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Business leaders demand Heathrow expansion

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Heathrow is operating at 99 per cent capacity. London businesses argue that limiting airport expansion is holding us back from international trade opportunities and jobs. What do you think?

The government is coming under increased pressure to reverse its decision to rule out building a third runway at Heathrow airport after business leaders called for it to support airport expansion.

Leading figures in business, trade unionists and MPs were among the seventy people to sign a letter to the Sunday Telegraph which warns: “With the economic recovery so fragile, we cannot afford to cut our country off from growth and jobs.”

The government has consistently stated its position is to explore all options to expand air capacity with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow. A review of airport capacity will report back later in March.

Institute of Directors director general Simon Walker and Unite general secretary Len McCluskey have signed the letter to the newspaper. It says the west London airport is already dropping behind Paris and Frankfurt, which it claims offers 1,000 more flights a year to China’s three largest cities.

Although the letter does not specifically mention a third runway at Heathrow, it suggests expansion is vital.

The letter says: “There is a huge opportunity for the UK to lead in connectivity to growth markets, but we need a hub solution that has the capacity to compete if we are to seize it.”

It continues: “Growth won’t wait – while there are more ambitious long-term projects for aviation that can be examined, in the near term Heathrow must continue to be part of the solution if the UK is not to miss out on vital trading opportunities.

“With economic recovery so fragile we cannot afford to cut our country off from growth and jobs.”

The coalition government’s founding agreement states there would be no third runway at Heathrow, while it also rules out building additional runways at Stansted in Essex and Gatwick in Sussex.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats had been against the idea of building a third runway while they were in opposition, with the parties preferring to improve rail links instead. Residents, green groups and councils were also against a third runway at Heathrow.

A new airport capacity review is expected to be announced by transport secretary Justine Greening later this month, with a new airport in the Thames Estuary – favoured by mayor of London Boris Johnson – among the potential options.

Greening ruled out a change of heart on a third runway at Heathrow in October, while Labour has also said it is “off the agenda”.




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