Having approved a new nuclear plant at Hinckley Point, the next big infrastructure decision in Theresa May’s stacked in-tray is that vexed question – dodged by politicians for decades – of where to build Britain’s much-needed new airport capacity.
In July 2015, the five-person Airports Commission, appointed by David Cameron to shelve the issue until after the May general election, gave “unanimous backing” to a third runway at Heathrow. It looked almost certain Europe’s largest airport would get the all-important government nod.
“There’s a strong sense the Airports Commission began life three or so years ago with a conclusion – and then spent £20m backing up that conclusion,” boomed Zac Goldsmith, during Prime Minister’s questions. “What assurance can the Prime Minister give … that he will engage in the real arguments in a way Sir Howard Davies has not,” said the MP for Richmond Park.
The Airports Commission’s unequivocal backing for a third runway at Heathrow means that a decision on extra airport capacity in the UK’s southeast – dodged by politicians for half a century – can no longer be avoided. Appointed by David Cameron’s coalition government in order to shelve the issue until after the 2015 general election, the Commission confirmed its verdict last Wednesday, with the Prime Minister promising a final decision “by the end of the year”.