Wimbledon’s MP has insisted he is still against proposals to a third runway at Heathrow airport, despite saying the Government should consider them as part of wider plans to increase the UK’s airport capacity.

Writing in the Evening Standard yesterday, Stephen Hammond said the case for the third runway should now be “re-examined” as part of wider plans to increase airport capacity in the south east.

He said: “I believe a third runway at Heathrow now should be re-examined: it would add extra capacity in the short term.

“However, even if we were prepared to override huge local opposition, a third runway would never provide the solution we seek.

“Simply put, a third Heathrow runway could not provide the necessary extra capacity for the next 50 years.

“And the most likely scenario is that if a third runway was given the go-ahead , before it was even operational there would be the clamour for a fourth.”

Shas Sheehan, the Liberal Democrat candidate who ran against Mr Hammond for the Wimbledon seat in 2010, said she suspected he was "flying a kite" for the Conservatives" to guage local opinion.

She said: "The Conservative MP for Wimbledon should make his mind up - is he in favour of a third runway or against it?

"If he is against it , why on earth has he written an article for the Evening Standard in which he says, 'A third runway at Heathrow now should be re-examined: it would add extra capacity in the short term"?

"In the same article he advocates the ending of runway alternation and use of mixed-mode at Heathrow, which would allow flights to arrive at and leave from both runways simultaneously - something that local people would never countenance.

"Let him be in no doubt that there will be fierce opposition to any attempt by the Conservatives to resurrect plans for a third runway."

This morning, Mr Hammond denied his stance on the third runway had changed, but that he had mentioned it in the article because expanding Heathrow would “inevitably be part of the review process” and “should be in the mix of all our options”.

He said: “Almost everybody I’ve spoken to, who has read the article, has not come away with the impression I’m now pro-the third runway.

“I’m still against it because the economic case has not been made, the environmental case has not be made, and the long-term capacity case has not been made.”

Mr Hammond, a junior member of the Conservative-led coalition Government, helped campaign against the third runway along with fellow Conservative MPs in south-west London, Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) and Justine Greening (Putney), the transport secretary.

The Conservative party promised in its manifesto it would not expand Heathrow, a key plank of what it said was its commitment to the green agenda.

On his own website, under a section called “Past Campaigns” Mr Hammond himself said: “Wimbledon has for many years had little noise disruption nor felt the effects of air pollution compared to many parts of South London. However, all that will change if a third runway at Heathrow Airport is built.

“But this is not just a case of ‘nimbyism’. Not only would a third runway mean the UK fails to meet its target of cutting carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses, but Nitrogen Dioxide emissions will increase and we will further breach our agreed pollution limits.”

He added: “The economic case for expansion has not been made. Stephen believes that it is in the interests of Wimbledon residents that this runway should not be built.

“Stephen supports proposals for a new high speed rail network which would make travel to domestic and international destinations easier by rail than by air. It would reduce the number of short haul flights needed and free up slots at Heathrow.”

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