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RTPI responds to Airports Commission Interim Report

17 December 2013

The Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, has today released its interim report into airport capacity and connectivity in the UK. The report concludes the need for one additional runway in the South East of England by 2030, and has shortlisted three location options for the Government to consider:

  • A new runway at Gatwick, to the south of the existing runway;
  • A new runway at Heathrow, to the north-west of the site;
  • An extension of the existing northern runway at Heathrow to operate as two separate runways.

In addition to this shortlist, the Commission has not ruled out a fourth option of building a four-runway hub airport at the Isle of Grain, which would include the subsequent closure of Heathrow airport. The Commission will make a decision as to whether to formally shortlist this option in the first half of 2014.

It is now imperative that in producing its final report, the Commission continues to take close consideration of the wider, strategic impacts of the various options, as the easily quantifiable costs and benefits will likely only offer a narrow view of the range of possible benefits.

The RTPI is pleased that the Commission has decided to evaluate the location options based on wide and varied criteria, including “the impacts on employment and housing” and “the interactions between aviation and other transport modes”, which we emphasised as necessities in our consultation response in March 2013.

It is now imperative that in producing its final report, the Commission continues to take close consideration of the wider, strategic impacts of the various options, as the easily quantifiable costs and benefits will likely only offer a narrow view of the range of possible benefits. Furthermore, by adopting an approach of integrated planning across sectors, the RTPI believes that new infrastructure should be developed to tackle multiple challenges. For example, the improved surface access which will be required by new runway or airport infrastructure should also be considered in the context of wider transport priorities for improving passenger and freight capacities. Additionally, wider economic goals, such as the need to boost housing supply in London and the South East, should be strongly considered alongside challenges about the most efficient ways to house and transport airport workforce.