No extra runway say campaigners

CAMPAIGNERS fighting against expansion at Stansted Airport have said there will not be another runway at the airport, even if the Government gives one the go-ahead this month.

CAMPAIGNERS fighting against expansion at Stansted Airport have said there will not be another runway at the airport, even if the Government gives one the go-ahead this month.

The announcement came after it was reported that a third runway for Heathrow Airport has been ruled out in the short-term.

The Government has decided further expansion of Heathrow will not be possible without breaking European pollution laws - leaving Stansted to get the first new airport runway in the London area for nearly 20 years.

It is claimed the announcement is to be disclosed in a matter of weeks, when transport Secretary Alistair Darling' unveils his 30-year strategy for the British aviation industry.

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Carol Barbone, campaign manager for the Stop Stansted Expansion Campaign, said: "I think first of all we have to get it into perspective, these are rumours. But whatever the white paper says another runway should not be built because it is not government policy that decides but the interests of business.

"All the principal carriers and reduced cost companies are dead set against operating out of Stansted because it would not be viable for them.

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"Ryanair has said it is not prepared to pay additional landing charges and national carriers are saying it is not commercially viable, so it would not make economic sense to put the runway there."

But if Stansted is chosen, the government will face a fight from some of the country's airlines as well as pressure groups in Essex.

The decision to rule out Heathrow for now will prove hugely unpopular with some airlines, such as British Airways and Virgin, who are likely to appeal against the move, or even take legal action.

British Airways has claimed that two extra runways for the South East could generate £65bn of economic benefits, but has said an expansion to Stansted would be "disastrous" for the industry.

Although Mr Darling is expected to leave the door open for a third runway for Heathrow until nearer 2030 in his White Paper due later this month, any delay will be attacked by airlines.

They say stalling on immediate expansion of the South East's aviation facilities will simply hand over a competitive advantage to airports in France and the Netherlands.

Mr Darling is also believed to be looking at giving the go-ahead for a second new runway in the region, but has not made a decision yet on where it will be.

BA has said its second preference would be for Gatwick, as it does not operate out of Stansted.

But any expansion at Gatwick is impossible until 2019 because of an agreement with West Sussex County Council over development.

Similarly, a new airport at Cliffe on the Thames Estuary in Kent has been ruled out following strong protests from bird groups and environmentalists and Heathrow is said to have been rejected because it would breach levels of pollutant nitrogen dioxide.

This leaves Stansted as the favourite, but airlines say expansion there will be far more costly and BA insists it can still meet EU emission targets to make Heathrow Runway Three possible.

Andrew Cahn, director of government and industry affairs at British Airways, told the FT: "Building at Stansted first would be an historic mistake. It would delay the expansion of Heathrow for a generation and condemn British aviation to long term decline.'

The Department of Transport said it would not confirm whether a decision had been made over expansion at Heathrow.

A spokeswoman said: "This is simply speculation. Any proposals will be set out in the White Paper which is due out at the end of next month, we can't comment any further."

British Airways said Mr Cahn's comments reflected the company's consistent stance on the issue.

A spokeswoman said: "Our position has always been the same. But no decision has been made yet and we await the outcome of the Government's paper next month."

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