Revealed: Take-off for controversial Heathrow expansion as David Cameron faces anger of Lib Dems, London Mayor, and his own party

Two of the shortlisted options in Davies report on airports out this week favours third (and fourth?) runway

A controversial decision to expand Heathrow airport by one, or possibly, two runways, will this week spark a major political row.

The Davies report, examining solutions to the UK’s growing airport capacity crunch, will identify runway expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick airports as the best route out of the mounting crisis. But the decision, to be announced by Sir Howard Davies on Tuesday, is certain to ignite rows within the coalition government and the Tory party itself. The decision is also likely to provoke a fierce multimillion-pound legal contest with far-reaching consequences for Britain’s transport policy.

An interim report by the Davies Airport Commission is expected to select three, possibly four, choices from the 58 options he has been presented with. According to sources close to the Commission, a third runway at Heathrow will be included – in two forms, with one option to the north and another to the south of the busy airport’s current runways. Either of these could be expanded, to make Heathrow a four-runway airport. Gatwick and Stansted’s proposals for a second runway are also expected to be adopted Sources say every other idea is likely to be rejected – including London Mayor Boris Johnson’s proposals for a new airport hub in the Thames estuary.

This week’s announcement will enrage Tory backbenchers and Mr Johnson, who is vehemently opposed to Heathrow expansion, as well destabilising already shaky coalition relations.

Whitehall has moved quickly to try to defuse the situation with government advisers yesterday stressing that Sir Howard is expected to play down fears of a capacity problem, rejecting claims that British aviation is “not in a crisis” and saying that there is enough time to make a considered decision about where expansion should be.

A Whitehall source said: “He will be urging a calm and measured response and will say we need to make sure we need to get this right. This does not need to be up and running until the end of the next decade.” Yet this will be seen as a calculated move, supported by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, to put off any decisions about airports until after the next election.

The interim report’s publication will end some of the uncertainty, but Mr Johnson and some Conservative MPs are furious that they will be forced to go into the 2015 election campaign unable to say whether expansion will happen at Heathrow, Gatwick or at both.

The report directly affects London and the South-east, but will have a wider impact on the UK’s infrastructure, because plans for High Speed 2 are interlinked with aviation expansion.

The Independent on Sunday first revealed in March 2012 that George Osborne had persuaded David Cameron to get Heathrow as an option for expansion “back on the table” – despite a 2010 manifesto promise to build no new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted. The move infuriated the Liberal Democrats and green Conservative MPs such as Zac Goldsmith, seeing the U-turn as a betrayal.

The interim report is expected to face several legal challenges, including one from supporters of Mr Johnson’s mega-hub plan in the Thames Estuary as well advocates who believe that Birmingham International airport is the best answer.

Sir Howard has publicly suggested it might be enough to add one more runway at Heathrow to enable it to support new long-haul routes but he has also said there is a case for a second runway at Gatwick to support further growth by low-cost carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair.

The Davies Commission will grapple with the complexities of economic need and environmental damage, evaluating social costs and benefits, for another 18 months. The coalition that commissioned the report is anxious to avoid a firm recommendation before the next election, and Labour’s position is against, but has softened recently.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee