The UK’s Airports Commission has recommended that south-east England’s third runway should be built at Heathrow airport, currently the third busiest in the world by passenger traffic.
The commission estimated that a $28bn expansion would create 190,000 jobs, including 40,000 skilled posts at the airport, and 10,000 apprenticeship places.
There would also be an $8bn upgrade of road and rail links.
Altogether, the commission said the development would provide a £147bn boost to the UK’s GDP over the next 60 years.
Building a new runway at Gatwick or Heathrow would have a hugely damaging impact on local people and their environment and would be a step backwards in UK efforts to tackle climate change– Friends of the Earth
A third runway would mean that Heathrow could provide 250,000 extra flights a year, making an annual total of 740,000, which would put the airport on an equal footing with Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.
There would be 40 new long-haul connections to emerging growth markets, a doubling of the airport’s freight capacity and links to 16 regional airports, compared with seven now.
However, it would also mean demolishing 783 homes and much of the village of Harmondsworth which boarders Heathrow.
The airport has promised that despite the expansion there would be a ban on flights between 11.30pm and 6am and that at least 200,000 fewer people would be affected by significant noise.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, who opposes the expansion of Heathrow, has insisted that the expansion is "not going to happen" citing noise and air pollution as reasons.
Johnson is in favour of a new airport being built in the Thames estuary.
Graphic (Heathrow Airport/The Guardian)
The main loser in the decision is Gatwick airport, although it is still in the running for a smaller expansion.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick, is quoted by the Financial Times as saying: "Gatwick is still very much in the race. The commission’s report makes clear that expansion at Gatwick is deliverable.
"It is for the commission to make a recommendation but it is of course for the government to decide. So we now enter the most important stage of the process.
"We are confident that when the government makes that decision they will choose Gatwick as the only deliverable option."
Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth was quoted in The Guardian as saying : "Building a new runway at Gatwick or Heathrow would have a hugely damaging impact on local people and their environment and would be a step backwards in UK efforts to tackle climate change."
The UK government will review the analysis before making a decision, which Prime Minister David Cameron said today would come before the end of the year.
Image: A BA Airbus flying near Heathrow (Adrian Pingstone/Wikimedia Commons)