All options for improving airport capacity in the UK's south east, with the exception of building a third runway at London Heathrow, will be explored by the government, UK chancellor George Osborne said today.
In an update to the government's National Infrastructure Plan as part of the UK Treasury's 2011 autumn statement, Osborne did not exclude the possibility of building additional runways at London's Gatwick and Stansted airports - despite the fact that this possibility had earlier been ruled out by the government.
However, the Department for Transportation said the statement did not mean the government's stance had changed.
Osborne's statement that all options would be considered was welcomed by Foster & Partners, the group of architects behind a £20 billion ($32 billion) proposal to build a four-runway airport in the Thames Estuary.
Chairman Norman Foster said: "We are committed to working with government and wider industry stakeholders to put in place the transport connections Britain needs to encourage growth, job creation and trade with the rest of the world, particularly the emerging economies. This is an opportunity to reassert Britain's role as a global hub and an international gateway.
"The chancellor's autumn statement today is very encouraging and a step closer to achieving this goal."