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Heathrow or Gatwick? Let’s have planning for both, says ABTA

Travel Association urges expansion at both airports to meet 2050, rather than just 2030 capacity needs

ABTA – The Travel Association is urging the Airports Commission to call for planning permission for an additional runway at both Gatwick and Heathrow in response to the Airports Commission’s final consultation on the location of a new runway. ABTA today also renewed calls on Government to act urgently upon the Commission’s recommendations, expected after this year’s General Election.

Both Heathrow and Gatwick have made compelling cases for a new runway, and both cases for expansion are logical: Heathrow is full and Gatwick is operating at full capacity at peak times. Additional capacity is essential at both airports to cope with growing passenger demand, and to ensure a seamless passenger experience.  

Whilst the Commission will recommend only one net additional runway, they have also said that there will be demand for a second new runway to be operational in the South East by 2050. ABTA believes it is appropriate that both Gatwick and Heathrow are given the go-ahead for planning in the next Parliament, with market forces and passenger demand dictating which runway is built first.  

As well as improving public perceptions of the benefits of aviation, and the different proposals by Gatwick and Heathrow to mitigate the negative impacts of expansion on locally affected areas, there is a growing understanding in Parliament of the need for urgent action on airport capacity, with ABTA research carried out by ComRes finding that 7 in 10 MPs agree that the UK risks being left competitively behind if a plan to increase airport capacity is not adopted in the next year.*  

The ABTA submission also highlights a number of points for the Commission’s consideration on the importance of well-connected regional airports, as well as efficient and resilient surface access to airports.  

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said: “Increasing airport capacity is essential to the UK’s growth and global competitiveness; urgent action is needed. The Airports Commission has identified the need for two additional runways in the South East by 2050, and their detailed and extensive work should be used by the Government to produce a long-term vision for the UK’s aviation industry to 2050. This should involve planning permission for an additional runway at both Gatwick and Heathrow.  

“Delivering either option will come with its challenges, and both airports will have a responsibility to bring the airlines, their passengers, and the local communities affected, along with them on their expansion journey.”

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