Delay in Heathrow plan decision

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The Independent Online

Opponents of proposed expansion at Heathrow airport will have to wait a few more months before learning if the Government backs the plans, it was revealed yesterday.

Transport Secretary, Ruth Kelly, had been expected to give a ruling in August about development at the airport, including plans for a third runway.

But Ms Kelly said yesterday there was still work to be done in assessing the views of 70,000 individuals and organisations consulted on the expansion. "We want to be sure, given the socio-demographic mix in the Heathrow area, that we fully understand how airport development might affect different groups. An initial screening exercise has been conducted to look at the potentially different effects of the proposals. Further work is now being undertaken to deliver a full equalities impact assessment," she said.

She added that a decision on the future development of Heathrow would be made "before the end of the year".

In its 2003 aviation White Paper, the Government said it supported Heathrow development subject to strict air quality and noise level targets being met and as long as public transport access could be improved.

The disastrous opening of the new £4.3bn Terminal 5, the growing concern of the effect of flying on the environment and the difficult economic times facing airlines and travellers have combined to make Heathrow expansion a political hot potato.

Conservative leader, David Cameron, recently expressed his concerns about expansion at the London airport but airlines and airport operator BAA argue that not developing Heathrow would putthe UK at a big disadvantage.