Airports operator BAA this week confirmed it wants to build a new runway and terminal at Heathrow airport. Earliest opening date would be 2017.
The company said on Monday that its change in strategy to focus on Heathrow was based on its increasing confidence that further growth was possible at the airport within the environmental limits on noise, air quality and surface access.'Heathrow is at the heart of the UK economy and one of our country's most important assets,' said BAA Heathrow chief executive officer Tony Douglas.'We do not underestimate the impact that Heathrow's expansion would have on some local communities, but the decline of the UK's only hub airport would also have real and lasting effects,' he said.Tough environmental limits were set out in the Government's 2003 Air Transport White Paper to limit Heathrow's expansion. But a spokesman confirmed this week that if the environmental considerations could be met, a third runway is necessary.A consultation on the future of Heathrow will be launched by government in the autumn. Douglas confirmed that 'BAA will be campaigning for permission to grow'.With Heathrow at the limit of its current permitted 480,000 traffic movements a year, BAA wants to combine a new runway with converting its existing two to mixed mode - for take off and landing.Mixed mode would increase traffic movements to a maximum of 540,000 a year and the new runway would take that to 720,000.A new runway would be built to the north of the existing northern runway towards the M4 and would require a new terminal as otherwise planes would have to cross the other two runways to reach the passenger facilities.BAA is already guaranteeing house prices to homeowners who would be affected to stave off planning blight.Transport pressure group Transport 2000 is opposed to a new runway. 'We are not convinced that it is needed for the economic reasons claimed,' said a spokesman. 'Where is the hard evidence?'However pro expansion campaign group Future Heathrow said 'there is a growing realisation that Heathrow cannot stand still. If the airport does not meet the needs of business then business will simply move elsewhere.'