Heathrow has been named as the preferred site for London’s new runway.
The proposal is expected to be backed – but only if it meets stringent conditions on air quality, noise pollution and carbon emissions.
The three-year study into expansion plans by the Airports Commission has recommended a runway built to the northwest of Heathrow would ensure the UK’s “long term prosperity” while resulting in the loss of fewer homes.
The report suggests expansion at Heathrow could create 70,000 new jobs and result in airlines flying to 40 new flight destinations by 2050.
Sir Howard Davies, the Commission chairman, said: “Heathrow is best-placed to provide the type of capacity which is most urgently required: long-haul destinations to new markets.
“It provides the greatest benefits for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy.”
Heathrow’s proposed third runway, left, sits at London Heathrow Airport in this undated handout photo illustration released to the media on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. The study leaves open the possibility of expansion at Gatwick but concludes the economic benefits would be considerably smaller. The building of a new airport in the Thames estuary was considered to be “unfeasibly expensive”.
Ministers will now study the recommendations before making a final decision, expected to be after the mayoral election next May.
Chief Executive officer for Heathrow, John Holland Kay, said the plans would create a prosperous future for the UK and create jobs for hundreds of thousands of school children.
He told Sky News: “The debate is over. Only Heathrow expansion will keep Britain as one of the world’s great trading nations.
“We have support from local people and politicians up and down the country. The majority of local people want to see Heathrow expansion.
“We can get shovels in the ground by 2020 and the benefits of expansion by 2025.”
Opponents of expansion at Heathrow say homes will be destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people would suffer from noise and increased traffic congestion.
Heathrow Airport Generic London Mayor Boris Johnson told Sky News: “I’ve been saying for three years that Sir Howard’s mandate has been to produce a fig leaf for an establishment U-turn on a third runway at Heathrow.
“The trouble with this scheme is that it’s just not deliverable. There would have to be restrictions on night flights and noise, none of which Heathrow is willing to accept.
“It would pave the way for a fourth runway; even more noise pollution over London and fumes in west London. I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said the study had been a waste of time and money and insisted a third runway at Heathrow would not go ahead.
“There will be more than a million Londoners up-in-arms about this,” he told Sky. “I said years ago that if my party gives a green light to Heathrow expansion I would resign and trigger a by-election in my constituency. But a new runway is not going to happen.
“Over the next few months there will be a ramped-up campaign against expansion and we will make certain the government will not give the green light to Heathrow.”
Residents campaigning against a new runway at Gatwick say expansion there would also increase noise, pollution and traffic congestion, hitting the area’s heritage and natural landscapes.
Green groups do not want a new runway at either airport.
“It’s simply not credible for the Government to build a new runway in the South East and still claim to be serious about tackling climate change,” said Andrew Pendleton of Friends Of The Earth.
“We can’t preach to the world about stopping catastrophic climate change on the one hand and send aviation emissions soaring on the other.”
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “The solution is not to build more tarmac strips but to manage demand.”