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UK airport expansions: September update

Whilst some airports have put their expansion plans on hold following record drops in air travel and uncertainty about the pace and scale of a recovery from the pandemic, other airports are continuing to press ahead with their plans. 

Last updated: September 2020

Bristol

In March, North Somerset Council’s Planning and Regulatory Committee confirmed their decision to refuse permission for Bristol Airport’s expansion plans. The application to expand Bristol Airport was initially rejected by councillors on 10th February 2020 on the grounds that the proposed 20% increase in capacity would be harmful to the environment, including for climate change. This decision went against planning officers’ recommendations, so had to be ratified by the committee (which took place in March 2020). The airport announced in August 2020 that it would however be appealing the decision.  

Heathrow 

In February 2020, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Government’s policy in support of Heathrow’s expansion was unlawful because it had failed to take into account the Paris Agreement on climate change. In May 2020, climate campaigners were dismayed to learn that the Supreme Court had granted Heathrow permission to challenge this ruling. The hearing will take place on 7th and 8th October 2020.

Leeds Bradford

In January 2020, Leeds Bradford Airport submitted plans for a new terminal with the aim of almost doubling their passenger numbers by 2030. Scientists at Leeds University have said that the expansion would “make it impossible for Leeds to meet its net zero target” in 2030. And government environment advisors Natural England have said that the plans should not be approved “unless further evidence on the potential impacts is provided”. Campaign group GALBA have successfully raised funds to seek advice from planning and economics experts to provide a detailed response to the airport’s planning application.

London City

In August 2020, the airport announced that it will not be proceeding with plans to increase the size of its terminal, to handle 6.5 million passengers a year by 2023, at this time. 

Luton

In June 2020, London Luton Airport announced that it would not be submitting an expansion proposal to the Government that month as originally planned. A revised bid to increase the airport’s capacity from 18 million passengers per year to 32 million, is expected to be made in 2021.

Manston

In July 2020, the Government gave permission for Manston Airport to open as a freight hub. Approval of the Development Consent Order (the first for a UK airport) goes against the advice of the planning inspectorate, which had concluded that “the airport will damage the local economy and impact negatively on the UK’s carbon budget and our commitments to the Paris Agreement”. Chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team Jenny Dawes is launching an application for judicial review of the decision, and after a successful crowdfunding appeal has engaged 39 Essex Chambers to bring the case.

For AEF’s analysis of the expansion, please click here.

Southampton

In 2019, Southampton Airport submitted a planning application to Eastleigh Borough Council to extend its runway by 164 metres. A second public consultation is running until 21st September 2020, after respondents raised concerns over environmental and noise impacts of the extended runway in response to the first consultation in 2019.

Stansted

Following Uttlesford District Council’s decision in January 2020 to reject the airport’s application to increase capacity to 43 million passengers a year, citing environmental reasons, the airport announced in July 2020 that it will be lodging an appeal before the 6 month deadline passes.


Airport expansion can have local and global impacts. This page provides a summary of those expansion plans that will have significant impacts in terms of the campaign focus on climate change. We endeavour to update this page as and when we become aware of new airport planning applications or changes to existing applications. This page was last updated on 4th September 2020.