New runway capacity 'needed' in South East
The south-east of England will need more runway capacity in the years to come, the head of the Airports Commission has said.
In a speech, Sir Howard Davies set out the commission's "developing views" on the UK's future airport capacity needs.
He said the "provisional conclusion" was that extra runway capacity would be needed in the South East over the coming decades.
To rely on existing runways would lead to "a distinctly sub-optimal solution".
In a speech, Sir Howard said the demands on the UK's busiest airports were likely to continue to grow "even if we take a more conservative view of future aviation demand than the Department for Transport has in the past".
He said that the commission thought it was difficult to see how the free market alone could resolve the capacity-demand imbalance in the South East.
Regional airports are already serving their local markets effectively but it is difficult to see how they can absorb all the excess demand, he said.
"Taken together, these considerations point to the need for new runway infrastructure in the south-east of England in the coming decades," he said.
The Airports Commission was launched on 2 November last year, with the aim that it should produce a full and final report no later the summer of 2015, which would be after the next general election.
Sir Howard, a former director general of the CBI and ex-head of the Financial Services Authority, said: "Our final conclusions will certainly not please everyone. I am sure about that."
Labour had approved an extra, third runway at Heathrow airport, but this plan was abandoned by the coalition Government when it took power in May 2010.
Since then, the debate about airport capacity has continued, with Mayor of London Boris Johnson proposing a new airport, while other people have called for expansion at either Stansted or Gatwick.