Airport expansion: 73% of Lib Dem members want to see it – but opinion divided on where it should happen

by Stephen Tall on May 11, 2014

Airport terminalLib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

37% want London airport expansion; 36% want no-London airport expansion; 21% want no airport expansion

There is currently a discussion about how to expand airport capacity in the UK to meet future demand for air travel. Which one of the following do you think is the best option?

11% – Expand Heathrow airport

16% – Expand one or more of the other existing London airports (e.g. London Gatwick, Luton or Stansted)

10% – Build a new airport in the Thames Estuary to the east of London

36% – Expand other UK airports outside of London/the South East

21% – None of these – I would not like to see any expansion of the UK’s airport capacity

6% – Don’t know

An interesting – and, to me at least, surprising – result. I expected some 40-50% of Lib Dem members to oppose any expansion of the UK’s airport capacity. Yet this survey suggests that is a minority view, held by just 1-in-5 party members.

Among the 3-in-4 Lib Dem members who do support airport expansion, opinion is divided equally. Some 37% favour one of the London/South-East options (either Heathrow, Gatwick or the Thames Estuary) while 36% want to see airports in other parts of the country expanded. Here’s a sample of your comments…

• If we invest more in high speed rail than is proposed now we could kill off internal flights and this capacity could be used for international flights.
• Would be good to give a ranked preference here – I don’t want to see any expansion, but if it happens there are some schemes I’d prefer to others.
• More emphasis needs to placed in regional airports.
• Expand Birmingham – only 38 minutes to central London via HS2.
• We should be looking to reduce internal flights (by improving rail infrastructure – hello HS2 – and maybe electric cars with longer ranges/more charging stations)
• Need to ensure links with Scottish Airports and international flights are protected. I understand the pressure on Heathrow and local people but to ensure it works for all of the UK some other flights might need to move to protect domestic/international connections
• With high speed rail links there are many places in England that would give acceptable journey times to our major cities.
• It seems clear that one of the London airports will need to expand – for political reasons probably not Heathrow.
• we should argue strongly against the idea that aviation expansion is essential to growth. it is not.
• looking at a map, somewhere between Luton & Birmingham, with HS2 linkages would help rebalance the economy from the South East.
• We need better connectivity linking all the airports around London with each other, not just crossing via central London. Gatwick would be a better choice for expansion.
• Phase out overland air journeys under 600Km replacing with (HS) rail. Encourage airlines to link up and invest with rail. Slots would be freed reducing need for extra capacity.
• Luton should become a four runway and hub airport.
• Capacity for air travel should be set by environmental criteria rather than demand-driven ones, and then pricing should be used to restrain demand to the level of the supply.
• Given Heathrow’s location with planes landing/taking off so close to the densely populated areas of London, further expansion a sensible option
• This country needs to think big again. Build Boris Island!!
• Why should everything go to London? Why not expand Glasgow or Manchester instead?
• Build rapid rail transit between LHR and LGW, second runway at LGW and rationalization of flights between the two airports.
• To keep apace with asia we must build capacity for the city business and tourists which to visit – London to help our economy.
• Let’s make a serious attempt to introduce high speed rail to replace domestic flights, to free up capacity for long hall flights at major London Airports. Stansted or the Thames Estuary seem like the most logical sites if more capacity is needed as they offer the most room for expansion in the longer term.
• Expansion is needed. I would be open to all options.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with 745 responded in full – and a further 87 in part – to the latest survey, which was conducted between 16th and 22nd April.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However,’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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