Commission set up to consider airport expansion
By Richard Johnstone | 7 September 2012
Further changes to planning rules could be introduced to ‘accelerate’ the development of new airport runways in the UK, the government has revealed.
Announcing the launch of a commission on aviation capacity, new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the independent body would be looking at ways of speeding up ‘the resolution of any future planning applications’.
McLoughlin has asked former Financial Services Authority chair Sir Howard Davies to chair the commission, which will recommend ‘options for maintaining this country’s status as an international hub for aviation’.
However, Davies’ final report will not be published until after the next election.
The commission’s terms of reference ask it to examine if there is ‘any requirement for additional capacity to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub’. It should also outline ‘how any need for additional capacity should be met’.
The coalition agreement in 2010 ruled out any new runways in the Southeast of England during this Parliament and also halted proposals for expansion at Heathrow.
However, McLoughlin said airports around London provide direct flights to more than 360 destinations, and the government was determined to deliver ‘a solution which will continue to provide that connectivity’.
He highlighted that ‘successive governments have sought to develop a credible long-term aviation policy to meet the international connectivity needs of the UK’ but have failed. ‘The country cannot afford for this failure to continue,’ he added, calling on the Labour party to also support the commission’s work.
Davies’ commission will produce an interim report by the end of 2013, setting out the evidence on the ‘nature, scale and timing’ of the steps needed to maintain the UK’s global hub status.
It will also recommend any immediate actions that would ‘improve the use of existing runway capacity in the next five years’, but a final report will not be produced until the summer of 2015.
This will analyse the options for meeting the UK’s international connectivity needs, including their economic, social and environmental impacts, and what the ‘optimum approach’ would be.
Business group the CBI said it hoped the commission would ‘lead to a robust and lasting solution’.
Chief policy director Katja Hall said: ‘The capacity crunch is already biting for businesses, and a lack of direct links to destinations in growing markets hampers our ability to trade overseas, so this commission should look at all the options.
‘The commission will understandably want to take a long, hard look at this, but we cannot afford further delays on such a growth-critical issue.’