CALLS to expand Birmingham Airport have grown this week after the Government backed plans to build a third runway at Heathrow.
In his statement on Tuesday (October 25), Transport Secretary Chris Grayling gave the green light for a new runway at Heathrow but made no mention of Birmingham.
Since then many of the region’s politicians and business leaders have come forward to demand Birmingham become the focus of future of aviation strategy in the UK.
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive, Paul Faulkner, said while Heathrow may be a solution to the immediate issues in the south east, he believes Birmingham is the answer to growing national demand.
He added: “Once HS2 is complete, Birmingham will sit at the heart of a world-class transport network connecting eight of ten of Britain’s largest cities.
“Expansion at Birmingham Airport could benefit the nation as well as pushing the accelerator on the growth of the Midlands Engine.
“We hope to see Birmingham Airport continue to push ahead with exploring options for growth and expansion and Government backing of their proposals in due course.”
Andy Street, Conservative candidate for West Midlands Combined Authority mayor and former chair of the Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), echoed Mr Faulkner and said it was important the region ‘seizes the moment’ and lays out its case for expansion at Birmingham in relation to the advent of HS2.
He explained: “For the last 19 months there has been record growth, and our airport is now handling approximately 11m movements a year.
“That leaves good capacity on the one runway, which we can take advantage of whilst decisions are taken for London’s current airports.”
But others did not see the announcement with in such a positive light.
Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate, Beverly Neilsen said the Conservative Government had failed to address the ‘urgent need to rebalance the UK economy’ while Labour candidate, Siôn Simon, added: “For too long, the West Midlands’ interests have been put second to London’s.
“In failing to prioritise new aviation capacity for the West Midlands today, once again, we have been let down.”
Solihull councillor and Green Party mayoral candidate, James Burn, went further to argue expanding Birmingham Airport would do nothing to benefit ordinary West Midlands homes.
Instead, he stressed the need to build a ‘home-grown economy’, focussed on areas like low-carbon, which he says will provide secure jobs of the future.
A spokesperson for Birmingham Airport spokesperson said while the Government sees the answer to congestion at London’s airports as a new runway at Heathrow, the airport’s main focus was to maximise the benefits of HS2 and connect the midlands to the rest of the world.
They added: “We are pleased that ministers have recognised the increasing role Birmingham Airport will play when it becomes the UK’s first high-speed rail connected airport and its catchment area is dramatically enlarged into London.
“We are now exploring the options for supporting growing demand and creating an integrated transport hub so we can play our full part in unlocking the potential of the Midlands Engine.”