Row hots up over airport expansion

Union leaders representing airport workers and pilots immediately welcomed the Heathrow announcement, but groups opposed to the expansion expressed dismay, vowing to continue their campaign.

Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite, said: "This is the best decision, taken in the best interests of this country. The challenge now is to set to work on building an international hub airport befitting the UK's reputation as a world economy. That must include developing the high-speed rail links that will benefit every city in the land and ensure that passengers have a genuine choice of how they wish to travel.

"We fully understand that this was not an easy decision to make, but we believe that the conditions attached to the construction of the third runway will see Heathrow function as a modern, environmentally-conscious airport, and inspire a project of national works that will bring our transport infrastructure into the 21st century.

"There are 172,000 people and their families who depend on Heathrow for their livelihoods, plus thousands more workers in other UK airports who need Heathrow to thrive so that their airport thrives, who will breathe a sigh of relief now that this decision has been made. There are also possibly up to 50,000 more workers who will welcome the work this project will create during this time of severe economic hardship."

Lord Smith, chairman at the Environment Agency, said: "We remain deeply concerned about the construction of a third runway at Heathrow as air quality in the area is already at breaking point.

"This decision does put strict legal limits on air pollution. Under the new powers given to the Environment Agency as the independent regulator, we will make sure these limits are strongly and rigorously enforced.

"The CO2 and global warming impacts from increased aviation to be taken into account. Serious questions must be asked about how the aim of reaching an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 can still be achieved in light of this decision."

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