LONDON, United Kingdom, Oct 25 – The British government is expected to make a long-awaited decision Tuesday on increasing London’s airport capacity, with speculation growing that controversial proposals to expand Heathrow will take off.
Environmental activists are set to hold a protest in anticipation of the announcement in the morning, blocking a fake runway outside parliament.
Following the government decision, ministers opposed to the plans will be granted the rare opportunity to voice their dissenting views.
There is widespread speculation that approval will be given to a new runway at Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, a proposal recommended by a government-appointed commission in July 2015.
The head of the now-disbanded commission, Howard Davies, on Sunday said there was an “overwhelming” case for expanding Heathrow.
“The arguments for making a decision now, and for Heathrow, have strengthened in recent months,” he wrote in The Telegraph newspaper.
“Overseas, the lack of a decision is seen as a symbol of Britain’s inability to decide on its future as a trading nation.”
Davies said need for a clear direction on airport expansion was more important following Britain’s dramatic decision in June to leave the European Union. Concerns regarding noise and pollution at Heathrow could be resolved, he added.
Davies’ commission last year said a new runway at Heathrow would cost £17.6 billion (19.5 billion euros, $21.4 billion), but would generate up to £147 billion over 60 years and create more than 70,000 jobs by 2050.
The report added that a rival bid for a second runway at Gatwick airport south of London, which is backed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, was also “plausible”.
Business leaders say London’s five existing airports are not keeping up with rising air travel demand, representing a lost money-making opportunity for Britain.
Even after the government announces its decision, the plans may not receive full approval for at least another year.
The decision will be subject to further consultation and a parliamentary vote in the winter of 2017/2018, Prime Minister Theresa May told cabinet colleagues in a recent letter.