Airport restrictions 'damaging economy', Tory peer says

Aerial image of Heathrow Airport
Image caption The peer says there is a strong economic and environmental case for expanding Heathrow

The government's refusal to allow expansion at London's main airports will damage the UK economy, according to the former owner of the airline BMI.

Tory peer Lord Glendonbrook, the ex-airline chief Sir Michael Bishop, says new runways are needed at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports.

However, the coalition agreement ruled out allowing their construction.

Ministers are to publish their vision for what they call "sustainable growth" in the UK aviation industry next year.

They say they want airports to be "better", rather than simply bigger.

'Strong and sound'

During recent consultation airport operator BAA said the UK could lose out on trade with emerging markets worth £1.4bn a year if Heathrow is not allowed to expand. ​

Lord Glendonbrook told the BBC's Politics Show: "There is a strong and sound - both environmental and economic - case to continue building at Heathrow.

"The idea of having no development of existing airports in the south east... is going to be hugely damaging to the country and to the economy."

The peer, a former Channel 4 chairman who once owned the carrier BMI, is one of the Conservatives' biggest donors.

Transport Minister Theresa Villiers told the same programme that the government's priority was "making airports better within their current capacity".

But she said next year's review was a "major exercise" looking at the long-term prospects for growth.

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