THE boss of Manchester’s under-used airport has challenged today’s controversial decision to extend Heathrow.

CEO Ken O’Toole says the North West will lose a potential £75 billion which could have been generated by making the most of Manchester airport’s existing capacity.

Concerns are also growing about how Manchester’s tourism will be affected.

An expansion of either Gatwick or Heathrow have been talked about for many years but finally a decision to expand Heathrow Airport was given the go-ahead today by the Government.

Manchester Airport is the UK’s third biggest and handles over 22 million passengers a year.

The city has two full-length runways; the second one took three years to construct, costing under £180 million, and was the last UK runway to be built.

However, in the next decade that could all change if plans go ahead and Heathrow takes the crown of UK’s newest runway.

The full-length parallel runways at Manchester Airport “have the ability to handle 55 million passengers per year,” according to the CEO of Manchester Airport, Ken O’Toole.

Mr O’Toole said: “While a new runway at Heathrow will be good for the UK economy, analysis shows that growing Manchester Airport to 55 million passengers per year would generate £75 billion worth of economic benefit to the North West, six times more than a new runway at Heathrow would.

“Realising Manchester Airport’s full potential will be the thing that delivers most benefit to the Northern economy in years to come, through the employment, trade and investment that it will generate.”

The continued growth of long haul routes from Manchester will further aid the economy as direct flights to Hong Kong and Miami are now available with routes to Goa and Mauritius announced for next year.

Direct flights to these destinations should encourage more tourism to our city, resulting in growing profits for local businesses.

The third runway scheme was chosen when Prime Minister, Theresa May, chaired a meeting of the airport sub-committee.

A public consultation will now be held on the impact of a third runway at Heathrow Airport before the final decision is put to MPs for a vote in the winter of 2017/18.

It is unlikely that any new runway capacity would be operational before 2025.

Heathrow: The Reaction from politics reporter Oliver MacKenzie

The decision to expand Heathrow to include a third runway has dominated the headlines today, and with good reason, as the ramifications socially, politically and environmentally will affect the UK as a whole, a point made by Transport secretary Chris Grayling who said in the House of Commons: “this decision was made in the national interest not just in the south east of England”.

This fact is made clear with local MPs Andy Burnham and Yvonne Fovargue both asking in Parliament what it means for Manchester, with the former asking the transport secretary whether it will mean Manchester airport will have a direct link as part of HS3.

Even local Liverpool Councillor Nick Small tweeted out saying that the Heathrow expansion will be a massive boost for Liverpool’s city region.

Currently, Heathrow is London’s number one airport, a fact only made more concrete with today’s decision, it is also the sixth busiest airport in the world and the hold top spot for footfall in Europe.

Heathrow itself has said since the plans were first considered by the then in power Labour party in 2001, that the airport needs to increase it’s capacity.

However, when dealing with a project so large it’s rare that a decision can be made so easily, and when the white paper was proposed in 2003, it provoked a extremely negative reaction for local residents, environmental groups, and ironically the Conservative party, who have made the decision to expand the airport today.

The reaction was so divisive that when Labour’s transport secretary at the time Ruth Kelly revealed plans for the runway in 2007, following years of public consultation, former London mayor Ken Livingstone described it as undermining the battle against climate change and urges the government to reduce demand for air travel by investing in rail infrastructure.

And so with the Mayor of London and Transport secretary at odds over what to do, and who held the authority to make the decision on would affect London for decades to come.

It was then the Conservative party pounced on the idea of opposing the expansion, especially considering the area surround Heathrow has a number of safe Tory seats, Including the constituencies of Michael Gove, Zac Goldsmith, and the now two most powerful politicians in the country Chancellor Philip Hammond and Prime Minister Theresa May, whose Maidenhead constituency borders Hayes and Harlington (which includes the airport), occupied by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

With this in mind the Conservatives wrote their 2010 manifesto with the quote: “ Our goal is to make Heathrow airport better, not bigger. We will stop the third runway and instead link Heathrow directly to our high speed rail network, providing an alternative to thousands of flights”, and whilst it wasn’t the sole reason they won power as the senior party in the ConLib coalition, it made safe Tory seats in the area a little safer.

So as David Cameron’s premiership came and went the issue of the Heathrow expansion seemed done and dusted, especially with the British Chamber of Commerce’s idea of connecting Heathrow and Gatwick by a high speed rail network gathered momentum, and even the radical Boris Island proposal to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

But when that plan was ruled out by the government last year, it raised the question of Heathrow’s potential expansion once again.

Another irony is that had Zac Goldsmith had won the London Mayoral election in 2015, then once again a secretary of state for transport and the city’s mayor would once again be opposed on the issue.

However, instead of Labour’s (ironically conservative attitude towards the expansion) the Conservatives have now announced that Heathrow will finally get the runway that their holdings company has been desperately crying for, once again citing a report, although this time it was from the airport commission.

The arguments made by Chris Grayling are similar to those proposed by Alistair Darling in 2003, Heathrow and London Luton will be at 100% capacity by 2030, which the transport secretary believes will allow the UK to compete with newly industrialized countries such as China and Brazil.

A decision that you only have to log in to social media today to be reminded how controversial it actually is.

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