Business groups attack government over Heathrow decision delay

14 December 2015

Business associations have greeted the delaying of a government decision on whether to build a third runway at Heathrow with a chorus of dismay.

The Institute of Directors said business leaders would be “tearing their hair out” at news of the latest delay.

On Thursday transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said further studies on environmental impacts of the Heathrow expansion were needed. Now a decision will not be made on airport capacity in South East England until summer 2016 at the earliest.

"The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come," he said. "We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon."

But business leaders claimed the government was ignoring the report of the Airport Commission which spent three years and £20 million examining issues before recommending a new runway at Heathrow.

IoD director general Simon Walker said: “We have to ask now, what was the point of the [Airports] Commission if the government still fails to act?”

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general said delaying a decision on an issue of critical importance to UK prosperity was “deeply disappointing”.

The CBI said the earliest a new runway could now be built was 2025 and by then London airports would be operating at full capacity and falling behind Paris and Amsterdam. If the runway wasn’t built by 2030 the CBI estimated it would cost the UK up to £5.3 billion a year.

“We urgently need to increase our runway capacity to spur trade growth, investment and job creation. Just eight new routes to emerging markets could boost our exports by up to £1 billion a year,” Fairbairn said.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) branded the decision “gutless” and “bad for business”.

BCC director general John Longworth said ministers should follow the Airports Commission recommendation and “stop prevaricating”.

International airlines serving the UK also criticised the lack of decision. Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK said: it seemed “inconceivable” that the government has had insufficient time or information to make a decision.

“The government has set the very ambitious target of increasing UK exports to £1 trillion a year by 2020. If they can’t fly to emerging markets to make deals, our members are going to find it very hard to meet this aspiration,” he said.

The British International Freight Association (BIFA), said it had “little doubt this decision is about political expediency, not environmental matters, which must have been addressed in the work done by the Airports Commission”.

However the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport welcomed the delay saying additional work on environmental impact would result in more long term certainty around future air quality, noise exposure and road traffic.

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