Belfast Telegraph

Heathrow Airport boss: No policy or political reason stopping third runway

The boss of Heathrow Airport has insisted that there is no policy or political reason why a third runway cannot be built.

Chief executive John-Holland Kaye claimed the UK needs the west London hub to be expanded "as quickly as possible".

Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed on Tuesday that the Government's preferred airport expansion project will be announced next week.

The shortlisted options are a third runway at Heathrow, extending the airport's existing northern runway and building a second runway at Gatwick.

Asked if he had been given any indication that the Government was unhappy with anything in Heathrow's expansion plan, Mr Holland-Kaye replied: "Not at all."

He told the Press Association: "There's no policy reason at all stopping us from getting on with Heathrow.

"There's no political reason either because there is massive support in Parliament to get on and make it happen.

"Just in the last few days we've seen the SNP with their 56 votes come out in support of Heathrow, we've seen the Parliamentary Labour Party come out in support, as well as the DUP with their eight MPs.

"So just there you've probably got 250 out of 650 votes before the Government even says anything.

"That shows that we're very politically deliverable as well as being the right national choice."

Gatwick has said it will remain "ready to deliver" a second runway if the Government rejects its proposal, claiming Heathrow expansion is "likely to fail" even if the project gets the go-ahead.

Mr Holland-Kaye said he was "delighted" when Theresa May set out the process for approving airport expansion. Following next week's announcement there will be a public consultation before a National Policy Statement is published and put to MPs.

"This is exactly what we have been hoping for and I think she's shown great leadership in demonstrating that she is going to make a decision and setting out a clear path," he said.

"This planning process is a very good and very successful way of deciding on big infrastructure projects. This is what Hinkley Point went through, Thames Tideway and lots of other smaller projects."

Mrs May's predecessor, D avid Cameron, was warned a year ago that the Government was "exposed on Heathrow" because it had no answers to concerns on air quality.

A memo to the then PM by his Number 10 policy chief raised alarm about a Whitehall air quality plan, according to The Guardian.

The note, written by senior adviser Camilla Cavendish, was dismissive about the first draft of a government air quality initiative from the environment department which was then headed by Liz Truss.

The September 2015 memo said there were "problems with Liz's clean air plan as currently written", adding: "I t leaves us exposed on Heathrow where we don't yet have an answer on air quality".

Gatwick c hief executive Stewart Wingate described the publication of the document as a "h ighly significant last-minute intervention".

He said: "It comes from the person who was in charge of policy in Downing Street until just a few weeks ago. She makes crystal clear that air quality will once again choke off airport expansion if Heathrow is chosen - and she is in a position to know."

Mr Wingate added that t he Heathrow area "currently breaches air quality levels" and claimed a third runway will mean "millions more car journeys to the airport".

A trading update revealed that for the first nine months of 2016 Heathrow slumped to a £293 million loss after it was stung by exceptional items. This compares with a £552 million profit in the same period last year.

Stripping out exceptional items, pre-tax profit increased 11% to £202 million. Revenue rose 1.3% to £2.1 billion.

Heathrow added that a record 57.3 million passengers used the airport during the period, up 0.7%.