The Airports Commission, led by former Financial Services Authority chairman Sir Howard Davies, will be examining submissions from national airports to determine whether additional runways are needed in South East England. Heathrow airport were among those unveiling proposals last week, and revealed three options for a new third runway.
Having assessed the future of Heathrow, the focus of the proposal is to provide a long-term plan for the airport and develop solutions for the capacity problems which have constricted the airport for over a decade. They envisage that a new, full length runway could enable the airport to operate 740,000 flights per year by 2025-29; a significant increase from the current 480,000 flights operated annually.
A key objective for Heathrow airport is to minimize the effect on local communities by reducing noise impact and providing fair compensation for those whose homes are purchased to pave the way for the runway. It is believed that a westerly runway would mean planes would not need to fly so low over London, thus reducing the sound pollution. However, it has been noted by opposition to the expansion that each of Heathrow’s three options would include mandatory purchases of land, resulting in property demolition and possible work to the M25.
The UK climate targets are a consideration for Heathrow’s application and they claim that they will be able to keep within CO2 and air quality targets through improving efficiency and using cleaner aircrafts. If the option to offset carbon is granted, it is thought that carbon emissions will also be reduced.
Heathrow airport’s Chief Executive, Colin Matthews, has emphasized the proposal’s timeframe and costs, stating that it will be built quickly and at a lower cost to the country’s taxpayers. The proposal also commits to safeguarding employment as well as creating thousands of new jobs. The airport currently works to 98% of its capacity, which often results in delays and cancellations. Matthews believes the additional runway would alleviate such disruptions, as well as permitting airlines to boost their current flights.
Opposing Heathrow’s plans, London Mayor, Mr. Boris Johnson has condemned Heathrow airport’s proposals as “politically, environmentally and socially unacceptable” and considers proposals by Gatwick, Stansted and sites in the Thames Estuary better, more practical options. Greenpeace has also labelled the proposal as “flawed”. Despite fierce opposition, Heathrow’s proposal has been advocated by many business groups.
Airport Commission invites comments on its emerging thinking.