Heathrow third runway plans rest on Labour victory

Department for Transport presentation states that airport operator is not expected to file planning application ahead of next election

The government has warned that airport operator BAA will not be able to lodge a planning application for a third runway at Heathrow before the next election, dealing a major blow to the chances of the controversial project ever being completed.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to block plans to expand Heathrow, and with the Tories enjoying a substantial poll lead, environmental campaigners are convinced that the chances of the project going ahead are receding fast.

According to a presentation by the Department for Transport, seen by the Guardian newspaper, BAA is not expected to seek planning permission for a third runway until 2012.

Consequently, any Conservative government elected next year would have plenty of time to develop a new aviation policy and reverse the current government's decision to support airport expansion.

BAA's best hope of proceeding with the project was to have the planning application process under way before the next election, or alternatively hope for a remarkable reversal in Labour's polling fortunes.

However, according to the Guardian, executives at the company have accepted that they will not be able to compile the necessary application and supporting data before an election next year.

BAA said that it had not yet finalised the timetable for submitting an application.

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