UK opposition to scrap plans for third Heathrow runway

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The UK's opposition Conservative Party has said its next election manifesto will include a firm pledge to scrap plans for a third runway at London Heathrow.

The party, which is thought likely to win next year's general election, has also said it will not go ahead with current plans for a second runway at London Stansted.

The comments came from shadow transport minister Julian Brazier at a fringe meeting at the Conservatives' annual conference in Manchester.

Quoted in the London Evening Standard newspaper, he said: "We are absolutely firm on our opposition to expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. It will definitely be in the manifesto.

"Building more runways at London airports is not the answer. We want to focus instead on improving capacity at regional airports and building more high-speed trains. We are absolutely clear on that."

A party spokesman today appeared to play down Brazier's comments, saying the shadow minister was merely reiterating a stance taken at last year's conference. "Essentially, the [Standard's] front page is not news."

Asked if there would be a firm commitment to expanding regional airports, he replied: "We haven't started writing the manifesto yet, so it's too early to go into that. What we've said on regional airports is that if there's demand and local support for regional airport development, there's no reason for it not to happen. We're not an anti-aviation party."

Responding to Brazier's comments, a BAA spokeswoman said: "There is nothing new here - the Conservatives have made their position on Heathrow quite clear. We now look forward to seeing what a new Conservative airports policy might look like, given the UK's enduring need to connect quickly and regularly with global markets."

In a statement, British Airways said: "Our national hub airport needs a third runway - so the UK can begin to catch up the other major European countries in providing businesses with the kind of worldwide connectivity that is essential for success in a truly global economy.

"Lack of runway capacity not only risks delays, but also squeezes the network a hub can offer. Since 1990, the number of destinations served directly from Heathrow has fallen by 20%.

"Heathrow desperately needs space to expand flights to China, India, South America and many other parts of the world where international trade is developing rapidly."