A final response to the Davies commission on airport expansion might not be made until the year’s end, sparking fears the delay will damage UK business.
Whitehall sources have indicated ministers won’t be making a formal decision on the findings of the independent group ‘before Christmas’, the Financial Times reports.
The news comes as the Green Party AM Darren Johnson, revealed that Heathrow and Gatwick airports have spent £1.7m and £1.6m respectively on their runway expansion advertising campaigns across the London transport network alone. The information was provided by the mayor's office after questioning from Mr Johnson.
The commission chaired by former CBI head Sir Howard Davies will this month issue its final report on whether Gatwick or Heathrow is the best site for expansion.
The potential delay has caused concern about the impact on businesses after it was originally anticipated ministers would provide a formal response by late summer
Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, said there was ‘a pressing need for more airport capacity in the South East’ yet this potential delay ‘simply kicks the decision further into the long grass’.
‘The UK economy loses nearly £1.2bn a year because of a lack of major airport capacity. Unless the congestion problem is addressed now, the UK will become a less attractive place to do business with and to visit.’
However the Department for Transport (DfT) emphasised the recommendations of the commission’s report needed to be meticulously deliberated.
It is thought the decision on whether Gatwick or Heathrow should receive expansion could be deeply divisive for the Government, with the prime minister facing a ‘split at the highest level’ according to MP Zac Goldsmith.
The Richmond MP has threatened to resign if Heathrow is chosen, while departing London mayor Boris Johnson has vowed to lie in front of bulldozers if the plan is given the green light. They have been joined in their opposition by foreign secretary Philip Hammond and international development secretary Justine Greening.
Responding to the concerns, a DfT spokesperson said: ‘We are determined to make progress on this vital issue but we need to carefully consider the Airports Commission’s full body of work before setting out next steps.’