Don't look inwards, make airport decision now says Sir Howard Davies

Sir Howard Davies, who chaired the government’s Airports Commission which issued a report a year ago on expanding airport capacity in the UK, has spoken out today following transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s announcement yesterday that there will be no decision on airport expansion until October at the earliest.

Speaking to the BBC Today programme, Davies said that the referendum result had made it even more important that a decision was finally taken. “Undoubtedly internationally Brexit is being seen as a somewhat insular sign of Britain turning in on itself. That is certainly not what the advocates wanted. They are talking about a broader trading relationship, a country that seeks out markets in the growing parts of the world in Asia etc., but I think a real symbol of our willingness to do that would be a decision on increased airport capacity.”

Last July, the Airport Commission recommended Heathrow be expanded with a third runway - a 3,500-m runway north of the two existing ones - at an estimated cost of £18.6bn. However, last December, the government delayed its decision, saying further work on noise, pollution and compensation needed to be carried out.

The political uncertainty post-Brexit, with a number of leading candidates in the Conservative leadership race thought to be lukewarm on expanding Heathrow, has cast big doubts over the future of the government’s airport policy. Delaying an announcement on future plans until October at the earliest is not what the industry wanted to hear and will hardly quell growing concerns about the future of other large infrastructure projects in a post-Brexit Britain.

Speaking to the BBC, London First chairman John Allan said the delay would be "a very serious setback, not just for London but for the whole country. There's clearly going to be a significant downturn in inward investment over the next few years until there's greater certainty," he said.

"Carefully judged infrastructure investment would be one way of filling that gap, and also a way of making a statement that the UK is open for business. We do want connectivity with the rest of the world, so I think it's a great shame that politicians are putting party interests before the national interest," Allan added.

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