Leading Southampton planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore has called for swift action to make sure the south benefits from last week’s decision to press ahead with plans for a third runway at Heathrow.
Robin Shepherd, who leads the practice’s South Coast operation, said the expansion could be a catalyst for growth for airports in the south, including Southampton and Bournemouth where they can connect to the Hub airport – but that process of implementing the expansion needed to be “quick and decisive”.
His comments came after the Cabinet decided to approve a £14 billion plan to extend Heathrow Airport as part of a major expansion to UK air traffic. MPs will vote on the plan on July 11.
Shepherd said: “This has been a long time coming and we welcome this key step which has the potential to be a launch pad for significant economic growth in the south. While Parliament still needs to ratify this decision, we hope this is a quick and decisive process given the scrutiny it has already been given through the Davies Commission and the extensive consultations that followed.
“Opportunities and benefits for the South Coast, both economic and social, are significant to say the least, particularly along the M27, A3 and M3 corridors which have excellent links to Heathrow, in addition to the proposed new Weston Rail link. The swift expansion of Heathrow as the hub airport and the associated improved infrastructure it will bring could also be a catalyst for further growth of regional airports including those in the South, Southampton, and Bournemouth, as well as major regional ports in Portsmouth and Southampton.
“Now is the time to get on with the job – otherwise we are back into uncertainty about whether anything will happen at all. Other countries are moving ahead on their infrastructure and we have got to ensure that we don’t get left behind in what is already a tight timescale. The time for debate is over – let’s prove to the world that we can do this, hand it over to the experts, and get it delivered.”
Transport secretary Chris Grayling has said the expansion would benefit the whole of the UK – with 15% of new landing slots at the airport “facilitating” regional connectivity. The new runway could be completed by 2026 under the plans.
Barton Willmore is the UK’s leading independent planning and design consultancy, whose team has advised on major schemes including Westquay Watermark Shopping Centre, Gunwharf Quays and Poole waterfront. Its consultants recently produced a research paper, entitled Southampton: An Airport City of the Future?, which looked at the economic potential of the airport and the land around it.