Government 'colluding' to expand airport

Greenpeace accused the airport operator BAA and the Government of "extraordinary collusion" over the launch today of the consultation exercise that is expected to approve Heathrow's third runway.

Campaigners claimed the collaboration with the airport operators blew a hole in the Government's claims that the consultation exercise – to be launched by the Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly – would be a transparent process in which all sides would carry equal weight.

The new runway is expected to provide up to 500 extra flights a day over London. Environmental groups accused Gordon Brown of hypocrisy for planning aviation growth just days after promising to take more radical action to reduce Britain's CO2 emissions.

Supporters of the runway on the Commons Transport Committee said it was urgently needed to retain Heathrow's role as a hub airport for Europe.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information rules by Greenpeace show the Department for Transport's (DfT) Heathrow development project manager, David Gray, wrote to staff urging them to speed up their work to enable mixed-mode take-offs by 2015, allowing planes to take off in opposite directions to increase the number of flights, and the third runway to open in 2020. "We need to press on as fast as we can," he said. "I remain under instructions to get results for a core scenario for MM [mixed mode take-off] in 2015 and for R3/T6 [a third runway and a sixth terminal] ideally in 2020, as soon as humanly possible."

Another document speaks of BAA comments being received and that these "would be included in the next version of the condoc [consultation document] presented to the [Heathrow] project board".

A DfT spokesman said yesterday: "BAA were part of the project. The aviation White Paper of December 2003 said that BAA, Nats [National Air Traffic Services] and the CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] should work together with Government to develop proposals about how a third runway could be added, consistent with the conditions laid down in the White Paper.

"It would not have been possible to do this work without BAA's expertise and knowledge. BAA will not be involved in any part of the policy decision."

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