HEATHROW campaigners are welcoming the findings of a report which claims a third runway would leave tax-payers £5 billion worse off.
A survey by NEF (New Economics Foundation), published on Monday (April 19), concludes that the cost of allowing up to 220,000 extra flights a year from the airport would massively outweigh the financial benefits.
Its findings are in direct contrast to those of the Department for Transport (DfT), whicch has previously estimated the net economic benefit of a third runway at £5.5bn over 70 years.
The group - which describes itself as an 'independent think-and-do tank and has the tagline 'economics as if people and the planet mattered' - puts the true social impact of the proposals at £2.5bn, rather than the £0.4bn estimated by the Department for Transport (DfT).
It also says the cost of building and running a new landing strip and sixth terminal has increased hugely since the figures were calculated two years ago, due to a combination of rising oil prices and the plummeting value of the pound.
The report calls for official support for a third runway to be withdrawn until a 'thorough examination' of alternative transport improvements has been carried out.
Helen Kersley, co-author of the report, titled 'Grounded', said: "With such high social and environmental costs associated with Runway 3, the burden of proof should lie squarely with those who are in favour of the expansion. It's up to them to demonstrate that Runway 3 is in the public interest."
The estimated 'social cost' of £2.5bn takes into account the effect of noise disturbance and air pollution on neighbouring communities, as well as the projected impact on the NHS.
Christine Shilling, of No Third Runway at Gatwick (NoTRAG), welcomed the report's findings. "We already knew a third Heathrow runway was socially and environmentally destructive. We now know it is economic lunacy," she said. "The UK simply cannot afford more debt - stop plans for Heathrow expansion now."
BAA said in a statement: "The crucial nature of air travel to the global economy has never been more graphically illustrated than now, with hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded and freight rotting in warehouses all over the world, unable to be delivered to the UK. 56% of all the country's air freight passes through Heathrow, and an independent study published last year by the British Chambers of Commerce showed that a third runway would add £30 billion to the UK economy.
"The figures in this report are the result of using very unrealistic assumptions about the economy and air travel."