New independent commission to be set up to investigate airport growth

The Prime Minister has announced that there will be an independent airports review by a commission, on the issue of a third Heathrow runway, or a new south east airport. This is to have outside experts taking the controversial issue, rather than politicians.  It is likely to have the effect of delaying any decision on Heathrow.  The Chancellor has recently said: “We need more runway capacity in the southeast of England,”  and looking at where it should go: “let’s examine all the options. Let’s make sure we can try and create a political consensus.” Other Conservatives want to avoid breaking a firm manifesto commitment for no 3rd runway, and do not believe it would actually help the UK’s economy. The news of the commission comes as plans emerged for a £60 billion four-runway airport to the west of Heathrow – in Oxfordshire or Berkshire.  A major feasibility study has been commissioned by a secret consortium of British businesses.


3.9.2012 (Travel Weekly)

New independent commission to investigate airport growth

New independent commission to investigate airport growth

An independent airports review is to be established by Prime Minister David Cameron, which could pave the way for him to drop his opposition to a third runway at Heathrow.

Creating the commission of outside experts to take the controversial issue of out of politicians’ hands would effectively delay any decision on expansion of the airport .

Chancellor George Osborne was quoted as saying over the weekend:  “We need more runway capacity in the southeast of England.

“Then there’s a question of where it should go – Heathrow, new Estuary airport, Stansted, Gatwick? What I would say is, let’s examine all the options. Let’s make sure we can try and create a political consensus.”

Although there are signs that Cameron wants to change his party’s Heathrow policy at the next general election, he is reluctant to break the 2010 Tory manifesto pledge to oppose a third runway and Liberal Democrat coalition partners remain strongly opposed to the plan.

Separately, foreign secretary William Hague was quoted as saying an additional runway at Heathrow may not be the answer to meeting growing airport capacity constraints.

“I think for the long term the answer is probably more radical and there are fundamental problems to continuing to develop and expand Heathrow,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

The comments came as plans emerged for a £60 billion four-runway airport near Heathrow.

A “world-leading” infrastructure firm is assessing sites to the west and north-west of London which could rival, or even replace, Heathrow to challenge other European hubs in providing air links with the Far East.

Sites in Oxfordshire and Berkshire could potentially be in the frame for the airport, according to theIndependent on Sunday.

A major feasibility study has been commissioned by a consortium of British businesses, which is expected to reveal itself within weeks and is understood to have started talks with Chinese sovereign wealth funds over funding the airport, according to the newspaper.

Suggestions have also come to light that building a new four-runway airport in the Thames Estuary could take just two years longer to build than a third runway at Heathrow.

Research by architects Foster + Partners, which has drawn up the £23 billion plans for a new hub on the Isle of Grain in Kent, claims that its proposal could pass through the planning process and be built within 14 years, whereas a new runway at Heathrow could take about 12 years to gain approval and be built.




Comments from AirportWatch members:.

It is not at all clear what is that is to go ahead:

Is this the original DfT consultation process, or the new Commission which would invite submissions.  It looks as if they are still arguing within the Cabinet behind closed doors on this one!
The BBC continues to produce interviews which are clearly biased towards leading the audience to believe there is a need for more runway capacity. During an interview by  (?) Emily Maitliss, with  Labour MP was trying to say that there is currently enough runway capacity, she was hell bent on drowning this message out and basically implying that he didn’t know what he was on about!
There need to be complaints to the BBC is handling this issue, because it is happening too many times.  They have clearly bought into the aviation assertion that we badly need more infrastructure so our economy can grow.  Their researchers seem not to have done enough homework on this subject.
If the airport capacity consultation is a normal government consultation, then no doubt the process would be led by the DfT. But notif it is an “independent” consultation which runs the danger of being controlled by the aviation lobby.


Third runway to go to independent commission

By Jim Pickard and Andrew Parker

2.9.2012 (Financial Times)

Full article at


David Cameron and Nick Clegg are set to intervene in the increasingly fractious row over whether Heathrow should have a third runway by asking an independent commission to review the future of Britain’s airports.

In the short to medium term, by handing the contentious issue of how to increase airport capacity to an independent commission, Mr Cameron and his Liberal Democrat deputy should stop it from splitting the coalition government.

They will announce within days that they have agreed to set up a commission of experts to examine the pros and cons of various proposals. There will be no politicians on the commission, reflecting the leaders’ desire to end the political mud-slinging of recent days.

The commission could also look at expanding Gatwick or Stansted [and Estuary] airports.




Coalition to set up Heathrow inquiry

By Jim Pickard and Andrew Parker

Ms Greening’s transport department had been preparing to release its long-delayed call for evidence on how to preserve the UK’s status as a leading aviation hub as early as next week.

But this document may not now be published, because the question is being handed over to the independent commission.

Full FT article at




2.9.2012(Financial Times)

Cabinet tension on Heathrow expansion

By George Parker


The chancellor said he was “firmly in the camp” that the London region needed new airport capacity, but his confirmation that the government would consider the case for expanding at Heathrow is causing strains at the top of government.

Mr Hague, who has emerged as a champion of environmental causes, said: “That’s one thing that we said we wouldn’t do and I think it is very important to keep to election promises.”

Full FT article at




Heathrow consultation is to be held

3.9.2012  (UKPA)


Advocates of a third runway at Heathrow airport will be able to make their case in a consultation process to be launched in the next few weeks, Downing Street has confirmed.

Mr Cameron’s spokesman declined to confirm press reports suggesting that a commission of outside experts is to be created to conduct an independent review of Britain’s airports, effectively taking the decision out of politicians’ hands.

But he confirmed that a consultation process would be announced within the next few weeks, with all sides being given the opportunity to put their views – including proponents of a third runway.

The spokesman told reporters at a regular Westminster briefing: “We said before the summer that we would come back to this issue in the autumn. We will do that in due course… We will say more about the process in the next few weeks.”

Full article at