About 20 potential sites for new runways have reportedly been identified by the government-appointed aviation commission.

More than six plans for new hub airports in the Thames estuary plus options for expanding Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick and Birmingham airports are thought to have been put forward to the Airports Commission, according to the Sunday Times.

A ‘do nothing’ option, to test the case for retained airport capacity at existing levels, is also expected to be examined.

An interim report from the commission, headed by former head of the Financial Services Authority Sir Howard Davies, is due to be published later this year.

A full report is due in the summer of 2015, after the general election.