Blears delays Stansted runway inquiry

THE start date of the public inquiry into a second runway at Stansted airport has been put back, which could be the death knell for the controversial project.

Graham Dines

THE start date of the public inquiry into a second runway at Stansted airport has been put back, which could be the death knell for the controversial project.

The inquiry was to have started on April 15 but notice of a postponement - until mid-summer - was issued today by Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears.

She said she was putting the inquiry back due to the imminent publication of the Competition Commission's final report into BAA's ownership of airports. The commission's interim reports propose that BAA should give up operating Gatwick and Stansted airports.

In a letter today, Ms Blears said: “I am certain that we should neither be seen to second-guess the contents of the final Competition Commission report, nor the response of the airport operator until after it has had time to consider its findings and implications.”

She added that she would make an announcement on the new start date for the inquiry within four weeks of the publication of the commission's final report, which is due no later than March 28.

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Ms Blears said she was also prepared to commit now to ensuring that there would be a minimum of eight weeks notice between her announcement and the start of the inquiry.

The inquiry is expected to last a year, which would mean it will be sitting during campaigning for the next General Election. The Conservative have pledged to scrap the proposal if they win that election.

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