Decision on UK runway expansion to be put on hold

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Heathrow Airport artist impression of third runway

The UK government is to defer a decision on airport expansion at Heathrow Airport until the new Conservative Party leader is elected – which is not set to be until October.

Lawmakers had said they would make a decision by the summer, but the UK’s decision to leave the European Union on Friday – the so-called Brexit – has forced a change of plan.

This has seen PM David Cameron resign, leading to a leadership battle in the Conservative Party, on which a decision is not expected to be made until 9 September.

Maidenhead MP Theresa May is vying to be PM along with MP Boris Johnson and MP Michael Gove – all of who are not thought to support the building of a third runway at Heathrow.

In December, the UK government delayed a decision whether a third runway at Heathrow should be approved to carry out further environmental impacts.

The government had been expected to formally respond to the Airports Commission, which it appointed to evaluate increasing aviation capacity in 2012, by the end of this year.

The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, published its report in July 2015, recommending Heathrow should build a third runway.

The decision had been put off again to further assess the environmental impact of a third runway though the government insists it does not oppose expansion and agrees there is a need for more runway capacity by 2030.

Building a third runway is the preferred expansion option, though extending an existing runway at Heathrow was also considered, as was building a second runway at Gatwick Airport.

MAG, the owners of Manchester, London Stansted, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports say today’s delay again highlights why government must give “priority to accelerating measures” to make best use of the runway capacity this country already has, such as improving rail links to Stansted and encouraging new long haul connectivity across the country.

MAG adds: “With no resolution in sight, now is also the time for government to step back from the decision on runway capacity and let the market decide where and when new capacity should be delivered. Competition will always provide the best outcome for passengers and airlines.”