AEF’s excellent “Airports Expansions Guide” updated – useful summaries of all UK airport expansion plans

The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has produced a very useful webpage of information, to show – at a glance – which English airports are planning to expand, which have already submitted applications, and what stage they have reached so far.  Surprisingly, with the dramatic fall in the demand for flights due to Covid, airports still seem to be hoping to – not only get back to 2019 levels of flying – but expand further.  AEF lists those with formal applications to expand: Bristol, Heathrow, Leeds Bradford, Manston, Southampton and Stansted.   The airports also planning for significant growth in future: Gatwick, London City and Luton airports. All these expansion plans would cause increased noise problems for people living under or near flight paths in future, and other negative local impacts. But all would add significantly to the UK’s aviation carbon emissions.  The judgement by the Supreme Court on the Airports NPS (especially affecting Heathrow) is expected, perhaps by January 2021, which will give clarity on whether UK aviation could expand, if the country is to meet obligations to cut carbon emissions.



AEF’s Airports Expansions Guide

23rd October, 2020

from the Aviation Environment Federation website

Airports with formal applications to expand:

Bristol Airport
Heathrow Airport
Leeds Bradford Airport
Manston Airport
Southampton Airport
Stansted Airport

Airports planning for significant growth in future:

Gatwick Airport
London City Airport
Luton Airport


AEF’s Airports Expansions Guide, which we launched in September to track the progress of new and existing applications, has been updated to reflect recent changes.

The guide now notes the recent hearing on Heathrow Airport’s third runway, and the successful application for judicial review of the decision to grant permission to Manston Airport to open as a freight hub. Meanwhile, Eastleigh Borough Council is inviting comments on Southampton Airport’s planning application to extend its runway, and Luton Airport is consulting on a proposal to increase its current capacity from 18 million to 19 million passengers per annum.

For the full guide and further information on airport planning applications and current expansions, click here.

AEF continues to press for a moratorium on all airport expansion plans, until and unless they can be shown to be compatible with the UK’s environmental commitments.


AEF says: 

Whilst some airports have put their expansion plans on hold following record drops in air travel and uncertainty about the pace and scale of a recovery from the pandemic, other airports are continuing to press ahead with their plans.

Airport expansion can have local and global impacts. This page provides a summary of those expansion plans that will have significant impacts in terms of the campaign focus on climate change. We endeavour to update this page as and when we become aware of new airport planning applications or changes to existing applications.

Last updated: October 2020


The following airports have submitted formal applications to expand:



In March 2020, North Somerset Council’s Planning and Regulatory Committee confirmed their decision to refuse permission for Bristol Airport’s expansion plans. The application to expand Bristol Airport was initially rejected by councillors on 10th February 2020 on the grounds that the proposed 20% increase in capacity (from 10 to 12 million passengers per annum) would be harmful to the environment, including for climate change. This decision went against planning officers’ recommendations, so had to be ratified by the committee (which took place in March 2020). The airport announced in August 2020 that it would however be appealing the decision.



In February 2020, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Government’s policy in support of Heathrow’s expansion was unlawful because it had failed to take into account the Paris Agreement on climate change. Heathrow was given permission to challenge this ruling (after the Government decided not to appeal), and the Supreme Court heard the case on 7th and 8th October 2020 (for case details and to watch a recording of the proceedings, click here). Friends of the Earth and Plan B defended the decision and you can read FoE’s arguments here.


Leeds Bradford

In January 2020, Leeds Bradford Airport submitted plans for a new terminal with the aim of almost doubling their passenger numbers by 2030. Scientists at Leeds University have said that the expansion would “make it impossible for Leeds to meet its net zero target” in 2030. And government environment advisors Natural England have said that the plans should not be approved “unless further evidence on the potential impacts is provided”. Campaign group GALBA have successfully raised funds to seek advice from planning and economics experts to provide a detailed response to the airport’s planning application.



In July 2020, the Government gave permission for Manston Airport to open as a freight hub. Approval of the Development Consent Order (the first for a UK airport) goes against the advice of the planning inspectorate, which had concluded that “the airport will damage the local economy and impact negatively on the UK’s carbon budget and our commitments to the Paris Agreement”. Chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team, Jenny Dawes, has successfully applied for a judicial review of the decision, and after a successful crowdfunding appeal has engaged 39 Essex Chambers.


For AEF’s analysis of the Government’s decision, please click here.



In 2019, Southampton Airport submitted a planning application to Eastleigh Borough Council to extend its runway by 164 metres. A second public consultation concluded in September 2020, after respondents raised concerns over the environmental and noise impacts of extending the runway by 164m in response to the first consultation in 2019. The Council is inviting comments on the planning application until 15th November 2020.



In January 2020 Uttlesford District Council’s rejected the airport’s application to increase capacity to 43 million passengers a year, citing environmental reasons. The airport announced in July 2020 that it will be appealing the decision.


Airports planning for significant growth in the future:



In July 2019, Gatwick Airport published its master plan setting out its intention to progress detailed design and development work to bring the existing standby runway into regular use alongside the main runway, while continuing to safeguard land for an additional runway to the south. Growth projections underpinning the master plan suggest that use of the standby runway could see passenger numbers grow to 70 million passengers per annum (mppa) by 2032/33, potentially reaching 95 million passengers per annum if a new runway is pursued. An application for a Development Consent Order had been expected in Spring 2020, but Gatwick has said it will now wait and review the situation in 2021.

Read AEF’s analysis of the carbon impacts associated with Gatwick expansion here.


London City

Earlier plans to increase the size of the airport’s terminal, to handle 6.5 million passengers a year by 2023, will not be pursued at this time, London City announced in August 2020.



In June 2020, London Luton Airport announced that it would not be submitting an expansion proposal to the Government that month as originally planned. A revised bid to increase the airport’s capacity from 18 million passengers per year to 32 million is expected to be made in 2021. Meanwhile, Luton has begun a consultation on increasing its current capacity from 18 million to 19 million passengers per annum. The consultation closes on 11th November 2020. For details, click here.