Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has confirmed that the government is unable to make a decision on the proposed expansion of Heathrow airport until “at least October”.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said “given recent events” he “cannot see any announcement” on airport expansion until after the summer recess of parliament and a new Conservative Party leader is elected.
“I very much hope a decision can be made later this year,” Mr McLoughlin told the House of Commons.
So politically charged is the topic of airport expansion in the southeast of England that back in 2012 the government commissioned an independent commission under Sir Howard Davies to recommend the best way forward. It shortlisted proposals for a second runway at Gatwick and a new airport in the Thames estuary but in its final report in July 2015 recommended a third runway at Heathrow.
On receiving that recommendation the government promised to respond by the end of 2015. At the end of 2015 it said it was delaying a decision until summer 2016, saying that more studies were required on the impact of Heathrow expansion on air quality.
The political chaos resulting from the EU referendum result has provided more cover for the government to avoid a difficult decision once again.
“This is disappointing news,” said Institution of Civil Engineers director general Nick Baveystock. “Government commissioned a comprehensive review to establish the best expansion option for the UK, and this resulted in a clear recommendation. We recognise the difficult political situation but now more than ever we need a bold, strategic decision on the country’s future hub capacity and leaders who can step up to the mark. We now face yet more uncertainty, and indefinite delay on an issue that is critical to the UK’s competitiveness.”