Heathrow campaigners vowed to keep fighting after the Davies Commission released its interim report today, revealing a new runway at the airport was a preferred option.
The report revealed three immediately shortlisted options of a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow or a new runway at Gatwick - with an estuary airport in Kent to be considered at a later date.
The commission said one new runway would be needed in London and the south-east by 2030 and in the next 18 months it will assess whether that runway should be at Gatwick or Heathrow.
Campaigners said today’s announcement was the “trigger to 18 months of intense campaigning against Heathrow expansion”.
Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, said: “This is a report that deserves to be binned, completely failing to consider any visionary alternative to the problem of Heathrow.
“Earlier this year, the residents of west London gave a resounding ‘no’ to Heathrow in the referendum held by this borough and the London borough of Hillingdon.
"More than 140,000 people turned out with 80 per cent of our residents saying they would not accept any expansion at Heathrow.
“We have made it abundantly clear to both the bosses of Heathrow and the Government that expansion is off the table, it would further blight the residents of this borough with incessant noise and we will use all measures available to us to block any proposals.
“We expect the Prime Minister to keep his oft-repeated election promise – ‘No ifs, no buts, no third runway’.”
John Stewart, chairman of Hacan, which represents residents under the Heathrow flights paths, said: “Although Davies’s proposals focus less on Heathrow than had been rumoured, there is little doubt they will act as the trigger to 18 months of intense campaigning against Heathrow expansion.
“A new runway will increase planes from 480,000 a year to 560,000. There is no way overall noise levels will decrease.
“The scale of the opposition will be so great that we believe that they are politically undeliverable and should have been dropped at this stage.”
The commission dropped the option of a new runway to the south of Heathrow, largely because of the difficulties posed by reservoirs.
Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham, said: “The Davies Commission interim report has put Heathrow at the front of its thinking which is questionable economically, damaging environmentally and probably undeliverable politically.
“My strong view is that the Davies review should not decide to press ahead with Heathrow options and I will be making that view known in the strongest terms.
“I fully support the need to improve UK business links with airports in the emerging markets of Asia which is important for jobs, but this could be achieved more quickly by reforming and reallocating airport slots; by building up point to point services; and by strengthening the capacity of UK regional airports.
“Such is the impact of noise on hundreds of thousands of people in London that pushing ahead with Heathrow expansion is almost certainly the worst option for expanding airport capacity.”
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has spoken out against the expansion of Heathrow and continued his push for the estuary airport, dubbed Boris Island.
He said: “A new airport in the inner estuary is the only credible hub option left. By keeping it on the table, Davies is saying you have a choice - between a damaging U-turn or a radical new vision for expansion.”
The commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, will also consider a new airport in the Isle of Grain, north Kent but said it did not believe the two new runways that airport would have would be required for the foreseeable future.
Sir Howard Davies said: “Decisions on airport capacity are important national strategic choices and must be based upon the best evidence available.
"The commission has undertaken a fresh, comprehensive and transparent study of the issues.
“This report is the product of extensive consultation, independent analysis and careful consideration by the commissioners.
“The UK enjoys excellent connectivity today. The capacity challenge is not yet critical but it will become so if no action is taken soon and our analysis clearly supports the provision of one net additional runway by 2030. In the meantime we encourage the government to act on our recommendations to make the best of our existing capacity.
“The commission will now focus on the challenge of appraising the three options, further assessing the case for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and delivering a robust final recommendation to government in summer 2015.”
The report rejected plans to expand Stansted and plans for a new runway at Heathrow which would lead to the demolition of the town of Sipson.
A final report is due by summer 2015, two months after the general election.
More to follow.