Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 11:35 UK

Heathrow 'could get third runway'

Singapore Airlines plane landing at Heathrow
Environmentalists are opposed to the expansion

Heathrow Airport could get a third runway, a minister has indicated.

The government is due to make a decision on the future development of the UK's largest airport by the end of the year.

Business secretary John Hutton said at the Farnborough airshow that the government might take "difficult decisions on airport expansion".

Green groups have been opposed to plans to expand the west London airport, including a proposed third runway.

Speaking at the opening of the airshow Mr Hutton said: "British businesses, and ultimately the British people, would not forgive us if we shirked our responsibility to do what's right because we wanted an easy ride from green lobby groups.

We will help make flying greener rather than restricting people's opportunities to fly altogether
Business secretary John Hutton

"Achieving a sustainable balance between economic, social and environmental concerns is essential to the continued success of every business, in this new century.

"Because we understand the importance of air travel to the British economy, my pledge to you (the aviation industry) is that we will continue to show leadership and commitment in advancing the sustainable aviation agenda.

"We will help make flying greener rather than restricting people's opportunities to fly altogether.

"So we will take the difficult decisions on airport expansion to ensure the UK has the transport infrastructure to continue to attract business from across the globe.

"The aerospace industry must remain central to the British economy - and to our future as a hi-tech manufacturing nation."

Mr Hutton continued: "Ensuring air travel continues to flourish sustainably into the future will mean tackling a new environmental and economic challenge arguably as great as learning to fly for the first time."

Economic effects

Councillor Edward Lister, leader of Wandsworth Council, who has been opposing the expansion plans said: "The government appears once again to be pre-judging the outcome of the consultation on Heathrow expansion.

"One third of the people flying in to Heathrow are transfer passengers.

"What benefits do they bring to the economy? It's time for an independent study of the economic effects of expansion.

"The government's only answer to the transport needs of this country appears to be more runways and more flights which can only lead to more traffic congestion on the ground and more pollution," he said.

In its 2003 aviation White Paper, the government said it supported Heathrow's development subject to strict air quality and noise level targets being met and as long as public transport access could be improved.

Operator BAA has said Heathrow is "jam-packed" and needs a third runway to remain competitive globally, but environmentalists said the proposed expansion would have a serious impact on hundreds of thousands of homes in the area.




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