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An extra runway at Heathrow would be politically impossible in the event of a minority government following the general election, the chairman of rival Gatwick claims.
Gatwick will be the only viable prospect for expansion if no party achieves a parliamentary majority, according to Sir Roy McNulty.
“We’ve seen the film about Heathrow expansion before and we know how it ends,” Sir Roy told the Times ahead of a lecture today to the Royal Aeronautical Society. “The answer is that nothing happens.”
Lobbyists for airport expansion are becoming anxious about whether there will be enough political will to build anything if there were to be an inconclusive election result, given local opposition to all options on environmental grounds.
Sir Roy said that it would be “very difficult” for Heathrow to go ahead, but he claimed that a second runway at Gatwick could still be achieved.
“Obviously, politicians will make up their own minds, but the most recent coalition government decided to come out against Heathrow expansion because there were too many obstacles in the way the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats saw it,” he said.
“There were varying opinions within the Labour government and we know that those Labour politicians who opposed Heathrow still see challenges.”
Gatwick argues that fewer people would be affected by noise and pollution, because the final approach over the countryside south of London is over a less populated area.
Sir Roy said: “Heathrow already generates more noise for more people than all the other major hub airports in Europe put together.”
A YouGov poll this month found that 46% of Londoners wanted a new runway at Gatwick and that only 35% favoured Heathrow.
However, the business community and most big airlines back Heathrow, which suggested that that ultimately it could provide £211 billion of economic growth and 180,000 jobs if a third runway were given the go-ahead.
The Airports Commission is expected to deliver his findings into airport expansion in the south-east within two months of next week’s election.
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