Transport secretary says government needs more time to look at results of consultation

Transport secretary Geoff Hoon has delayed the decision over whether to press ahead with a third runway at London Heathrow until after Christmas.

Hoon had been due to report back on the decision before the end of the year, but said in a written statement to parliament yesterday that he wanted to “ensure that I give proper consideration to the evidence before me,” and will instead report back in January.

Hoon said the consultation on the hugely controversial new runway had received 70,000 responses. He said: “I share the desire on all sides of the House, and among the wider public for this issue to be resolved. I am equally aware of the importance of reaching the right conclusion.”

The siting of a new runway at Heathrow is opposed by the London mayor Boris Johnson and has proved massively controversial, but it was nevertheless thought likely the government would press ahead with the plan for economic reasons.

The delay has caused aviation figures concern the government will change its position following strong lobbying, not least by cabinet ministers including climate change secretary Ed Milliband, according to the Times. A senior airline source told the Times newspaper: “Gordon Brown has strongly supported the runway since 2002 but we fear that, at the last minute, he has lost his nerve and been persuaded by the Milibands to think again.”

Hoon said he would make a statement on the issue in January.