(Repeats story first published on Sunday)
* May to choose between expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick
* Brexit vote seen boosting Heathrow's appeal
* Gatwick says cheaper, less impact on air pollution
* Years of deliberations. Graphic tmsnrt.rs/2dYZlPO
By Sarah Young and Kylie MacLellan
LONDON, Oct 9 Prime Minister Theresa May is
expected to decide where to allow new airport capacity near
London this month, a long-awaited ruling that will help shape
Britain's economy and trading ties following its vote to leave
the European Union.
May will either support plans for a new runway west of
London at Heathrow, the busiest airport in both Britain and
Europe, or at Gatwick to the south. The decision has been
debated for more than 25 years and any further delay could risk
economic growth as both sites near full capacity.
At $22 billion, Heathrow would be the more expensive project
and face legal challenges over its environmental impact on
densely populated west London. But its established trade links
with emerging markets strengthen its case in the wake of Brexit.
It also has the backing of the major airlines.
For its part Gatwick, the country's no. 2 airport that
mostly connects to Europe, argues it can build a runway more
quickly and cheaply and that its rural position means it would
disturb fewer people with noise and air pollution.
The decision has split successive governments, faced with
protests from high-profile politicians, local residents and
environmental campaigners. But May told her party last week an
announcement would be made "shortly".
"She is the kind of person who won't baulk at making a
decision," former Conservative transport minister Steve Norris
said at an event on the sidelines of their party conference.
Industry sources say they expect a decision this month.
Three options are under consideration: building a new runway
at Heathrow for 18 billion pounds, lengthening one of its
existing two runways for an estimated 14 billion pounds, or
building a new runway at Gatwick for 7 billion pounds.
May's predecessor David Cameron had been due to rule on it
in July, after he delayed an earlier decision, and sources and
media reports said he favoured Heathrow. But the vote to leave
the EU cost Cameron his job and the decision was delayed again.
For business leaders, Heathrow remains the preferred choice.
A hub airport delivering passengers on to further destinations,
Heathrow is also Britain's biggest port by value, handling a
third of the country's non-EU exports through established
connections with emerging markets.
"After Brexit, the case for Heathrow is stronger because it
is the airport which links the UK to markets outside Europe,"
said Howard Davies, who backed Heathrow following his three-year
government-commissioned independent inquiry.
"There is a very great need ... for the country to set a
Airlines also prefer expansion at Europe's largest hub
airport, a title Heathrow is set to lose to France by 2020.
"We struggle to see any business case for the expansion of
Gatwick," Willie Walsh, the head of IAG, owner of
British Airways and Heathrow's biggest airline, told an industry
conference in June.
He prefers Heathrow but says he will only support expansion
where the costs are kept low.
Heathrow, 15 miles from central London, faces greater
scrutiny after some of its air monitors breached air quality
limits in 2014. May's constituency lies under the flight path
but she is giving little away, including whether to put the
decision to parliament.
Davies' recommendation for Heathrow came after it agreed to
abide by a list of conditions over night flights, noise and air
quality, providing some reassurance to residents.
"A third runway with conditions is much better than a third
runway without conditions," said John Stewart, chairman of the
Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise.
But those changes have not silenced all the critics and a
group of councils near to Heathrow have already brought in
Gatwick, 40 miles south of London and mostly surrounded by
countryside, says its stronger environmental position bolsters
the case for its runway to go ahead, as the two airports battle
to be given permission to deliver expansion by 2025.
However, Gatwick protesters say they would also launch a
legal challenge if it is given the green light.
For some, the demands for new connections after Brexit would
warrant May approving new runways at both Heathrow and Gatwick.
"The possibility that the government will support both
runways is not so far-fetched," said Duncan Field, head of
planning at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.
But building at both would conflict with Davies's warning
that only one new runway was justifiable given climate change
Both Heathrow, owned by Spanish infrastructure company
Ferrovial, Qatar Holding, China Investment Corp plus
others, and Gatwick, owned by investment fund Global
Infrastructure Partners, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and
others, say expansion can be funded without government money.
But the required road and rail changes at Heathrow would
need public funds to top up what its owners are prepared to
spend. These are estimated by Davies at 5 billion pounds, and by
Heathrow at around 2 billion pounds. Gatwick's new links will
cost 800 million pounds but the airport will fund them itself.
Some of the funding for expansion is expected to come from
an increase in airport charges to the airlines, which puts
Gatwick at a disadvantage as its main airline users are low cost
carriers like easyJet rather than the full-service
carriers who are Heathrow's client base.
In a bid to win the industry's backing, Gatwick Chief
Executive Stewart Wingate has said the airport would cap charges
at 15 pounds per departing passenger, compared to current fees
of 9 pounds, by phasing the building work.
When asked about future charges, Heathrow said only that its
charge is currently about 22 pounds and charges are calculated
under a framework agreed with the UK regulator in consultation
Analysts said the vote to leave the EU, and the uncertainty
that had sparked about the health of the economy, mean a
decision is now urgent.
"The imperative to do something and to be seen to do
something, from being open for business and open for investment
... is now much higher than it was," said KPMG UK aviation head
James Stamp. "Twelve months ago we were all despairing of them
ever making a decision."
($1 = 0.8112 pounds)
(Editing by Kate Holton and Philippa Fletcher)