Govt’s commitment to regional airports welcomed as it signals green light for Heathrow expansion

June 8, 2018

Bosses at Bristol Airport have welcomed the government’s confirmation of support for regional airports as part of its controversial decision to give the green light to a third runway at Heathrow.


Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the House of Commons earlier this week that as well as expanding Heathrow, he also wanted to “make the best use of existing runways”. 


Bristol, along with other UK regional airports, has lobbied hard for years to urge the government to support them rather than concentrate airport infrastructure investment on London’s airports.

Bristol has grown rapidly over recent years – last year it handled a record 8.1m passengers – and has existing expansion plans that would lift capacity to 10m.


However, this figure is expected to be reached early in the next decade as demand for air travel to and from the South West of the UK continues to rise and so it has a longer-term ambition to double that again to 20m by the mid-2040s.


Planning & sustainability director Simon Earles said: “The government recognises that aviation matters more than ever in providing the connectivity the country needs. By providing clear policy support for airports with plans for sustainable growth, the government has given lift-off to regions like the South West where demand for air travel is forecast to increase.

“The next challenge is to deliver better connections to the road and rail network, making it easier for passengers across the UK to access their local airport. Air travel should be part of an integrated transport network and enhancing surface links is key to unlocking the full economic potential of regional airports by making best use of existing capacity.”

Bristol Airport is preparing a new masterplan which will set out potential development required to handle up to 20m passengers a year. This will include improving transport connections, including a rail link.

The first phase of this growth will be facilitated through the submission of a planning application to our local authority later this year.


Mr Grayling told the Commons the government’s new Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) signalled its commitment to securing global connectivity, create tens of thousands of local jobs and apprenticeships, and boost the economy for future generations by expanding Heathrow Airport.

“Heathrow is already full and the evidence shows the remaining London airports won’t be far behind.

“Despite being the busiest two-runway airport in the world, Heathrow’s capacity constraints means that it is falling behind its global competitors, impacting the UK's economy and global trading opportunities.

“Expansion at Heathrow will bring real benefits across the country including a boost of up to £74bn to passengers and the wider economy.

“This is a project with benefits which reach far beyond London.” 

MPs will be given a vote on the scheme by early July, with a number of Conversative MPs representing nearby constituencies saying they would vote against it.


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