UK Politics

Labour scraps plan for third runway at Heathrow Airport

Runways at Heathrow Airport

A third runway at Heathrow airport is "off the agenda" because of the impact on the environment, shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle has said.

Labour's plans for another runway at the west London airport were scrapped by the coalition, days after they came to power in 2010.

Party leader Ed Miliband opposed its creation when in government, but failed to convince Gordon Brown to drop plans.

The government said there was no chance it would reconsider another runway.

Speaking at an aviation conference in London, Ms Eagle said the answer for south east England was not going to be "to fall back" on the proposed third runway despite many calls from the airline industry to hold onto their election position.

Mr Miliband had been clear he did not believe Labour was right on the issue, she told the Airport Operators Association.

"The local environmental impact means that this is off the agenda," she said.

Instead, she said, she wanted to "take the politics out of aviation" and work with the government to come up with a cross-party aviation policy.

"There is a bigger prize for us putting political battles to one side and developing a long-term strategy for aviation - it's time to move on and find an alternative way forward," she added.

'New chapter'

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the government would not reconsider its decision to scrap third runway plans.

That decision was over and done with and had had "its share of critics", she said.

She insisted, however, that ministers were not "anti-aviation" and it was time to "write a new chapter in the story of aviation".

"I believe our aviation strategy for our country has to be far broader-based than just the capacity question, though I recognise the importance of that question. Actually, the best strategies cover all the bases," she said.

"They're focused on the short term and the long term, the economic and the environmental, the local and the global, the needs of the sector and the needs of the passenger."

Damaging economy

In recent days, pressure has been growing on the government to reconsider its position on expansion.

The British Chambers of Commerce has called for the government to abandon its opposition to airport expansion and scrap Air Passenger Duty increases.

A report by the group said jobs and growth would be hindered without a strong aviation policy and warned that current aviation capacity would not cope with the projected 335 million passengers at UK airports expected by 2030.

On Sunday, Tory peer Lord Glendonbrook, the former owner of the airline BMI, warned of damage to the UK economy unless Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports were expanded.

Government ministers are expected to publish their vision for what they call "sustainable growth" in the UK aviation industry next year, and say they want airports to be "better", rather than simply bigger.

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