LONDON - Britain should build a third runway at London Heathrow airport to ease congestion, a government-appointed commission recommended on Wednesday despite opposition from environmentalists and London mayor Boris Johnson.
The runway would cost £17.6 billion (24.8 billion euros, US$27.6 billion), but would generate up to £147 billion over 60 years and create more than 70,000 jobs by 2050, the commission said in a long-awaited report.
The report said Heathrow could provide "urgently required" capacity, but added that a rival bid for a second runway at Gatwick airport was also "plausible." "Heathrow can provide that capacity most easily and quickly. The benefits are significantly greater, for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy," commission head Howard Davies said.
The commission earlier ruled out building a new airport on an island in the Thames Estuary, which had been recommended by Johnson, as "unfeasibly expensive." In order to ease the concerns of residents living near Heathrow in west London, the commission recommended a series of measures including a ban on night flights and funding for noise insulation in homes and schools.
The government, which is reportedly divided on the issue, is expected to take a decision on increasing airport capacity in the coming months.
Prime Minister David Cameron had opposed an earlier scheme for Heathrow expansion before being first elected to government in 2010.
Greenpeace UK's executive director John Sauven said it was "an environmental and political minefield." "It would jeopardise the UK's climate targets, worsen air pollution in London and open up a political can of worms for David Cameron," he said.
London's five airports form the busiest air hub in the world with around 135 million passengers a year.
Heathrow handled 73.4 million passengers in 2014.