Ministers set to back airport expansion plans

Plans for airport expansion are set to receive government approval today despite opposition from environmentalists.

Transport secretary Douglas Alexander is expected to give the green light to a third short runway at Heathrow airport and a new runway at Standsted.

The expansion plans, outlined in a "progress report" on the 2003 Aviation White Paper, will anger the green lobby which wants to cut back on cheap air travel.

The White Paper proposed a new runway at Stansted by 2011-12 and a third runway at Heathrow, subject to meeting environmental targets, around the middle of the next decade.

Last month progress at Standsted seemed to suffer a setback when Uttlesford District Council rejected BAA's planning application to increase passengers to 35 million a year. The council cited noise levels, air quality and pressure on local road and rail infrastructure as reasons for its decision.

In a separate development this week the Office of Fair Trading said it was recommending the Competition Commission hold an inquiry into BAA's ownership of Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick airports.