Financial News

  • 16 December 2013, 13:03

Johnson To Mull Legal Move Over Airport Snub

Boris Johnson is expected to consider a legal challenge to an expected snub next week to his proposals for a new four-runway airport in the Thames Estuary.

Sky News understands that the Mayor of London has discussed the option of seeking a judicial review with his advisers if the Airports Commission sidelines the idea.

Mr Johnson is said not to have decided yet about whether to mount a potentially lengthy and costly legal challenge over the Commission's interim report, which will be published on Tuesday.

However, he said this week that a shortlist of options which favoured the expansion of Heathrow would be "scandalous".

"You would expect him not to rule anything out at this stage," said a person familiar with the London Mayor's approach to the issue.

The Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, the former director of the London School of Economics, is expected to propose moving forward with three options for expanding aviation capacity in the south-east.

Each of the trio was said to be likely to include Heathrow, although Gatwick, the busiest single-runway airport in the world, was increasingly confident this weekend that standalone expansion of the Sussex site is now likely to be among them.

Speculation this week had suggested that Gatwick would only be included as part of a proposal that would also involve a third runway at Heathrow.

However, Gatwick's owners have insisted that such a development would not be economically viable and that they would not proceed with a second runway under that scenario.

Sky News revealed on Thursday that David Cameron had met Sir Howard to discuss the interim report in recent days, and had urged the Commission to include a non-Heathrow option for consideration.

That could yet mean a revival of the London Mayor's proposal or an expansion focused on London's third airport, Stansted.

Sir Howard also met Chancellor George Osborne earlier this week while Sky News understands that Mr Johnson met Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin on Thursday.

The publication of an interim report, which will set out several options meriting further analysis ahead of a formal recommendation after the 2015 general election, was supposed to defuse political tensions over Britain's future aviation capacity.

Sky News understands, though, that the Government will publish an official response in the new year, underlining the difficulty it faces in navigating an issue that will feature in the manifestos of the main political parties in 18 months' time.

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick's chief executive, said: "Gatwick's case for a second runway is compelling. Compared to Heathrow we are cheaper, quicker, have a significantly lower environmental impact and we are the most deliverable solution.

"Heathrow's answer for passengers is to re-establish their monopoly which will mean high fares forever, and huge environmental damage to their local communities."

The requirement for new runway capacity has become more pressing as the south-east's airports reach bursting point.

Rival European hubs in Frankfurt and Paris are growing rapidly, while Dubai is expected to overtake Heathrow as the biggest airport by international passengers within two years.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson declined to comment on Saturday. :: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

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