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Institute of British Geographers' annual conference: Heathrow expansion 'necessary'

First Edition

Opponents of expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick airports are indulging in flights of fancy by promoting the case for a fourth London airport, a senior executive at BAA, the privatised former British Airports Authority, said yesterday.

The construction of another airport could destroy the achievements of one of the few sectors of British industry to have grown during the recession, Stan Maiden, BAA's research director, warned.

Mr Maiden chose the conference at London University's Royal Holloway College in Egham, Surrey, to fire the latest salvo in a war of words with the Airports Policy Consortium, a grouping of local authorities opposed to further development at the two major London airports.

BAA maintains that unless some development takes place at Heathrow, the airport could lose its status as the world's busiest international hub.

Mr Maiden accused the consortium of making inaccurate projections of air traffic growth to press the case for expansion at Stansted or a development on a man-made island in the Thames estuary.

He accused the consortium of presenting itself as an 'honest broker' seeking a rational solution to airport congestion, while its real objective was to prevent even modest expansion at Heathrow or Gatwick.

BAA maintains that its ambitions are limited to the building of a fifth terminal at Heathrow to enable the potential of existing runways to be realised. Mr Maiden said mere contemplation of the reaction to the environmental damage that would be associated with building another runway at Heathrow was sufficient to ensure it would never be on the agenda.