The company that runs Heathrow airport this afternoon officially confirmed that it had scrapped plans for a third runway.
Operator BAA said all work on the project will cease in what campaigners called “a final victory”. It has also abandoned work on a second runway at Stansted.
It marks a triumph for environmentalists and residents opposed to the runways across the South-East but will be seen as a major blow to business and the aviation industry.
The Lib-Con coalition government is opposed to the Heathrow expansion and BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: “We recognise the importance of government policy in a matter as significant and controversial as runway capacity.”
BAA will stop buying properties in Sipson, the village in the path of the runway, but has left open a scheme to reimburse locals who wish to sell their homes because of blight. “It is no longer appropriate for us to purchase properties. Equally important is our intention to stand behind our commitment made to provide time for those local residents who wish to sell their properties to us to do so,” said Mr Matthews.
Edward Lister, leader of Wandsworth council and of a group of local London councils against the runway, said: “This is the final victory. It is great news that BAA have finally seen sense. This is great news for people living in west London. An additional runway with all the noise and pollution would have been devastating for their quality of life.”
Campaigners against the runway included new Tory MP Zac Goldsmith who won his Richmond seat campaigning against it. Actress Emma Thompson and impressionist Alstair McGowan were also involved in the battle.
Geraldine Nicholson of one residents’ group opposed to the runway said: “I’m overwhelmed, gobsmacked. We’ve fought for this for eight years. We’re all over the moon. It was one fight worth taking on.”
John Stewart of pressure group HACAN said: “This is a double blow for BAA, whose strategy is now in tatters. It is the right outcome for the people though.”
One of the coalition government’s first announcements was that it would scrap long-standing plans to allow the third runway.
Now BAA has withdrawn the planning application that had at its heart the third runway and a sixth terminal.
If the runway had gone ahead it would have been built over the current site of Sipson village, which the company has been buying piecemeal. BAA said it would now stop buying properties in Sipson after June 22.
Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, said: “We recognise the importance of government policy in a matter as significant and controversial as runway capacity.
“The policy intentions of the new government are clear and it is no longer appropriate for us to purchase properties.”
The company has also withdrawn plans for a second runway at Stansted airport in Essex, which was supported by the Labour government in its 2003 aviation White Paper. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had objected to that proposal in their manifestos as well.
However, BAA remains committed to expanding its airports around London.
David Johnson, managing director of Stansted airport, said: ”We continue to believe that new airport capacity is needed in the south east of England, to strengthen the UK’s international trading links.”
Meanwhile, a £150 million expansion of Bristol airport will go ahead after it was given local council approval on Monday. The terminal will be extended and capacity increased from five to six million passengers to 10 million by 2019/20.