The Government has insisted Birmingham Airport could still play a leading role in meeting growing demand for air travel, after the Chancellor hinted he was backing Boris Johnson’s plans for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.
Midlands business leaders accused the Chancellor, George Osborne, of being “obsessed with London” following his Budget statement, which appeared to suggest new airports or runways could be built in the south.
He said: “This country must confront the lack of airport capacity in the south east of England – we cannot cut ourselves off from the fastest growing cities in the world.”
The comments were interpreted by some as meaning that Ministers could back London Mayor Boris Johnson’s proposals for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.
If so, it would come as a blow to Birmingham Airport, which has been lobbying the Government to reject the so-called Boris Island idea, and to allow regional airports to increase passenger numbers instead.
Following the Budget statement, Jan Thompson, Midlands chairman of global property firm Jones Lang LaSalle, said: “As a country, we certainly do need to boost our capacity, and to establish links with the world’s fastest-growing countries and cities.
"But we need to see our government investing at the regional level – as happens so clearly in Germany – and to dilute its obsession with London and its hinterland.”
And Birmingham Chamber of Commerce president Mike Ward said: “We feel that the chancellor should have given clearer indications that the government will back airports like Birmingham Airport, as a solution to delivering the capacity that the UK needs.”
But officials insisted the Chancellor had not ruled out allowing Birmingham Airport to expand.
A Department for Transport source said: “Birmingham could quite easily be part of the solution to this.
“The Secretary of State was at the airport recently to see for herself.
“High Speed Rail will make it easier to get to Birmingham Airport than to Stansted or Gatwick for many travellers in the south east.
“The Chancellor said in his Autumn statement last year that he would be looking at all the options, with the exception of a third runaway at Heathrow.
“Birmingham could very easily form a significant part of the solution, particularly with HS2. The fact that the problem in terms of lack of capacity is in the south east doesn’t mean that the Birmingham is excluded from the solution, not at all.”
John Morris, head of government and industry affairs at Birmingham Airport, said: “We believe there is everything to play for.”
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