In the wake of the UK Government’s decision to proceed with plans for a third runway at Heathrow, Future Airport looks at views for and against the plan.


“Look at what will happen to this area if we do not go ahead with this expansion; you would hear the silence of the economic graveyard.”
Lord Soley, campaign director for Future Heathrow

“This approach to expanding Heathrow’s capacity makes real sense. It will create the integrated transport system necessary for an economy that needs to grow in an environmentally sustainable fashion … This is not an easy decision. But this announcement balances the needs of the economy with those of the environment, and provides the right framework for the country’s long-term needs.”
Richard Lambert, director-general, Confederation of British Industry

“The third runway allows Heathrow to grow and, more importantly, it will be an enormous economic catalyst by better connecting the London and UK economies to global business.”
Giovanni Bisignani, CEO, IATA

“Those who say that we can either fly or prevent climate change are offering a false choice. With new technologies and operational practices, aviation will be an important part of a sustainable future – and Heathrow will benefit from that.”
Ed Anderson, chairman, Airport Operators Association

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  • Noise nuisance from aircraft has decreased by 75% over the past 30 years.
  • Fuel burn, and therefore carbon dioxide emissions, is down by 70% over the past 50 years.
  • The aviation industry has set itself the goals of cutting noise and CO2 emissions by 50% of 2000 levels by 2020 with increased use of new technologies.
  • Aircraft currently operating in the UK are, on average, as fuel efficient as hybrid cars.
  • If every UK flight was grounded it would reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 0.1%; UK aviation emissions make up less that 0.1% of global man-made CO2 emissions.
  • The aviation industry contributed £15bn to UK GDP in 2007, 1.1% of the overall economy.
  • Aviation’s contribution to GDP is predicted to rise to £19.7bn in 2010 and taxes on aviation will have more than doubled from 2004 to 2010.


“No mayor of London could ever accept these proposals. No mayor of any comparable city would accept plans of this kind.”
Boris Johnson, London mayor

“Runway plans will inflict devastating damage on the environment and quality of life … we will fight it every step of the way.”
Theresa Villiers, shadow transport secretary, Conservative Party

“I call it a real slap in the face to every citizen in this country who has been doing their best to cut back on their own emissions … I think it’s the most egregious piece of hypocrisy I’ve seen in a long time.”
Emma Thompson, actress, who owns a plot of land on the site of the proposed runway

“If Gordon Brown thinks this is a green runway then he must be colour blind.”
John Sauven, director of Greenpeace


  • Heathrow will become the UK’s largest emitter of CO2, meaning that a single airport will account for over a fifth (22.6%) of the UK’s entire carbon budget by 2050.
  • The UK Department for Transport predicts that passenger numbers will treble by 2030, compared with 2003 levels, meaning that, even with efficiency gains, emissions from aviation will more than double by 2030.
  • Flights leaving UK airports are responsible for 13% of the country’s entire climate impact. Per head, British people emit more from flying than in any other country.
  • The number of flights will increase from 480,000 to 702,000 each year and CO2 emissions from the airport will increase by 8.64 million tons a year.
  • An August 2008 WWF study weighed up the costs and benefits of building a third runway. By applying ‘a few simple and reasonable adjustments to the government’s model,’ the charity calculated that rather than the £5bn benefit claimed, there would be a £5bn loss.
  • One third of all Heathrow passengers are en route to other destinations and therefore bring no benefit to the UK economy.

Sources: Society of British Aerospace and

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