Firms lobby government over Heathrow and Gatwick runways

Firms lobby government over Heathrow and Gatwick runways

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The government is being lobbied to clear controversial plans to expand Heathrow by construction firms that stand to secure billions of pounds of building work from a third runway.

The bosses of some of Britain’s biggest building and engineering consultancy companies have written to chancellor, George Osborne, urging him to back the west London airport’s growth plans.

“Projects such as Heathrow expansion allow companies like ours to continue to invest in tens of thousands of skilled jobs this country badly needs and new construction techniques that will benefit developers in the UK,” they said in their letter.

Heathrow was one of the country’s most important developers and has invested £11 billion in the past decade.

Building a third runway would “bring with it a £15.6 billion order book to the UK supply chain,” the letter said.

The signatories including Laing O’Rourke founder Ray O’Rourke, Balfour Beatty’s chief Leo Quinn, and Mark Reynolds of Mace.

The construction chiefs used their letter to remind Osborne that in October he had told the Conservative Party conference that “we are the builders.”

They said they “stand ready” to help deliver infrastructure projects including Heathrow, the Telegraph reported.

Meanwhile, senior business figures are demanding that the government grants Gatwick the right to build a second runway if expansion at Heathrow continues to be thwarted by political and legal obstacles.

The Airports Commission backed a third runway at Heathrow last July describing the west London hub as the “clear and unanimous” option.

But the government has delayed a decision, with no update expected until this summer at the earliest. MPs have called for further environmental and economic studies into the impact of a third runway at Heathrow.

“Personally I just don’t have a preference, I just want us to get on with this,” Iain Anderson, executive chairman of City communications giant Cicero, told City A.M..

“Both would serve the purpose. I think people are deeply frustrated by the hold-ups.”

Hedge fund boss Crispin Odey wrote an open letter over the weekend, first reported by Sky.

“The answer to the government’s conundrum is actually quite plain: stop fixating on Heathrow and expand Gatwick,” it said.

The letter, also seen by City A.M., adds: “Gatwick faces no legal impediment to expansion, whereas Heathrow’s expansion has been permanently stalled by noise and air quality issues and will continue to be so in future.

“Above all, the business community wants something to happen – and Gatwick is the option that can happen. We should get on with it.”

Sir Mike Rake, chairman of Worldpay and BT, said that the government should allow expansion at both Gatwick and Heathrow.

“People are just so disillusioned by the lack of conviction,” he said. “It is very clear that if the government decides not to do Heathrow, it would accelerate the need for a second runway at Gatwick.”

Legal & General boss Nigel Wilson told Sky: “The £9 billion Gatwick investment feels more deliverable economically and politically than the £19 billion Heathrow solution.”

Business groups demanding greater airport capacity remain supportive of Heathrow but stress the importance of a swift decision.

“The number one thing for business is that the government gets on with it and makes a final decision,” said a spokesman for the Let Britain Fly pro-airport expansion group.

“That said, what’s the point in spending £20 million on the Airports Commission's extensive report – which comprehensively backed Heathrow – only to ignore its findings?”


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