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UK needs more runways, says aviation minister



London’s biggest airports need to be expanded further, according to the new aviation minister.

Speaking on Monday at the Airport Operators Association (AOA) conference in London, Tory MP Robert Goodwill said it is “vital” that the UK grows its ‘hub capacity’ – so its airports are large enough to provide more connecting passengers with a wider range of long-haul flights.

He argued that “aviation needs to grow, to support economic expansion, whilst giving due respect to the wider environment and the quality of life of those on the ground”. 

Sir Howard Davies, chair of the Airports Commission, will speak at the conference on Tuesday. The commission is currently preparing a report investigating the UK’s future airport capacity needs. 

Speaking earlier this month, Davies said that the committee had made a “provisional conclusion” that more runways will be required in the south east of England in the coming decades.

“To rely only on runways currently in operation would be likely to produce a distinctly sub-optimal solution for passengers, connectivity and the economy,” he said.

The commission is set to publish a shortlist of possible options for expansion in December.

In a report submitted to the Davies commission in July, Heathrow airport put forward plans to further expand what is already the UK’s busiest airport.

They said that such expansion would create jobs and inspire economic growth. It says its plans “will connect the UK to the growth it needs more quickly than any other option” , adding that the expansion would help “meet the UK’s long-term needs, not just the short-term”.

The report also stressed that Heathrow must consider its commitments to reduce CO2 emissions by “incentivising cleaner [aircrafts], supporting global carbon trading and increasing public transport use”.

However, environmental campaigners are sceptical of the need for increasing Britain’s aviation capacity. Commenting on Heathrow’s proposals, Friends of the Earth senior campaigner James Thomas said, “Heathrow airport’s naked self-interest threatens to create further misery for communities living under its flight path and undermine UK efforts to tackle climate change.

He added, “The argument that more airport capacity is essential for Britain is nonsense, London already has more flights to the world’s top business centres than its European competitors.”

In a Comres survey undertaken for the AOA which involved 500 senior financial decision makers, only 8% of businessmen said they were dissatisfied with the UK’s international air links. 

Further reading:

Heathrow submits plans to UK airport commission for a third runway

Boris Johnson’s proposal to build residential area near Heathrow sparks debate

Is ‘Boris Island’ preparing for flight?