Future construction of a third runway at London Heathrow is now firmly off the agendas of all of the UK's main political parties, following a U-turn by the Labour Party which reverses its previous pledge to build an additional runway at the congested London hub.
While the Labour Government was in power it drew up plans to build a third runway at Heathrow. However, when the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government took office in spring 2010, it scrapped these plans and said that permission to construct extra runways at London's Gatwick and Stansted would also be refused.
In a speech to the Airport Operator's Association's annual conference yesterday, Labour's shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said that the party has now taken the third runway off its agenda because of the "local environmental impact".
However, she added that a blanket ban on airport growth in the UK's south east "makes no sense", and called for a cross-party aviation strategy to be drawn up that looks at all alternatives to a third runway at Heathrow.
"The government's failure to set out a strategy for aviation, and the lack of any plan to do so until late in this parliament, is now putting jobs and growth at risk," said Eagle. "I am therefore offering to put aside political differences and work on a cross-party basis to establish a credible aviation strategy for the long term."
She added: "As part of that, Labour will accept the government's decision to cancel the third runway at Heathrow, but ministers must accept that their opposition to any other aviation growth in the south east makes no senseAny serious strategy for aviation and its crucial role in the UK economy cannot start from a position that rules out additional capacity in the south east."
A report released by the government in August set out a number of options for reducing the carbon footprint of aviation, including not building any new runways anywhere in the UK between now and 2050.
Eagle believes that an independent, cross-party commission on aviation should "look at all options while prioritising making the best use of existing runways and airports".
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) has expressed its dismay over Labour's change of policy. "The decision of the Labour Party to withdraw support for a third runway at Heathrow is not just a massive U-turn but strongly suggests that politics are now deliberately obstructive to supporting UK business and driving economic growth," said BAR UK chief executive Mike Carrivick.
"All three main political parties are guilty of being indecisive and now have a duty to rapidly formulate an alternative and progressive aviation policy."
Eagle is also calling on the UK Committee on Climate Change to put forward advice on a tougher carbon dioxide emissions target for the aviation industry.