Just days after speculation that Heathrow was scrapping plans to build a third runway, the airport has responded to the rumours.

The Sunday Times reported on Sunday, February 25, that under a new strategy, the third runway - and its team - were being "shelved" in favour of exploring other options to increase passenger flow in and out of the airport.

However, a Heathrow spokesperson has said: “The speculation in the Sunday Times is wrong, and the plans and actions described are not reflective of our strategy for future growth.

"Heathrow connects the whole of the UK to global growth, but we’re operating almost at capacity which limits the UK’s economic potential."

Heathrow has confirmed it is looking to optimise the current airport to "achieve short-term growth" within the current infrastructure, but longer term, they continue to review plans for added capacity.

They hope these plans will "boost the resilience of operations for customers", "increase competition for passengers" and meet sustainability commitments.

On the news, Justine Bayley, Chair of the Stop Heathrow Expansion group said: "Now that Heathrow have stated they wish to have a smaller form of expansion before trying yet again for a third runway at a later date, we must remind them that any increase in the limit on flight numbers – currently set at 480,000 per year – is not desired or thought necessary by so many people who live around the airport and beyond."

In 2015 a third runway was recommended by the Airports Commission, however since plans came to light, Heathrow have faced backlash from local councils and communities, as well as disruption due to legal challenges and the pandemic.

Stop Heathrow Expansion has slammed the airport for being the "most disruptive airport", reporting that over 750,000 people are affected by its "noisy operations".

Heathrow operates a schedule in which runways are switched during the day to provide residents with respite from the flight paths.

"Whatever it intends to do to expand, we shall oppose. Heathrow is big enough," Mr Bayley added.

Last week Heathrow Airport announced it had landed its first profit since 2019 in a bounce-back in international travel.

Thomas Woldbye, Heathrow’s recently appointed chief executive, said the expected growth in passenger numbers “firms up the business case” for building a third runway, and the project will “absolutely” be something the airport will focus on this year.

Mr Woldbye said the airport will publish a “revised strategy” in the coming weeks, which will include plans for expansion and increasing capacity by alternative methods.

He said: “We need to not only focus on the third runway of course – which needs to be updated so we have the right facts for that decision, we’re going to make that a reality in the right way – but also what kind of capacity can we create within the current boundaries of Heathrow to make sure that we can serve our passengers as best as possible.”

Asked if he is confident a third runway can be built, Mr Woldbye replied: “This is a huge project of huge significance to the UK, to our airlines, to the passengers, but also all the people around Heathrow.

“We’re very aware of our responsibility in that regard and making sure that we come up with the right decision.

“At the current time I can’t be sure of that much, but that is exactly the process we are going to go into, to make sure we have the right basis to take the right kind of decision for all the people and all the stakeholders that are involved.”