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Engineering profession divided over Heathrow expansion plan

Engineers were this week divided over government proposals to build a third runway and sixth terminal at London’s Heathrow airport.

The ICE stepped into the row criticising the government’s proairport stance. But the Association for Consultancy & Engineering (ACE) embraced the plans which are set out in the Department for Transport report Britain’s Transport Infrastructure: Adding Capacity at Heathrow: Decisions Following Consultation report which was published last week.

Transport secretary Geoff Hoon confirmed government support for a third runway and additional terminal facilities at Heathrow last week. Under the plans for Heathrow, airport operator BAA will bring forward planning applications for the third runway so that it can be completed by 2020.Hoon sought to ease environmental concerns by saying that the new runway would be accompanied by strict air quality and noise controls.

Building a third runway and sixth terminal could increase the size of the area occupied by the airport by 50% and allow it to accommodate 125,000 extra flights per year.

But Heathrow expansion opponents said that the announcement flies in the face of the recently passed Climate Change Act, which commits Britain to cutting greenhouse gases by at least 80% before 2050. "The government seems to have got itself into a political mess over this project – largely because it lacks a coherent national transport policy that demonstrates how it intends to balance the UK’s transport needs to meet growing demand with the need to reduce carbon emissions," said ICE director general Tom Foulkes.

"We need to take a longer term view and commit to delivering a fully integrated transport system, and not just focus on isolated quick fixes. "Talking tough on reducing emissions is not enough, and going ahead with expansion as currently proposed is certain to have a negative impact on the environment and make reaching our ambitious environmental targets very hard indeed."

Meanwhile the Association for Consultancy & Engineering (ACE) welcomed Hoon’s announcement. ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin said: "It goes without saying that we are in favour of these plans and agree with Mr Hoon that significant spending in the sector is vital if consultancy and engineering is to thrive, and in some cases survive, in the UK."

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