Controversial plans to expand Heathrow airport have received the backing of business leaders, who said better air links were needed to encourage economic growth.
Although London mayor Boris Johnson opposes the creation of a third runway at Heathrow, arguing instead for either a new airport or the expansion of Stansted, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce said the existing facility in west London was a “vital transport hub” for the city.
Deputy chief executive Richard Muir said: “We strongly support the submissions for expansion in Heathrow airport.
“The city has many strong links with London, particularly in financial and business services as well as the creative industries. The airport is hugely important for the attraction and retention of business investment in Scotland.”
Heathrow’s eponymous parent company – formerly called BAA – insists that building a third runway would be quicker and cheaper than any rival “hub” option, and could be worth up to £100 billion to the economy.
Unveiling the three options for expansion, chief executive Colin Matthews, pictured, said yesterday: “After half a century of vigorous debate but little action, it is clear the UK desperately needs a single hub airport with the capacity to provide the links to emerging economies which can boost UK jobs, GDP and trade.
“It is clear that the best solution for taxpayers, passengers and business is to build on the strength we already have at Heathrow.”
Matthews said an additional runway would enable Heathrow to handle 740,000 flights a year, compared with the current limit of 480,000, although the expansion could take up to 16 years at a cost of £14bn to £18bn.
But Johnson said: “There are no circumstances in which the expansion of Heathrow will be acceptable to London or of long-term benefit to the country.
“Three-quarters of a million people are already seriously affected by aircraft noise in their homes, and we cannot allow private profit to dictate a worsening of that situation.”
Johnson favours closing Heathrow and siting a new four-runway airport at one of three sites – on the Isle of Grain in Kent, on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary, or at an expanded Stansted airport in Essex.
An original third runway plan to the north of Heathrow was given the go-ahead by Labour in January 2009, with work expected to start in 2015 and be completed by 2019, but the scheme was ruled out when the coalition government came to power in May 2010.
Heathrow’s runway proposals have been presented to the Whitehall-appointed Airports Commission, headed by former Financial Services Authority chairman Sir Howard Davies.
Corin Taylor, senior economic adviser at the IoD, said: “Expanding Heathrow is the best way to solve Britain’s airport capacity conundrum. It is quicker and cheaper than the other options, and far easier to get to for almost all passengers.”