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Environment and business lobbies clash on London's airport capacity

BUSINESS LEADERS and pollution experts clashed this week over the need to boost London's airport capacity.

Business lobby group London First and the London Chamber of Commerce (LCC) expressed frustration at the government's 'slowness' in developing an airport strategy for the south east.

But the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution warned in a letter to the government that rapid growth in air travel is 'impossible to reconcile with the need to make demanding overall reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases'.

It urges the government to curb air traffic growth. 'The Commission concludes aviation policy must not simply respond to current growth patterns.

'A primary aim of policy must be to seek to limit aviation's contribution to global warming. This will require significant constraints on the growth of air traffic, ' says the letter.

London First and the LCC said they were annoyed at the continued delay in deciding whether Heathrow airport's Terminal 5 could go ahead.

The planning inquiry for the project ended in March 1999 but a decision on whether the project will go ahead is not expected until the autumn.

'All London's airports offer the possibility for enhanced capacity and small airports in particular, ' said the London Chamber of Commerce director of campaigns Piers Merchant.

He added that airport expansion also meant extra runway capacity. 'We need a major new runway to have any chance of meeting passenger needs in the long term, ' he said.

The LCC and London First this week launched a campaign to boost London's transport infrastructure. The campaign has set the government a target of 100 days after the June 7 election to show that it is speeding up delivery of transport projects.

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