The decision on whether to go ahead with building a third runway at Heathrow was delayed by the government yesterday amid cabinet splits over the controversial project.

The announcement was due to be made this month but has been put back to the end of January. Explaining the postponement Geoff Hoon, the transport secretary, said he needed more time to reach “the right conclusion”. There have been 70,000 submissions.

'I know that there are strong views across a range of interests,' Hoon said.

'It is important that people see that I am going the extra mile to demonstrate that I have understood all of the relevant issues,' he said.

While business has fought hard for the new runway amid concerns over lack of capacity at the west London site, there have been fierce protests by green campaigners. Environmental groups believe that splits within the cabinet could still scupper the project or, at least, force further delays. Ministers including Hilary Benn, David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman and John Denham have concerns about the scheme.

Financial Times