A group of backbench Conservative MPs have suggested that the economy needs not just a third, but a fourth runway at Heathrow.
The Free Enterprise Group, formed in autumn 2011, has concerns that Britain is “moving away from its commercial trading roots to becoming a country suspicious about enterprise”. They suggest, in their paper “Policy Bites: Seven Shots in the Arm of Britain” a series of policy ideas, including over 65s paying National Insurance, and a Ministry of Infrastructure designed, they say, to help UK productivity overtake the performance of competitors. It’s members include Kwasi Kwarteng, MP for Spelthorne which borders on Heathrow.
They say that the Government should grant planning permission for both a third and fourth runway at Heathrow. Britain’s hub airport is currently at 99% capacity, with demand predicted to double over the next few decades. They are not alone in thinking that if new aviation capacity is not found, London’s position as a world business hub will be damaged.
The paper says that while a new hub airport (perhaps in the Thames Estuary) is an option, a better one is to allow Heathrow to expand to be a “true hub airport” by adding not one but two runways. They argue that adding capacity at Heathrow would have the advantage of private funding, industry support, and existing infrastructure.
Because a third runway might only offer a “stopgap solution”, permission for R3 and R4 should be granted simultaneously to allow Heathrow to upgrade itself to a truly world class hub.
The group suggest a fourth runway could be located either north of the airport by the M4; to the south at the current locations of the villages of Bedfont and Stanwell; or both extra runways could be placed to the west of the existing runways through Poyle, the Colnbrook bypass, and just north of Stanwell Moor.
“No option for aviation expansion is perfect, but this option would allow Britain to rapidly build on its strengths, rather than take the speculative risk of a completely new facility” they say.