Kelly reveals plans for third Heathrow runway

The transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, today announced plans for a third runway and a sixth terminal at Heathrow airport

The transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, today announced plans for a third runway and a sixth terminal at Heathrow airport.

In a written statement to parliament, she outlined the need for expansion of the airport and possible relaxation of current runway restrictions. It is thought realising the plans could cost as much as £9bn.

In the consultation paper, Kelly said: "Heathrow supports 170,000 jobs, billions of pounds of British exports and is our main gateway to the global economy. But for too long it has operated at nearly full capacity, with relatively minor problems causing severe delays to passengers.

"If nothing changes, Heathrow's status as a world class airport will be gradually eroded. Jobs will be lost and the economy will suffer. London and the UK's nations and regions alike are reliant on the good international connections the Heathrow hub provides."

Flights would increase from 480,000 a year to more than 700,000, under the plans.

The proposed expansion is controversial. Heathrow's fifth terminal - the subject of a costly four-year public inquiry - will finally open in March 2008. For the planned third runway the public will have until February 27 2008 to make their views known.

Environmental groups have condemned the proposal. They say the extra flights will contribute to global warming, increase pollution and blight the lives of millions of people living under the flightpaths.

In the consultation Kelly argues that the expansion would breach neither the EU's air pollution limits nor the government's own noise pollution controls.

The airport operator BAA, part of Spain's Ferrovial group, said greater capacity at Heathrow would bring huge economic benefits to Britain through tourism, job creation and relocation of businesses near the airport.

The expansion would be "a very considerable economic powerhouse", the BAA chief executive, Stephen Nelson, told BBC radio.

The British Airways chief executive, Willie Walsh, said the plans could bring benefits worth more than £9bn a year.

Green campaigners question that figure. John Stewart, chairman of the anti-airport expansion group Hacan ClearSkies, told the BBC: "There's a mantra here that it's important for the economy. What has never been worked out is how those figures are arrived at."

The Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman, Susan Kramer, said the plans "make a mockery of any attempts to tackle climate change.

"It is time for ministers to listen to the public and stop any further Heathrow expansion."


Allegra Stratton and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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