Prime Minister David Cameron has conceded for the first time that there is insufficient airport capacity in the south east of England.
In a speech on economic growth in London yesterday the Prime Minister appeared to signal that Gatwick would be the London airport singled out for expansion.
However, he did not rule out the idea of a new airport in the Thames estuary, an idea championed by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
“Gatwick is emerging a business airport for London, under new ownership, competing with Heathrow,” he said. “But we need to retail our status as a key global hub for air travel. Not just a feeder route to bigger airports elsewhere, in Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Dubai.
“Yes this will be controversial. We will need to take decisions for the long-term and we will bring forward options in our aviation strategy...which will include an examination of the pros and cons of a new airport in the Thames estuary.”
Cameron is reported as saying he is braced for a rough ride as he promised to be bold in deciding how to maintain a global aviation hub for London.
The government remains firmly opposed to a third runway at Heathrow and Expansion at Gatwick cannot happen until an agreement with local councils runs out in 2019.
The new owners of Gatwick, Global Infrastructure Partners, have outlined their vision for the future of the airport with a third terminal and second runway.
A government review of aviation policy will be delayed until after the London mayoral elections in May in an attempt to boost the chances of Boris Johnson, The Times reports today.
Downing Street reportedly reiterated that there would be no U-turn in the current parliament on the coalition's decision to rule out a third runway at Heathrow.
But ministers will listen to arguments for a third runway during the policy review, allowing evidence that could be used by a future government.
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