Well, that isn't going to happen for a while, yet. In a consultation paper sent out last July, Darling ruled out the possibility of building a second runway at Gatwick, citing a 1979 agreement that there would be no expansion at the airport until 2019. Essex and Kent councils won a judicial review of that decision in the High Court, with the result that the Department of Transport has had to issue a consultation paper on expanding Gatwick.
Whitehall sources say the Gatwick consultation will not end until April at the earliest, which would mean that an aviation white paper would be unlikely to be released until October.
When it does come out, it will have a huge impact on the future of the UK's airports. For example, it will decide the bitter struggle between Birmingham International Airport and the proposed Midlands hub at Rugby. This took a rather bizarre turn last year, when a row broke out over the proximity of a bird sanctuary to the Rugby scheme. The Warwickshire Wildlife Trust wrote to the Civil Aviation Authority informing it of the danger that birds would be sucked into engines. In a letter of reply, Stan Brown, head of aerodrome safety regulation and inspection for the CAA, said: "This department of the CAA has not been involved in any discussions with government regarding a new aerodrome in the Midlands. However, please be assured that the CAA will only license an aerodrome when they are satisfied that it is safe for use by aircraft."
Other likely moves are another expansion at Stansted and a new facility at Cliffe in Kent.
The year ahead
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