A major row is set to erupt over airport expansion amid claims that prime minister David Cameron held a secret summit with Airports Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies.

Sky News reported last night that the meeting took place on Wednesday ahead of the formal announcement next Tuesday on preferred options for new runways in an interim report.

Speculation suggests that the commission will shortlist just three favoured options, each of which includes the construction of at least one new runway at Heathrow.

The panel is understood to have outlined three Heathrow-centric proposals: a third runway at the UK’s biggest airport; bigger expansion comprising two new runways there; and an additional runway there alongside a second runway at Gatwick.

That could mean only two viable proposals would be taken forward, since the owners of Gatwick have insisted that they will not build a second runway if Heathrow is also allowed to expand.

Cameron is understood to have urged Sir Howard to include an alternative option that does not involve a new runway at Heathrow.

That could mean a revival of the London mayor Boris Johnson’s Thames estuary hub proposal or an expansion at Stansted.

Yesterday Johnson hit out at after reports suggested that the Davies Commission will recommend three options all including Heathrow expansion, suggesting the whole process was rigged.

Opponents of Heathrow expansion expressed surprise that the commission was poised to only come up with recommendations that would include the most politically difficult solution to achieve – another runway at Heathrow. 

A Downing Street spokesman is reported as saying: “The Airports Commission is independent of government and its work is a matter for it. It will deliver its interim report next week. The final report to government is due in 2015.

“Part of the Airport Commission’s remit is to engage with representatives from across the political spectrum. As the Airports Commission have made clear, Sir Howard Davies has met with political representatives in all parties, which includes the prime minister, as part of this process, but they have not been given a copy of the draft report.”