The Big Debate: Should the Government act quickly to increase airport capacity in the South East?

ICE London Graduate and Students’ Big Debate saw representatives from Heathrow, Gatwick, Pinsent Masons and WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff discuss airport capacity in the region.

Antony Oliver (far left) questions Alex Kirby, Rachel Skinner and Robbie Owen (L-R)
Antony Oliver (far left) questions Alex Kirby, Rachel Skinner and Robbie Owen (L-R)

On Monday 28th September, ICE London Graduate and Students Committee held their annual Big Debate, which this year examined the issue of airport capacity in the South East.

This year’s debate began with Antony Oliver, Director of Infrastructure Intelligence, interviewing Andrew Macmillan, Strategy and Q6 Delivery Director for Heathrow Airport. Andrew set out his position on why Heathrow was the only option for expansion and defended the Airports Commission’s Final Report which recommended that a third runway be built at the airport.

Anthony Oliver interviewing Andrew Macmillan.
Antony Oliver interviewing Andrew Macmillan.

Antony questioned Andrew on a number of issues, including whether the South East required a single hub airport and whether the conditions that Sir Howard Davies set for a third runway, which included limits on the amount of air and noise pollution, made expansion still viable for Heathrow.

Andrew responded that the nature of the aviation industry required a hub system which only Heathrow could provide. He confirmed that the air and noise limitations set out by the Airports Commission were accepted by Heathrow and would not impede expansion.

After the interview, Alexander Kirby, Senior Adviser at Gatwick, Robbie Owen, Head of Infrastructure Planning and Government Affairs at Pinsent Masons and Rachel Skinner, ICE London Transport Panel Chair and Director for Development at WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff discussed what the right solution to airport expansion was.

Alexander Kirby set out the argument for Gatwick, saying that the airport was ready for expansion, owned the land required and could fund the scheme itself.

Robbie Owen from Pinsent Masons said that he felt the Airport Commission’s report had been thorough and therefore the Government should back Heathrow. He noted that this was still the start of the process and that gaining planning permission would provide a difficult hurdle for either airport.

Rachel Skinner, representing ICE London’s Transport Panel, spoke about the importance of making a quick decision, but added that the Government needs to look at the wider issue of global connectivity. In particular, Rachel mentioned the need for the UK to connect with BRIC countries to remain competitive globally.

After the discussion, Antony Oliver asked for a show of hands for those who felt a quick decision should be made, with most attendees agreeing with the motion.

ICE London would like to thank Andrew Macmillan, Alexander Kirby, Robbie Owen and Rachel Skinner for sharing their views and Antony Oliver for chairing the event. Special thanks to the Graduate and Student Committee for organising the lecture.