Not expanding an already crowded Heathrow casts Britain as “inward-facing” and “having limited ambition”, infrastructure leaders have warned MPs ahead of the expansion vote.
Former Airports Commission chair Howard Davies and National Infrastructure Commission chair John Armitt urged MPs not to block Heathrow’s third runway, stressing an expanded Heathrow would show the world the UK “is determined to remain open and outward-facing” as it navigates Brexit.
A Commons vote on expansion will take place in the next few weeks after Cabinet backed Heathrow’s third runway on Tuesday.
In a letter to MPs Davies and Armitt wrote: “As other hub airports in Europe and beyond continue to expand, the impression created is one of the UK being increasingly inward-facing and having limited ambition to expand its reach, even as it navigates the uncertainty caused by its impending departure from the European Union.
“Now should be the time to build on our strengths, not diminish them, but preventing expansion at Heathrow would only achieve the latter.”
Several high-profile MPs are against Heathrow expansion, including foreign secretary Boris Johnson, former education secretary Justine Greening and shadow chancellor John McDonald.
City Hall has hit out against Cabinet’s backing, with London Assembly member Caroline Pigeon claiming Heathrow’s third runway “comes at a huge price that is simply not worth paying for”. Transport for London (TfL) said it could join a legal challenge against expansion if the vote is passed.
But many business leaders are in favour of expansion: Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman Mike Cherry said pushing ahead with Heathrow would help ease Brexit-related pressure on small firms.
He added: “We now need to see some urgency injected into proceedings. British businesses have waited decades for increased airport capacity and the regional connectivity it will bring. It’s time to get shovels in the ground.”
Davis and Armitt reminded MPs Heathrow was chosen for expansion by the Airports Commission in 2015 because of its hub airport status and easy-access transport links. They added a fourth runway has been ruled out, as has a new airport.
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