Third runway at Heathrow sinks from view as Labour changes course

Third runway at Heathrow sinks from view as Labour changes course

Environmental concerns have seen the Labour party move a third runway “off the agenda” shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle has confirmed.

In power the party had supported the expansion of the airport – which is already the busiest international hub in the world – but announced a policy u-turn earlier.

Speaking to an industry audience at the Airport Operators Association conference Eagle said: “The local environmental impact means that this is off the agenda.”

The ruling Conservative-led coalition dropped government plans for a third runway at Heathrow the day after coming to power in 2010.

The government has also ruled out expansion at any other airport in the south-east of England – notably Gatwick Airport and Stansted Airport.

A comprehensive review of aviation policy is expected in early 2011.

Addressing the conference transport secretary Justine Greening outlined the government position: “I believe our
aviation strategy for our country has to be far broader-based than just the capacity question, though I recognise the importance of that question.

“Actually, the best strategies cover all the bases,” she added.

Labour’s decision to abandon support for a third runway riled many in the industry.

The Guild of Travel Management Company (GTMC) chief executive, Anne Godfrey, said: “The choice is stark – the UK either connects to new and emerging markets or we get left behind.

“While our European neighbours become ever more embedded in markets in China and Latin America, we unilaterally tie one hand behind our back.”

International Airlines Group chief executive, Willie Walsh, has previously said the organisation – which controls the largest number of slots at Heathrow – will focus on expansion on its Madrid operations should Heathrow fail to increase capacity.