The transport secretary has announced that ministers will again delay a decision on the location of a new runway in south east England, in the light of ‘recent events’.
Patrick McLoughlin told MPs on Thursday morning (30 June) that no announcement was likely until at least October, by which time a new prime minister will be in place.
Heathrow is the recommended option for a new runway
Last July, the Airports Commission under Sir Howard Davies, recommended Heathrow as the best location for a new runway.
However, there had been speculation that the resignation of David Cameron, had made it unlikely that the Government would make a decision before the parliamentary summer recess.
At transport oral questions in the Commons, Mr McLoughlin said: ‘I had hoped we would be able to announce a decision on airports capacity this summer. Clearly any announcement on airports capacity would have to be made with the House in session and, being realistic given recent events, I cannot now foresee an announcement until at least October.’
‘We aim to publish the further analysis on air quality soon. Separately, promoters have announced undertakings which would increase the compensation available for residents living near the airports, and the connectivity between other UK airports.’
Re-iterating a statement he made earlier this week, Mr McLoughlin insisted that the new delay would not put the project itself back.
He said: ‘The Government is fully committed to delivering the important infrastructure projects it has set out, including delivering runway capacity on the timetable set out by the Davies report.’
Supporters of Heathrow expansion have expressed disappointment at the delay.
However, John Stewart, chair of HACAN, which campaigns against expanding the West London airport, said: ‘This was inevitable. Given the divisions within the cabinet, David Cameron would not have been able to saddle a new prime minister with a new runway.
‘It is likely now that the runway question will become an issue in the race to become prime minister. There will be pressure on each candidate to spell out where they stand.’