Heathrow airport expansion: Government will decide on plans by end of the year, says Cameron

The Prime Minister previously ruled out expanding Heathrow

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The Independent Online

The Government will decide on airport expansion plans within a year, the Prime Minister has announced following the publication of a long-awaited report.

After a three-year consultation, the Airports Commission (AC) has recommended that a new, full-length runway should be built at Heathrow to provide “urgently required” capacity.

The commission also revealed “comprehensive” plans to make Heathrow’s expansion more appealing to the most sceptical members of the local community. This includes a ban on night flights from 11.30pm to 6am, legally binding limits on noise, a new levy to fund insulation for homes and schools, and an independent noise authority.

This approach was favoured above expanding one of Heathrow's current runways or building a new one at Gatwick.

The Prime Minister pledged to respond to the report by the end of 2015 in response to Richmond Park MP and Conservative London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, who accused the AC of deciding to back the runway before it wrote the report.

“What assurances can you give the million or so Londoners who stand to be affected by Heathrow expansion that you will engage with the real arguments in a way that Sir Howard Davies has not?” he probed Mr Cameron.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron replied: "It is important now that there is a very detailed report that we study it," he said.

"A decision will be made by the end of the year."

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If the Conservative leader backs the proposals laid out in the report, he will be performing a U-turn on his 2009 “no ifs, no buts” promise to reject an expansion at Heathrow.

On top of this, Mr Cameron will also risk a rebellion from leading Tories if he accepts the recommendations.

London mayor and recently-elected Uxbridge and Ruislip South MP Boris Johnson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it would be “very difficult” for the Tories to back the plans which he suggested may well never go ahead.

"It is very difficult, I think, for people who have campaigned passionately - as everyone in the Conservative Party did, at least in 2010 - against a third runway, no ifs, no buts, then to execute a U-turn and produce something that is basically identical if not worse and which would be the prelude to a fourth runway," he said.

However, as Labour is set to back the plan, the Government will likely face little difficulty in pushing through a new runway.

 

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