The three options left for Britain's airports

The three options left for Britain's airports

Boris Johnson's proposal for a new airport to be built in the Thames Estuary has been rejected by the commission looking into the future of Britain's air travel capacity.

The Airport Commission's decision means they now have just under a year to choose between just three options for airport expansion: a third runway at Heathrow Airport, the expansion of one of the existing runways at Heathrow Airport or a new runway at Gatwick.

Only one of the options will be recommended for immediate construction when the Airports Commission makes its final report to MPs in summer 2015.

Adding a third runway at Heathrow

The plan for a new 3.5km runway at Heathrow would involve the destruction of approximately 1,500 houses - including around 30 listed buildings - and the village of Harmondsworth. There is huge opposition to the proposal from both environmental campaigners and politicians, including Boris Johnson, who has called the plans "barbaric" and "short sighted". Greenpeace said the proposal for a third runway was "tired and flawed".

Lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow

This proposal, from the Heathrow Hub group, involves extending Heathrow's existing northern runway to the west to at least 6km - which would allow it to be used for take offs and landings. The Commission claim this would reduce noise pollution at night as flights would move to the extended runway. Around 720 houses would be destroyed, including eight listed buildings.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN which represents those living under the Heathrow flightpath, has previously said choosing between a Heathrow Hub or third runway was like asking residents to choose between being murdered by Jack the Ripper or the Boston Strangler.

"Heathrow Airport has never liked the Heathrow Hub option and I suspect this is a way of putting pressure on the Airports Commission for it to be ruled out. But for residents it is like being asked to choose whether you preferred being murdered by Jack the Ripper or the Boston Strangler."

A second runway at Gatwick

The south-east airport has proposed a second 3km runway, which would have fewer planning constraints and cost less than the options at Heathrow. Around 200 homes would be destroyed and up to 15 listed buildings.

Georgia Wrighton, director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England in Sussex, has previously said that a second runway in Gatwick would "concrete over cherished open countryside".

"A heady cocktail of increased flights, HGV traffic and cars would erode the tranquillity of rural communities, and the health and quality of life of people living under its shadow," she added.

More: The best of the public's submissions to the Airports Commission

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