Airport runway public inquiry delayed again

A public inquiry into whether a second runway should be built at Stansted Airport was today delayed for a second time, the Communities and Local Government Secretary revealed.

In a letter to all parties John Denham said it was not yet "feasible nor realistic" to draw up a timetable for the probe.

This was because the future ownership of the airport remains in question.

The Competition Commission ordered BAA to sell Stansted in order to break up its monopoly but the airport operator has appealed.

Mr Denham wrote: "It is clear to me that it is neither feasible nor realistic to announce the start date for the Stansted G2 public inquiry until such time as the outcome of the appeal is known. Whilst there is no set timetable for the appeal process, I understand that it might take around nine months to complete."

The probe had already been postponed once by his predecessor Hazel Blears over the same issue.

Nick Barton, Stansted Airport's commercial and development director, said: "This announcement does not alter the fact that new runway capacity is urgently required if the United Kingdom is to preserve its global economic competitiveness, and the case for a second runway at Stansted remains a strong one."

He said the operator would continue with its voluntary compensation scheme for affected homeowners.

BAA says the expansion would create thousands of jobs and give greater choice to passengers, while campaigners maintain it would decimate their quality of life.