A BAA spokesman has denied reports that the airport operator is ready to stand down over its fight to secure a third runway at Heathrow.

The Sunday Times had reported over the weekend that BAA bosses were delaying their planning application for the runway until after the next general election, which the Tories are expected to win.

The report added that BAA had told senior Conservatives they would quit the fight for a third runway should the party be elected to government.

However, while a BAA spokesman agreed the planning application would not be submitted until after the election, this had always been the plan and the airport operator is still pursuing the third runway.

He said: “We remain convinced that a third runway is the only viable, costed and thought-through way of meeting the need for extra runway capacity to maintain this country’s global connections to the rest of the world, particularly in an era where long-haul links to markets such as China and India are increasingly important.

“The process of putting in a planning application is complex, particularly given the new planning structure put in place as recently as October 1.

“The process was always going to take until after the general election. We continue to work on the application and will take as long as is necessary to prepare a proper submission.”