Heathrow submits third runway options to Davies Commission

Third runway to the south west of the airport One of the airport's preferred options is to have a runway to the south-west of the existing airport
Third runway to the north west of the airport A second preferred option is a runway to the north-west of the airport
Third runway to the north of the airport A runway to the north of the airport is the least preferred option because of its noise impact, although it would be the easiest to build

Related Stories

Heathrow Airport has unveiled three options for a new runway, saying each one would be "quicker and cheaper" than plans for a rival hub airport.

The airport's submission to the Davies Commission, which is looking at raising airport capacity, outlined a runway to the north, north-west or south-west of the existing airport.

It said a new runway could be in place by 2029, allowing 260,000 more flights.

Residents, environmentalists and the London mayor oppose Heathrow's plans.

'Minimising impact'

Heathrow submitted its options to the government-appointed Airports Commission, headed by former Financial Services Authority chairman Sir Howard Davies.

It is reviewing how the UK might expand its airport capacity in south-east England and interested parties have until Friday 19 July to submit their preferred options.

Start Quote

The infrastructure project that would probably do more than others to stimulate growth would be building one or two additional runways at Heathrow. But, of course, almost the first action of the coalition government was to do the opposite, by shelving plans for the expansion of Heathrow.”

End Quote

Ahead of submitting its proposals on Friday, Gatwick bosses said this week that they would prefer "a constellation system of three London airports - keeping Heathrow open, whilst building an additional runway at Gatwick, and then perhaps in time a new runway at Stansted".

On Monday, Mayor of London Boris Johnson published proposals for three possible replacement hubs - an artificial island in the Thames Estuary dubbed "Boris Island", a major expansion at Stansted, or an airport at the Isle of Grain in north Kent.

The commission is expected to recommend options by the end of this year, but will not submit its final report until summer 2015 - after the next general election.

According to Heathrow's submission, building a new runway would deliver extra capacity at the airport by 2025-29 and would allow it to operate 740,000 flights a year - up from the current limit of 480,000.

Heathrow's preferred option would be to place a new runway to the north-west or the south-west of the airport.

This would "deliver a full-length third runway while minimising the impact on the local community".

The submission also detailed how a new westerly runway would help reduce noise pollution because planes would not have to fly so low over London.

It predicted that, even with a third runway, there would be 10-20% fewer people affected by noise under its new plans.

Map showing proposed runway locations

Each of the options would mean the compulsory purchase of some properties and some property demolitions, as well as potentially major work on the M25.

'Flying pigs'

Stanwell Moor is a village near Heathrow and one of its councillors said it would "get completely destroyed" under one of the options.


I've just been looking back through my notes from last year, when I talked to government officials about the prospect of building a third runway at Heathrow.

They told me it was "dead and buried" and said they'd look at "all ideas bar a third runway". Back then we also had a Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, who lived under the flight path and had campaigned against the plan.

What a difference to today, when a third runway at the UK's biggest and busiest airport is very much back on the table.

This is a big week for airports. By Friday, we'll know all the different suggestions on how they could expand.

But don't let all this apparent momentum fool you. This is one of the thorniest issues in politics, and there are plenty in the industry who think that 20 years from now, nothing will have actually been done.

"I wasn't totally surprised because we knew these would be in the pipeline but it's a pretty desperate situation and pretty frightening," said Robert Evans.

"The real problem now is the area is blighted and there will be a period of uncertainty; people will be anxious because they bought their homes and now they find the home isn't the asset they thought."

Residents' group Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (Hacan) said it would fight any proposal for a new runway "tooth and nail".

Hacan chairman John Stewart said it was difficult to square Heathrow's claim that expansion could take place while cutting noise for residents.

Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said the UK "desperately needed a single hub airport with the capacity to provide the links to emerging economies which can boost UK jobs, GDP and trade".

"It is clear the best solution for taxpayers, passengers and business is to build on the strength we already have at Heathrow," he said.

Mr Matthews said he had not ruled out a fourth runway at Heathrow, but said this would not be needed until at least 2040.

However, Mr Johnson said the proposals for a new runway at Heathrow "were politically, environmentally and socially unacceptable".

"There will be more pigs flying than aircraft if we are to believe the claim that three runways at Heathrow will make less noise than two," he said.

Heathrow Chief Executive Colin Matthews: "Uncertainty - that's the message I hear from people. They want to know"

Mr Johnson added the move "would be a disastrous outcome for Londoners, nor would it solve our aviation capacity crisis as a fourth runway would need to be in the planning process before a third was even open".

Greenpeace accused the airport of presenting a "reheated and rehashed" plan with the same "flawed arguments that failed so categorically last time around".

But business groups backed the plans, including the trade body which represents Britain's airlines.

The Board of Airline Representatives said no other proposal so far on airport capacity could "deliver the UK's hub airport capacity quicker, at the right cost, or in the right place for airlines and their passengers".

Comparison of Heathrow options

Heathrow today North North west South west

Heathrow Airport Limited

Passenger capacity





Max flights









Length of new runway




People affected by noise





Housing lost




Opening date




Construction complexity





More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    The Heathrow figure for "243,000" currently affected by noise, beggars belief. The figure is at least 10x that. I used to live 15 miles East of Heathrow (in Battersea), yet was still woken by the whine of jets starting at 6 am. This noise doesn't stop until 11 pm. I welcome any proposal that will move flight away from the major populated area of London. Boris is right on this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    I live in Windsor and for the last 4 years I noticed the increase of flights, noise and pollution, the suffering starts from 6 am to sometimes pass 1 am - isn't it enough? the people who are promoting this third runway should be forced to live in the effected areas to suffer like us full stop - there should NO third runway or anymore runways for Heathrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    Giving Heathrow a third runway is the most obvious thing to do. I can't see what all the argument is about. We should listen to the airlines and get on with it, starting tomorrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    The only people who will benefit from a third runway are BAA and BA.
    When they say WE need a hub airport they just want more people to connect via Heathrow so the only benefit to the UK will be kept within the airport.
    As fot it affecting UK business if we don't build it. London currently is hardly difficult to get to from pretty much anywhere in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Do we really need more and more flights in and out of the country than we already have? I run a decent-sized company with an international client-base, and I've managed to not fly on business one single time in the last 10 years. The Internet is a wonderful thing, you know - but some people still love to feel like jet-setters by "flying out to New York" for a meeting, don't they?


Comments 5 of 8


More UK stories


Features & Analysis

  • Signposts showing the US and UK flagsAn ocean apart

    How British misunderstanding of the US is growing

  • Before and after shotsPerfect body

    Just how reliable are 'before and after' photos?

  • Hillary Clinton frowns.Something to hide?

    Hillary's private emails threaten her air of inevitability

  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back

Elsewhere on the BBC


  • Former al-Qaeda double agent Aimen DeanHARDtalk Watch

    Islamic State is about revenge says former al-Qaeda member turned spy Aimen Dean

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.