, and will provide around 40 new destinations. 

The recommendations for the runway are that it should sit further west than the current runways and that it should be full-length to maximize connectivity benefits.

Measures included in the report to limit the impacts on those living nearby, include: 

  • A ban on all scheduled night flights in the period from 11.30pm to 6.00am, which is only possible with expansion.
  • No fourth runway: the government should make a firm commitment in parliament not to expand the airport further – there is no sound operational or environmental case for a fourth runway at Heathrow. 
  • A legally binding ‘noise envelope’ putting firm limits on the level of noise created by the airport. 
  • A new aviation noise levy to fund an expanded programme of mitigation, including noise insulation for homes, schools and other community facilities.
  • A legal commitment on air quality that new capacity will only be released when it is clear that compliance with EU limits will not be delayed.
  • A Community Engagement Board, under an independent chair, with real influence over spending on mitigation and compensation and over the airport’s operations.
  • An independent aviation noise authority, with a statutory right to be consulted on flight paths and other operating procedures at all UK airports. 
  • Provision of training opportunities and apprenticeships for local people, so that nearby communities benefit from the jobs and economic opportunities

Councillor Steve Curran, leader of Hounslow Council, said: “This recommendation by the Airports Commission will obviously have a huge impact on Hounslow. We will analyse the report in detail and, in due course, consider it thoroughly at a special meeting of councillors. We will also be seeking the views of our local MPs. We will then be able to give a full response.

“What we can say now, however, is that we welcome the report’s recommendation that the new runway should come with severe restrictions to reduce the environmental and noise effects, including a noise levy, and that night flights would be banned. 

“We also want to say that we have recently developed a positive and productive relationship with Heathrow, which has resulted in many improvements for local people – both in terms of noise protection and employment opportunities. We hope this will continue.”

There is no final decision on expansion at Heathrow, with several influential politicians, such as the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, opposing the proposals.

Sir Howard Davis, who led the commission, said: “Heathrow is best-placed to provide the type of capacity which is most urgently required: long haul destinations to new markets. It provides the greatest benefits for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy.”

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