Firms speak out in favour of controversial plans for third runway at Heathrow

One hundred companies have openly supported plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport.

The move is further proof that the proposed expansion of Heathrow, opposed by environmental groups, has the support of the wider business community.

Companies including Severn Trent and Hilton Hotels signed a letter in the Financial Times saying that the airport's expansion was essential for the health of the British economy.

The plans have also won the support of the British Chamber of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry.

Richard Lambert, director-general of leading industry lobby group the CBI, said: “This statement from a wide cross-section of British business demonstrates just how important good international transport links are to the long-term competitiveness of the UK.”

The government is examining the results of a consultation into the construction of a third runway at Heathrow and is expected to make a decision by the end of the year on whether to expand the airport.

Meanwhile the Conservative mayor, Boris Johnson, who opposed the plans when running for the post earlier this year, is reportedly set to propose the construction of an eco-friendly airport in the Thames Gateway.

The FT said that a study group to examine the feasibility of such a project could be set up within weeks.