Phil Dibbs
Phil Dibbs

Member Article

The Cost of Indecision

A lack of capacity at Heathrow is costing the UK economy £14bn a year in lost trade, according to a report published by the airport.

That figure could rise to £26bn a year by 2030, the report said. Heathrow bosses are keen to see a third runway built at the west London airport, but the government has ruled it out for the time being.

This is just the latest in a long line of new articles and reports commissioned by the various interested parties advocating support for their preferred option.

For what seems like years now the debate about how to expand the UK’s air transport capacity has been raging and will continue to do so until the Government review has been completed.

Boris Johnson supports a brand-new airport in the Marshes, Gatwick has announced plans to build an entirely new runway and terminal – but not until 2019, and now Virgin Atlantic CEO Steve Ridgway has backed Heathrow expansion. There is even talk of a brand new airport in The Midlands and a massive development at Stansted.

Of course we cannot forget the environmental damage which each of these options will cause, both to the quality of life of the surrounding population, and also the flora and fauna. This must be considered in any decision making process.

There is so much conflicting information that, at the moment, there is no clear way forward. This is incredibly dangerous. The current lack of a clear decision plays into the hands of our competitors in Europe. They are laughing at our convoluted processes - they know that our planning laws will delay any development anywhere and that even once a decision is made, the benefits will not be felt this decade.

Whilst the UK remains a hugely important hub being strategically placed between the US and China, this position is under very serious threat and every day this threat grows. It also follows that anyone whose plans hinge on airport capacity and location will also be delayed, meaning that many businesses will inevitably lose patience and invest elsewhere. It is hard to quantify the knock-on effects but they are bound to be huge.

The government has asked a commission headed by Sir Howard Davies to advise on future UK airport capacity needs. The Davies Commission is expected to present an interim report to the government by the end of 2013, with a full report due in the summer of 2015 - after the next general election. Until then I am sure that we will see report after report recommending each of the options.

There are huge political implications and much self-interest bound up in this issue. The MP’s around Heathrow know that they cannot be seen to support the expansion due to the effect on the quality of life of the people under the new flight paths. Boris Johnson has to be seen to support a new airport in the Thames for similar reasons.

That said, we must not lose sight of the fact that doing nothing will lead to one conclusion, a further deterioration in the UK’s economic competitiveness at a time when we can ill-afford it.

So for goodness sake let’s make a logical decision and get on with construction before Schipol, Frankfurt, or wherever, announces a huge expansion and makes the whole issue irrelevant.

Phil Dibbs

Managing Director

Hawkmoor Associates Limited


This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Phil Dibbs .

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