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London’s airports will be ‘completely full’ in 20 years

by International Commercial Investment on October 25, 2017

Source: Financial Times

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London’s five airports will all be “completely full” by the mid-2030s, transport secretary Chris Grayling warned on Tuesday as the government published updated aviation demand forecasts.

Mr Grayling said the forecasts showed the pressing need to go ahead with Heathrow’s third runway, which would give “the greatest choice” in destinations and frequent long-haul routes.

The minister was speaking as he launched a consultation on the revised draft “Airports National Policy Statement”, which includes an updated air-quality plan suggesting the runway could go ahead without the UK breaching pollution obligations.

Mr Grayling also indicated the government would look beyond the Heathrow project to deliver an “ambitious long-term vision for the sector” to deliver economic growth for the whole country.

Heathrow has now effectively reached full capacity, while Gatwick is “operating at capacity at peak times”, according to the documents.

All of London’s airports apart from Stansted will be full by the mid-2020s, according to the official forecasts: Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and London City.

There has been a combined increase of 13m passengers over the last five years at Stansted, London City and Luton combined.

John Stewart, chair of the HACAN anti-Heathrow group, called the forecasts “startling”, saying: “It is clear that demand over the next 15 years will come from London and the South East. This will add to the pressure to build a new runway somewhere in the region.”

Members of the public have until December 19 to respond to the draft national policy statement.

That will then pave the way for a final NPS which will be scrutinised by the transport select committee and then must pass a vote in the House of Commons before the Heathrow third runway can go ahead. The airport’s management wants to begin construction in early 2021 and complete the scheme by the end of 2025.

The vote is expected before next summer’s Parliamentary recess, and the government is expected to win with the help of the Scottish National party.

Alistair Watson, partner at law firm Taylor Wessing, said the process pointed towards a possible delay for the third runway.

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“If you then put into the mix the ongoing and successful litigation to the UK Air Quality Plan and the chance for objector groups and pro-Gatwick supporters (including the Mayor of London) to use this consultation period to create more delay, an adopted NPS via Parliament in spring 2018 looks romantic,” he said. “An adopted NPS being challenged in the high court in Summer 2018 looks more than realistic.”

But the Department for Transport said the plans were still on time and on schedule.

Heathrow said the consultation was a “key milestone” in the expansion of the airport: “A third runway will ensure Britain’s place in the world as an outward-looking trading nation”.

International Commercial InvestmentLondon’s airports will be ‘completely full’ in 20 years