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Think tank recommends four runways

The report from the Policy Exchange does not rule out a third runway at Heathrow Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The UK needs a four-runway airport either at Heathrow or Luton if it wants to compete with other European hubs such as Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, a report by a think tank said today.

The best option would be four runways immediately west of the current Heathrow site in west London, the report from Policy Exchange said.

A four-runway airport at Luton in Bedfordshire would be the next-best option.

The report did not rule out an extra, third runway at Heathrow but said Thames Estuary airport plans, as supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson and by architect Lord Foster, were not practical.Also ruled out were four-runway airports at Gatwick or Stansted.

Boris Johnson is in favour of a new airport hub in the Thames Estuary Credit: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP/PA Images

The report also called for a complete ban on the noisiest of aircraft at all times, a complete ban on night flights and steeper landing angles to cut down on noise.

The report was written by Tim Leunig, chief economist at the liberal think tank CentreForum.

"It is possible to expand Heathrow in such a way that it cements itself as Europe's number one hub, while significantly reducing the noise nuisance over west London. A four-runway airport would be straightforward to construct and relatively low cost by the standards of hub airports. It causes the lowest level of disruption to the wider economy of any likely airport expansion scenario."

– Tim Leunig, CentreForum

"The strength with which the different options are put forward shows precisely why we were right to set up a proper independent review with the timescale to consider fully what is in the country's interest. Maintaining the UK's status as a leading aviation hub is vital to our economy and history suggests that, without an agreed evidence base and a high degree of political consensus, it will not be possible to deliver a lasting solution that is right for the UK."

– DfT spokesman