Belfast Telegraph

Strong backing from businesses for third Heathrow runway

Business groups called on the Government to act now and give the green light to a third runway at Heathrow after the airport announced a raft of measures including plans to ban night flights.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) said the Government had "run out of excuses" and must make a decision before the summer parliamentary recess.

Simon Walker, director general of the IoD, said it was "high time the Government stops kicking this issue into the long grass" following the proposals put forward by Heathrow, including a ban on scheduled flights between 11pm and 5.30am.

Heathrow is also supporting the introduction of an independent noise authority and pledged not to add new capacity unless it can do so without delaying UK compliance with EU air quality limits.

Mr Walker said: "Now that the Davies Commission has looked at all the options, and the mayoral election is out of the way, it is imperative that the Government announces where this crucial infrastructure will be built before we reach the summer recess."

Business group London First described the pledges made by Heathrow as "significant commitments" and said the Government now needs to respond in kind.

Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said: "Heathrow has taken tough decisions and addressed the concerns of local residents with further restrictions on night flights and tighter control of emissions.

"This should remove the last rational objections to Heathrow expansion, which is essential if British businesses are to be properly connected with the emerging cities around the world."

Businesses have been strong supporters of plans for a third runway at Heathrow, arguing that current airport infrastructure is not enough to support long-term economic growth.

A survey of its business leaders by the IoD last year revealed that only 3% believe current British airport infrastructure is adequate.

Nearly two thirds - 61% - also supported a new runway at Heathrow, with 39% backing Gatwick.

Pro-expansion group Let Britain Fly - which claims support from backers including business leaders, business groups, trade and professional associations - said the measures announced by Heathrow should be "welcomed by all sides".

Gavin Hayes, director of Let Britain Fly, said: "After years of dithering the ball is now firmly in the Government's court to get on and make a final decision on airport expansion as swiftly as possible - with this package of measures now on the table it's decision time - there can be no more excuses for delay."

Chris Cummings, chief executive of TheCityUK, which promotes Britain as a financial centre, said a decision on airport expansion should be an "absolute priority".

He added: "TheCityUK believes that greater airport capacity has the potential to create valuable jobs and sustain our international competitiveness."

The CBI hit out at the delays to airport expansion, saying its recent research showed it will cost the UK economy up to £5.3 billion a year in lost trade with emerging markets alone if a runway is not built by 2030.

Rhian Kelly, CBI business environment director, said: "Continually delaying a decision on a new runway has a very real cost to the UK economy.

"With the last window of opportunity approaching, the Government simply cannot afford to dither any longer. We need this decision to be taken quickly."