The ongoing debate over airport expansion in the south east of England continued to rage at the weekend, with a spectrum of stakeholders promoting widely divergent views.

A survey by recruitment firm Korn/Ferry revealed that 68 per cent of FTSE 100 chairmen said they would support an additional runway at Heathrow, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Dominic Schofield, a senior client partner at Korn/Ferry, said the survey showed there was a ‘clear message’ that a third runway made sense and ‘we should just get on with it’. He added that the business leaders believe expanding Heathrow would be easier than building a new airport.

Meanwhile, a senior airline business executive branded ‘Boris island’ – the Thames estuary airport backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson – an unfundable white elephant.

Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai airport, said the Government should instead back the third runway at Heathrow because the estuary airport could not be built in time to tackle the aviation crisis in the southeast.

Griffiths contrasted Heathrow, which is near full capacity with 68m passengers a year, with Dubai, which by 2014 will have doubled capacity to 90m by 2014 due to pro-aviation government policy, saying it shows how far behind the UK is likely to continue to trail in the industry.

Boris Island found support from a different quarter, however, with one of the authors of a study into pollutions levels arguing that premature deaths from Heathrow pollution would treble by 2030 if a third runway is built.

Professor Steve Barrett, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology laboratory for aviation and the environment and a senior author of the study, said the main issue with Heathrow is that it is in the middle of a major population centre, and because of the prevailing winds in the UK, emissions tend to blow over the whole of London.

He said an airport in the Thames estuary, by contrast, is well away from any major conurbation and prevailing winds would carry pollution out over the English Channel and North Sea.

Responding to the report, a Heathrow spokesperson said aviation is a ‘far smaller contributor’ to air pollution than road traffic, but the airport was taking significant steps to tackle the problem.

This did not stop The Sunday Times arguing that the study was yet another reason to build a new airport in the Thames estuary.

The paper said: “The science says an estuary airport and so do the economics and geography. Common sense says an estuary airport. The only thing we need is for the Government to say so, too, and to have the vision to make it work.”