The Airports Commission has published a summary of the short and medium term measures submitted to inform its deliberations on how to make best use of existing airport capacity, and all the long term proposals submitted for new runways, airports and infrastructure changes designed to strengthen the UK and London’s air connections with the world.
Sir Howard Davies, the Chair of the Airports Commission, said: “The proposals that we have received and that we have published today demonstrate imaginative and thoughtful responses to the challenges that the Airports Commission has been set, but also show clearly the wide spectrum of views that exist on these issues.
“The timetable to comment is tight, as we need to move quickly to winnow down the options and reduce uncertainty for potentially affected communities. I encourage everyone with an interest to make their views known, to help inform our recommendations on these complex and important questions.”
The short and medium term summary paper covers a wide range of proposals with recurring themes such as the importance of resilience in the UK’s airport system and of taking into account the noise and carbon emissions from any short and medium term measures proposed. They range from measures in airport or airspace operations (including the Collaborative Decision Making system already in use at Gatwick and elsewhere) to changes in Air Passenger Duty.
The detailed proposals for long term options have all been published on the commission’s website. They include, as well as Heathrow Airport’s three and four runway proposals, proposals from Stansted, Birmingham, and Gatwick, as well as proposals for two different Estuary sites.
A number are from private individuals, one of which proposes a seven runway airport at Heathrow. Another proposes an extension to each of Heathrow’s existing runways – out over the M25 – to allow simultaneous take off and landing, while shifting the noise profile westwards.
A number of the proposals are for ‘distributed hubs’ making use of existing and new runway space at Gatwick and Stansted to supplement Heathrow including one from Impeerial College, and one from Kent County Council, who steadfastly oppose any estuary option.
The commission will receive comments on these submissions until 27 September 2013.
On publication of the submissions, Sir Howard rejected calls to speed up his review, which is due to recommend interim solutions at the end of the year, and a long-term strategy after the General Election in 2015. He told the Evening Standard that this “astonishingly complex task” could not be rushed, and that although “many business people argue that it is urgent to get on with building new capacity — indeed some think we are well behind already…the recession has given us a little more time. The forecasts for traffic growth have been scaled back significantly since 2007.”
In response, Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First has said: “Sir Howard is correct to say that Londoners would not welcome a hasty, but wrong, decision over whether and where the capital’s next runways might be built. After all, successive governments have been putting off the decision for more than 40 years, so what’s a few more months?
“However, we do need urgent and robust action to increase our ability to reach growing international markets in the shorter term, which means using our existing runways more intensively. Raising the limit on flights at Heathrow and measures to help Gatwick and Stansted compete with it more effectively, including improved rail links, would be the best way of doing this. Sir Howard’s Airports Commission is due to report on this later this year. For the sake of our economy, this is one issue on which Londoners do need a sensible but quick decision followed by equally quick action by government.”