Heathrow plans delayed
Protestors demonstrating against an additional Heathrow runway hold banners during a rally at Parliament Square in London on 10 October 2015.Reuters

The controversial decision on whether to build a third runway at London's Heathrow airport has been delayed until next summer, despite an outcome being "promised" by the end of the year. The government was branded "gutless" by business leaders, with the shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood saying that the delay will add to resident's uncertainty.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that further research into the environmental impact of the plans was needed. The delay will mean the decision is unlikely to be made until after the London mayoral elections in May 2016.

Business groups believe that the UK desperately needs new provisions for flights to and from the UK to match its economic activity while campaigners believe that a third runway will cause intolerable noise, breach EU limits on air pollution, cost millions in road improvements, and force thousands to move from their homes.

John Longworth, director general at the British Chambers of Commerce said that the move will be perceived as "gutless" by businesses, according to a report in the Telegraph. "It is a gutless move by a government that promised a clear decision on a new runway by the end of the year," Longworth said. "Business will question whether ministers are delaying critical upgrades to our national infrastructure for legitimate reasons, or to satisfy short-term political interests."

In comparison, Amsterdam Schiphol has six runways while Dubai has two runways that operate 24 hours a day. London Mayor Boris Johnson favours the building of a new airport in the Thames Estuary, dubbed "Boris Island".

Patrick McLoughlin explained the decision for the delay to the BBC. He said: "The case for aviation expansion is clear - but it's vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come. I don't think I need to make an apology for taking a little longer to make sure that we get the decision right."

Labour MP Lilian Greenwood said the prime minister had "broken his promises to residents". She said: "Tonight's statement owes more to political calculations than genuine concern for the environment or residents who now face another year of blight and uncertainty.

"This shambolic announcement is an embarrassment and no one will be convinced that the government is taking our runway capacity or environmental needs seriously."

Sir Howard Davies produced an independent report in July this year backing the plans but suggested that if a third runway was to be built, a number of restrictions should be enforced. These included measures to reduce both the environmental impact and noise pollution with another runway at Gatwick, or increasing the size of an existing runway at Heathrow.

Among others to respond was Rob Gray, campaign director of the Back Heathrow group, funded by the airport. He said: "The government has created more uncertainty for local residents, more uncertainty for workers in the local area and the potential loss to the UK economy of more than £5bn."