The Government’s opposition to a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport will hinder economic growth, a leading business group has warned.
A report from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) calls on the Government to abandon its opposition to expanding airports in the South East and drop proposed Air Passenger Duty (APD) increases.
The Government should create a long-term aviation policy which can aid economic recovery and boost businesses, rather than “mark time and meander its way on”, the BCC said. Labour’s plans to build an additional runway at Heathrow have been scrapped by the Government.
Flying in the Face of Jobs and Growth, the BCC’s report, claims aviation capacity will be unable to cope with the predicted 335 million passengers at UK airports expected by 2030. It recommends increasing the frequency and range of flights, ensuring there is enough airspace and airport capacity and keeping transport prices competitive.
Adding a third runway at Heathrow would ensure it did not fall behind rival airports on the continent and allow Britain to compete with other countries. The chambers also proposes scrapping APD airport departure tax, which it says will cost the economy money and reduce the number of jobs.
John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said: “Identifying the link between air travel and economic performance is easy. What’s harder is to convince the Government of the need for a clear plan to ensure aviation can play its full part in ensuring economic recovery.”
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He continued: “In the last year we have seen the government abandon an air transport White Paper widely applauded for its long-term clarity. Ministers have cited their cancelling of its key projects, including the much-needed third runway at Heathrow, as an early success.
“The Government now has a simple choice. It can set a bold, long-term aviation policy that serves our businesses and boosts economic recovery. Or it can mark time and meander its way to a more anodyne result.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We want to see a successful and competitive aviation industry which supports economic growth, but, like every sector, it must play its part in delivering our environmental goals and protecting the quality of life of local communities.
“Our immediate challenge is to improve our major airports within the constraints of existing runways – making them better rather than bigger. The South East Airports Taskforce has already proposed a number of recommendations which in part will be trialled later this year.”
Commenting on the report, Simon Buck, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association said:
“This report by the BCC provides clear evidence that if Britain is to be able to compete for new business with emerging markets then we must be allowed to grow and invest in our airport infrastructure.
“Britain is in the grip of an unprecedented economic crisis, suffering from anaemic growth and the highest rate of unemployment in seventeen years. There is an urgent need for the Government to reassess its priorities and we cannot afford to wait another two years before its new aviation policy is unveiled. Otherwise, with competitors such as Germany, which has just added a fourth runway at its main hub airport of Frankfurt, the UK risks losing out in attracting new international investment and business.”