‘No ifs, No buts’ … no decisions on airport expansion

Prior to the 2010 general election, David Cameron clearly stated his position on London airport expansion: ‘no ifs, no buts’ there would be no expansion of Heathrow. Now, more than half a decade later, the only decision that has been made has been to delay the decision making.

Amid much controversy concerning delaying the publication until after the 2015 general election, the independent report into the expansion of London’s airport capacity was published by the Airport Commission in July 2015 and clearly ruled in favour of Heathrow.  At this point, Downing Street said that it would not be making ‘a snap judgement’ and the decision would be made in the autumn. As we approach the shortest day of the year, I think it’s fair to say that autumn has officially come and gone and we have now been met with the news that the decision will be delayed for a further six months.

There is much debate surrounding the reasons for this delay: the government claim they need more time to consider the environmental impacts of airport expansion, while critics suggest that the delay simply moves the decision until after the London Mayoral elections, in which the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith has made his strong opposition to the expansion of Heathrow very clear.

Whatever the reason, these continued delays will have a very real effect on the UK’s future economic growth prospects. The Airport Commission Report outlined the need for expansion to airport capacity in the south: ‘Heathrow has been effectively full for many years, and Gatwick is operating at more than 85% capacity and is completely full at peak times…In a complex and competitive global environment it would be short-sighted and perilous to place the UK’s world-leading connectivity at risk by failing to address these constraints. There is a clear need for one net additional runway in London and the South East by 2030.’

The government’s delay in making a decision has been criticised by various business leaders: Carolyn Fairbairn, the Director General of the CBI, called the delays a ‘failure of leadership’ and claimed that there would be ‘a potential £5bn lost exports by 2030 if we don’t act’. John Longworth, Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce, claimed that ‘further delays would undermine the government’s claim that it is serious about Britain punching above its weight on the global stage’; and Chris Richards, a senior policy adviser at the EEF, said that the ‘delay and dithering is bad for business’.

London First

Government should respond quickly to the position set out by the Airport Commission, for the sake of the UK’s future economic growth and position on the global stage. The debate on the extension of airport capacity in the south has been ongoing for almost half a century: Paul Buchanan‘s grandfather, Sir Colin Buchanan, sat on the Roskill Commission from 1968-71 and then proposed Maplin airport which was approved by government, and subsequently dropped in 1974. No definitive decision on London’s airport capacity has been made since then and it now looks like that silence could continue for some time longer.


Lucy Dean is a Senior Consultant at Volterra

Headline Image: Heathrow by Antonio Zugaldia licensed under CC by 2.0 

Inserted Image: London First

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e: aobyrne@volterra.co.uk
t: +44 020 8878 6333

Alex O’Byrne, Associate at Volterra, is an experienced economic consultant specialising in economic, health and social impact, economic strategy, project appraisal and socio-economic planning matters.

Alex has led the socio-economic and health assessments of some of the most high profile developments across the UK, including Battersea Power Station, Olympia London, London Resort, MSG Sphere and Westfield. He has significant experience inputting to EIAs and s106 discussions as well as drafting economic statements, employment and skills strategies and affordable workspace strategies.

Alex is also experienced at economic appraisal for infrastructure. He was project manager of the economic appraisal for the City Centre to Mangere Light Rail in Auckland. He also led the economic and financial appraisals of the third tranche of the Transport Access Program for Transport for New South Wales, in which Alex developed and employed innovative methodological approaches to better capture benefits for individuals with reduced mobility.

He is interested in the limitations of current appraisal methodologies and ways of improving economic and health analysis to ensure it is accessible to as many people as possible. To this end, Alex recognises the importance of transparent and simple to understand analysis and ensuring all work is supported by a robust narrative.

Alex holds a BSc (Hons) in Economics from the University of Manchester and he was a member of the first cohort of the Mayor’s Infrastructure Young Professionals Panel.


Senior Partner

e: eevans@volterra.co.uk
t: +44 020 8878 6333

Ellie is a partner at Volterra, specialising in the economic impact of developments and proposals, and manages many of the company’s projects on economic impact, regeneration, transport and development.

With thirteen years experience at Volterra delivering high quality projects to clients across the public and private sector, Ellie has expertise in developing methods of estimating economic impact where complex issues exist with regards to deadweight, displacement and additionality.

Ellie has significant experience in estimating the economic impact across all types of property development including residential, leisure, office and mixed use schemes.

Project management of recent high profile schemes include the luxury hotel London Peninsula, Battersea Power Station and the Nova scheme at London Victoria. Ellie has also led studies across the country estimating the economic and regeneration impact of proposed transport investments, including studies on HS2 and Crossrail.

Ellie holds a degree in Mathematics and Economics from the University of Cambridge.