Boris calls for action on air capacity, LibDems say no to it

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has told the Government to get on with its review of air capacity  in the South East, while the LibDems have said they are opposed to any new runways.

The Mayor, in an interview with the Evening Standard, said the Government was “pussyfooting around” with major infrastructure investment, including decisions on expansion of air capacity either through growth at Heathrow, or a new Thames Estuary airport.

After also reiterating his opposition to Heathrow expansion, he said  “The attempt to try and long-grass it (the South East Air Capacity Review) for three years into the other side of the election is just not realistic. Totally mad and it won’t work.”

While both sides of the Heathrow expansion debate would probably agree with the sentiment on the delay, supporters of Heathrow, and those who are concerned that any decline at the UK’s largest airport could mean an employment disaster for West London, will find his continued opposition to expansion without an extra runway – mixed mode – a challenge.

Meanwhile, the LibDems take a steadfastly environmental perspective, saying: “Aviation has the potential to become one of the greatest threats to the global environment. Unmitigated expansion of aviation would cause the UK to miss its carbon reduction targets.”

Their strategy would be to focus on regional airports to provide increased capacity, opposing both Boris Island – the estuary airport proposal – and extra runways at Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow. This will be debated at their conference in September.

There is speculation that the attempt to push any decision back behind the next general election is part of a plan by those sympathetic to expansion at Heathrow – rumoured to include Chancellor George Osbourne – to allow it to go ahead, perhaps after a manifesto commitment, or with a non-coalition government.

At any rate, the Government review is unlikely to go ahead until the autumn at the earliest.

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