LONDON (AP) -- A British parliamentary committee recommended Friday that the government permit an expansion of Heathrow Airport, rather than allowing the construction of a new airport east of London.
Heathrow is one of the world's busiest airports, and expanding it has long been a contentious political issue in Britain. The aviation industry has lobbied for a third runway for years, but opponents say the plan would damage the environment, worsen noise pollution in the city and lead to a loss of homes.
Parliament's Transport Committee said that after studying the government's aviation strategy, it has decided that allowing Heathrow to build a third runway was better than creating a new airport.
Louise Ellman, the chairwoman of the committee, said Heathrow has been short on capacity for a decade.
"We conclude that a third runway at Heathrow is necessary, but also suggest that a four-runway proposal may have merit, especially if expanding to locate two new runways westwards from the current site could curb the noise experienced by people affected under the flight path," she said in a statement.
The committee ruled out an airport east of the capital in part because it could not be done without public investment in ground transport infrastructure and because of impact on the wildlife habitat in the Thames Estuary.
The decision is not legally binding on the government, but House of Commons committees carry great weight because they are composed of members of all of the parties.