Plans to build a third runway at Europe's busiest airport, London Heathrow, have proved controversial because locals are vehemently against having more noisy aircraft movements around the capital's main hub airport.
Heathrow only has two runways, which means operating at near 98% capacity all day, with aircraft departing and landing every 90 seconds. As an international hub airport, it competes with Amsterdam Schipol, which has five runways, and Paris Charles de Gaulle.
London mayor Boris Johnson has been campaigning against Heathrow being allowed to have a third runway, as he says local people are already contending with noise from early morning until late at night. Any expansion, he says will be a further blight on their lives.
Boris Island Proposal
Johnson proposed a new London airport – situated on an island in the middle of the River Thames – called London Britannia Airport – dubbed 'Boris Island' – which has been greeted with derision by environmentalists. The proposed airport would have operated 24 hours-a-day using six runways.
Johnson proposed the new airport as a complete replacement of Heathrow, which – along with its five terminals – would have been demolished to make way for a housing estate and a new industrial site.
However, an independent report by Sir Howard Davies, published on Thursday rejected the Boris Island concept and said the proposed third runway at Heathrow would be the favored option.
Sir Howard Davies: "If the Govt gets on and makes a decision in the next few months the new runway could be open by 2026."— steve hawkes (@steve_hawkes) July 1, 2015
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive at Heathrow, told reporters that the third runway was critical to the country's economy. "It's not about concrete, it's about the future of our country. Further delay [in making a decision over airport expansion] is increasingly costly for the country – something like $21 billion-a-year of lost economic growth by not expanding Heathrow."
However, Boris Johnson told the Today radio program the third runway at Heathrow was the wrong answer.
"This would lead to a huge increase in noise pollution, in vehicular pollution and would intensify the position of Heathrow as the number one noise polluting airport in Europe – by miles."
The decision over whether to allow Heathrow to expand has been a political hot potato for years and the publication of the report was deliberately held back until after the general election so that it would not become a campaigning issue.
Ironically, the final decision will be for the government, which – if it is delayed another five years because of appeals and lobbying – could be under the leadership of Boris Johnson himself, as he is the bookies favorite to take over from David Cameron as Conservative Party leader when he steps down in 2020. And Boris Island could be on the agenda again.