Expand regional airports not just Heathrow, says new report

Balfour Beatty claims that a third runway at Heathrow will not be enough to address overcapacity at UK airports and that other airports around the country should also be allowed to expand. 

In a report, Getting off the ground - an aviation policy for a post-Brexit Britain, the infrastructure firm highlights the lack of a clear airports strategy from the government and outlines a series of conclusions to address key issues, including relaxing planning legislation to give regional hubs a boost. 

The government chose Heathrow over Gatwick as its preferred site for a new runway at the end of 2016 but the Balfour Beatty report is sceptical about whether the third runway at Heathrow will ever be built, claiming that legal and political obstacles will mean the planning process is likely to be delayed “well into the 2020s”. 

As a result, the report recommends that airports elsewhere, especially in Scotland, Birmingham and Manchester, should be allowed to expand. The report also calls for the extending of Crossrail to Stansted and for a further runway to be built at Gatwick.

Leo Quinn, chief executive at Balfour Beatty, said: “Consideration of where to add capacity must be given not just to London and the South-East but all regions. Failure to take this UK-wide approach could see our trade with international markets and potential economic growth fail to get off the ground.” 

The report’s ten key conclusions are: -

  1. The vote to leave the EU must be taken into account in considering aviation capacity requirements.
  2. A lack of runway capacity has an impact on the trade negotiations the government will conduct post-Brexit, with many countries likely to require access to Heathrow for their national carrier as part of any deal. Nor does the UK have direct flights to some of the countries it will wish to target as key trade partners.
  3. Balfour Beatty supports a third runway at Heathrow. However, one additional runway will not be enough to provide sufficient capacity to meet increasing demand over the long-term, given that international connectivity will be more important than ever post-Brexit.
  4. Post-Brexit, it is even more important that all parts of the UK are well-connected; the Northern Powerhouse for example, needs direct routes to global markets, as do manufacturing industries in the Midlands, and Cambridge and its growing IT hub. We urge the government to begin work now to identify where further runways are required to best benefit a post-Brexit UK.
  5. The growth in demand for air travel demands expansion not just at Heathrow and Gatwick, but at other airports across the country, including for example, Scotland, Birmingham and Manchester.
  6. A plan should be developed to address the growing demand for air services during the 10 to 15 years it will take to deliver any new runway. This plan should include measures to better use existing runway capacity at other airports - particularly the five other London airports - and to improve surface access to those airports.
  7. The piecemeal approach to aviation policy-making must end. As recommended by the Airports Commission, the government should now develop a national aviation strategy, which considers the country’s future aviation needs holistically and addresses the contribution all the UK’s airports can make to improving the UK’s global connectivity, driving growth across the country.
  8. A national aviation strategy should include a national strategy for improving road and rail links to UK airports both in the short-term, future proofed to ensure that we have the infrastructure we need for the long-term.
  9. A national aviation strategy should also include an assessment of ways in which smaller airports might be supported and given the opportunity to thrive.
  10. While we must limit the environmental impact of airport expansion these issues should not stand in the way of ensuring that the UK economy is in a strong position to take advantage of the opportunities Brexit offers.

Click here to download Getting off the ground - an aviation policy for a post-Brexit Britain.

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