The airport commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, recommended to the government that a third runway at Heathrow represented the best of all the options, and the government vowed to respond to the recommendation – in the form of a concrete decision – by the end of this year 2105.
What exactly was the point of the Airport Commission?
The exercise cost £20m and was designed, in part, to remove the decision from the hands of politicians.
The Prime Minister had promised to say by the end of the year whether he backed a 23-billion-pound runway at Heathrow Airport after a 3-year independent review named the site in densely populated west London as the preferred location.
Instead Cameron's government said late on Thursday [10-Dec-2015] it needed more information on the environmental impact before it could sign off on an issue that has split the party and is already 25 years in the making.
Heathrow, which is operating at full capacity, says a new runway would add 100 billion pounds to the economy and more than 120,000 new jobs. Business groups say expansion is vital if Britain is to keep up with the likes of Paris and Amsterdam in building ties to emerging markets.
The airport said it was confident that expansion could be delivered within the environmental limits while Gatwick, which is still campaigning to be allowed to expand, said it was now clear that its rival was no longer a viable option.
Lilian Greenwood, Labour's shadow transport secretary, said "Tonight's statement owes more to political calculations than genuine concern for the environment or residents who now face another year of blight and uncertainty, this shambolic announcement is an embarrassment and no one will be convinced that the Government is taking our runway capacity or environmental needs seriously."
Business has every right to feel let down by this decision and will question whether ministers are delaying critical upgrades to our national infrastructure for legitimate reasons, or to satisfy short-term political interests.