Birmingham Airport boss Paul Kehoe has welcomed delays to a crucial Government blueprint for the skies – as it aims to double its nine million passengers.
With the Government consultation on aviation capacity now set to be delayed until the autumn, chief executive Mr Kehoe said: “Birmingham Airport called for a proper debate on aviation and the delay shows that the Government has listened.
“For too long aviation strategy has been determined by narrow self-interest, and the very important needs of London and the South-east have been conflated with the wider national interest. Now we all have the time to come up with a strategy which will benefit the whole of the UK.
“This issue is far larger than the aviation lobby and assorted membership organisations centred on London. The future economic landscape of the UK will be affected by the outcome for many years to come; that is why the whole of the UK should have a say in the solution.
“In recent days we have seen the closure of the M4 motorway and the long suspension of Heathrow Express train services. It is clear that when it comes to the UK’s aviation strategy we can’t put all of our eggs into one basket.”
Mr Kehoe’s plea follows a new Birmingham Airport campaign, including posters across London’s Tube network, calling for policymakers to back Brum’s bid to double its passenger figures to eighteen million, and potentially up to 36 million with the completion of the runway extension in 2014.
But the new delays to the Government consultation process came under fire from airlines and businesses.
Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses are tired of indecision on aviation. Ministers can’t tell businesses to look for opportunities in Brazil and China, and then not provide infrastructure.”
Wouter Schuitemaker, Investment Director at inward investment programme Business Birmingham, added: “By delaying its aviation strategy, the Government has the opportunity to listen to all parts of the UK about this important issue – and must take full consideration of the alternatives to building a third runway at Heathrow, such as utilising the spare capacity at regional airports.”
He added: “Foreign investors tell us that direct routes are key in deciding whether to locate in the Birmingham area – particularly large manufacturers that want to become part of our local industry, but rely on flights to their other bases, and businesses from long-distance markets such as the USA, China and India.
"The economic climate has tightened levels of inward investment, making the competition between locations even stronger. Factors that may seem small, such as commuting to London to catch a flight, still cost a business time and money – and can be the tipping point in whether they decide to locate here.
“Long-term, the Government must continue to recognise the importance of regional airports in attracting investment and trade.
"The UK’s Enterprise Zones, and planned infrastructure projects such as HS2, are already instrumental in demonstrating the regions’ offer to investors; a fully debated, coherent aviation strategy – enabling businesses in the North and the Midlands to enjoy the same advantages as those located in the South East – will do the same.”