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A decision on the expansion of airport capacity in the South East has been delayed again and won't be delivered until "at least October", transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said.

In December, the government delayed its decision until this summer, drawing widespread criticism from those affected by the decision.

The Brexit vote, which has prompted a Conservative leadership race, is the main reason behind the decision (or lack thereof).

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said the expansion "must be a key building block in the government's Brexit plan".

He said: "It will allow British exporters to trade with all the growing markets of the world, strengthening Britain's position as one of the great trading nations.

"And at a time of uncertainty, a £16 billion privately funded infrastructure investment will create jobs and growth across the UK."

The Airports Commission, launched to assess the options available, recommended the government opt for a third runway at Heathrow, instead of a second runway at Gatwick, or an extension of the North runway at Heathrow. But the final decision was put back in order to further assess the environmental impact of a third Heathrow runway.

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: "The failure to take action on aviation capacity is hugely disappointing. We held a major consultation with small businesses up and down the country supporting the work of the Airports Commission. The final report backed our calls for regional connectivity and improved surface access. As the Commission made clear - the UK urgently needs additional aviation capacity.

“The Brexit decision makes today's further postponement all the more frustrating. Government should be getting back to business, taking forward a major infrastructure project which would have boosted exports, jobs and growth across the UK.

“FSB will be engaging with all candidates for Prime Minister, and all parties, to tackle airport expansion when the new Prime Minister takes office in 10 weeks' time."