The transport secretary has admitted that even next year might be too early for the final decision

Heathrow expansion plans delayed until next year

The UK government has further delayed a decision to expand Heathrow Airport, stating that it needs to carry out another environmental study before a verdict can be reached.

Prime Minister David Cameron had promised a decision by the end of the year, but will now not make it until next summer at the earliest.

The delays follow recommendations from an independent commission that Britain needed further airport capacity.

Heathrow Airport is not the only candidate for expansion as Gatwick Airport is also being considered, although it is seen as the less likely choice when a decision is finally made.

The Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has refused to rule out whether a further delay could occur next year although he was ‘hopeful’ that it would be next summer.

He also said the plans could be limited to an expansion of an existing runway at Heathrow rather than an entirely separate third one, or alternatively a second could be constructed at Gatwick.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has rejected the proposed expansion entirely. "Indeed, endless growth in our aviation capacity is incompatible with the UK's climate change commitments,” she said.

“The politics make this decision difficult for the government, but the climate science should make it easy: we don't need further airport expansion."

The news has also prompted widespread criticism from the business community which largely supports the expansion.

Terry Scuoler, the chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: "By avoiding a tough decision, despite a well-evidenced shortlist, the government has again dithered and avoided the issue. Industry is fed-up and dismayed by the continued excuses and political dilly dallying.

"The indecision has handed an early Christmas gift to our competitors who recognise the vital importance to their economies of having the room and flexibility to grow air connections to major international gateways.”

Dale Keller, chief executive of the UK’s Board of Airline Representatives which represents over 70 airlines in the UK was similarly unimpressed with the indecision.

“The world’s airlines need certainty to invest in the UK and we urge the Government to urgently come to a decision since every week that passes has a direct cost to the UK economy, its international connectivity and reputation,” he said.

Carolyn Fairbairn, the director-general of the CBI who speaks on behalf of 190,000 UK businesses which employ nearly seven million people said: “Delaying this decision on an issue of critical importance to the future prosperity of the UK is deeply disappointing.

“We urgently need to increase our runway capacity to spur trade growth, investment and job creation. Just eight new routes to emerging markets could boost our exports by up to £1bn a year.

“But by 2025 - the earliest a new runway would be built - London’s airports could already be operating at full capacity and the longer we wait the further we fall behind the likes of Amsterdam and Paris. If we don’t have a new runway up and running by 2030 the cost to the UK will be as much as £5.3bn a year in lost trade to the BRICs alone."

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