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Airports commission recommends expanding Heathrow

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LONDON >> Britain’s Airports Commission recommended the construction of third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport on Wednesday in a long-awaited report on how to best expand the country’s aviation capacity.

But the commission stressed that Europe’s largest airport needs to address environmental and community concerns. It said Heathrow presents a stronger case that rival Gatwick – providing around 40 new destinations from the airport and more than 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

“Heathrow is best-placed to provide the type of capacity which is most urgently required: long haul destinations to new markets.” Commission chair Howard Davies said. “It provides the greatest benefits for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy.”

England needs more airport capacity to meet the growing demands of business travelers and tourists into the coming decades. Heathrow, west of central London and rival Gatwick, south of the city, have offered competing projects that will cost as much as 18.6 billion pounds ($29.1 billion).

Homes will be destroyed and surviving neighborhoods will have to cope with increased noise, pollution and traffic.

The issue was so toxic that politicians created an independent commission to weigh the options — and to make a recommendation. Government officials then postponed a decision until after the May 7 election, effectively taking the matter off the political agenda during the vote.

It is up to political leaders to make the final decision — and it is clear that it will not happen quickly. The commission has already rejected other options, including Mayor Boris Johnson’s proposal for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

Gatwick made clear it was ready to take on the next stage of the competition, particularly as the decision comes with significant conditions on addressing noise, air quality and other community concerns.

“Gatwick is still very much in the race.” Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said. “The Commission’s report makes clear that expansion at Gatwick is deliverable.”

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