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Draft aviation policy delayed till summer

The draft aviation policy due out by the end of March is to be delayed till summer, the Government has now confirmed, despite assurances only a few days ago that the consultation would be ready for publication as scheduled in the Department for Transport’s business plan.AEF had argued that the aviation policy should be delayed until after forthcoming advice from the Committee on Climate Change about how to treat aviation in the context of the UK’s carbon budgets.

The official line from the Department is as follows:

“Since publishing our Business Plan we have been working on a separate call for evidence on the options for maintaining the UK’s status as an international hub for aviation. This document, alongside our overarching aviation framework, will help define the future of UK aviation for decades to come and it is crucial that we get this right. We remain committed to having a final policy in place by next spring at the latest, but we have taken the decision to wait until both documents are ready and intend to publish them in the summer.”

The Coalition Government made an early promise not only to scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow  but also to oppose additional runways at Stansted and Gatwick. Government plans for the longer term are unclear, however. Boris Johnson, the Conservative candidate for the London mayoral elections being held on 3rd May, has, meanwhile, been a vocal supporter of proposals for a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary.

Announcing his Autumn Statement on 29th November 2011, the Chancellor said: “We will explore all the options for maintaining the UK’s aviation hub status, with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow.”

This week – on 19th March – in a speech at the Institute of Civil Engineering, Prime Minister David Cameron stated: “I’m not blind to the need to increase airport capacity, particularly in the South East. We’re acting now to make the best use of existing capacity. Gatwick is emerging as a business airport for London under a new owner, competing with Heathrow. But we need to retain our status as a key global hub for air travel – not just a feeder route to big airports elsewhere in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Dubai. Now yes, this will be controversial and we will need to take decisions for the long term; and we’ll be bringing forward options in our Aviation Strategy which will include an examination of the pros and cons of a new airport in the Thames estuary”.