Government opts for new runway at Heathrow


The Government has confirmed its support for a new runway at Heathrow and the scheme will now be taken forward in the form of a draft national policy statement (NPS) for consultation.

The Government’s preferred location for airport expansion - rather than Gatwick Airport - is in line with the Airports Commission’s recommendation and will go before a vote in the Commons next winter.

Chris Grayling called the decision 'momentous'

Ministers also promised that expansion costs, set to run to tens of billions, would ‘be paid for by the private sector, not by the taxpayer’. There is still some debate over the cost of the necessary access improvements, with more wrangling between Transport for London and Heathrow likely.

‘It will be for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), as the independent industry regulator, to work with Heathrow Airport Ltd and airlines operating at the airport, on the detailed design and costs to ensure the scheme remains affordable,’ Department for Transport officials said.

However they added that the expansion plan should keep landing charges 'close to current levels’, suggesting some rise in air travel costs is on the cards.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said the decision was ‘momentous’.

‘This isn’t just a great deal for business, it’s a great deal for passengers who will also benefit from access to more airlines, destinations and flights,’ he said.

‘The Government’s preferred scheme will be subject to full and fair public consultation. Of course it is also hugely important for those living near the airport. That is why we have made clear that expansion will only be allowed to proceed on the basis of a world class package of compensation and mitigation worth up to £2.6bn, including community support, insulation, and respite from noise – balancing the benefits and the impacts of expansion.’

A Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘Expansion of Heathrow is the only option that will connect all of the UK to global growth, helping to build a stronger and fairer economy.

‘We await the full details, but Heathrow stands ready to work with Government, businesses, airlines and our local communities to deliver an airport that is fair, affordable and secures the benefits of expansion for the whole of the UK.’

Gatwick is yet to make a statement.

Conservative MP for Richmond Park and Kingston, Zac Goldsmith, called the decision 'catastrophic' and is set to trigger a by-election by quitting in protest. The local Conservative Party has said it would back him if he stood again as an independent.

Plans for the new runway at Heathrow

Leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia, said the Government’s decision was 'wrong on every level, legally undeliverable and will end in failure after years of wasted of effort'.

Wandsworth has joined Hillingdon, Richmond, and Windsor and Maidenhead councils, as well as Greenpeace, in pledging to prepare the grounds for a legal challenge against Heathrow expansion.

The council has now confirmed a legal strategy will be developed over the coming days.

Plans for the airport's expansion have been defeated in the courts before in 2010, over the issue of climate change.

Cllr Govindia said: 'It looks like we’re heading back to the courts just as we did in 2010 after the Brown Government backed Heathrow’s third runway. We overturned that decision in the High Court and nothing has changed since then to make expanding this airport any less damaging.'

He added: 'This is deeply distressing news for the communities around this airport but this fight is far from over. Ultimately it will be for the courts to decide if this project goes ahead and the law is on our side.

'The airport boasts illegal levels of air pollution, woefully inadequate transport capacity and has Europe’s worst noise footprint, and that’s with just two runways. Expansion will make all of these severely damaging issues worse.

'The chaotic and repeatedly fudged process leading up to the Government’s announcement is also wide open to challenge on multiple grounds. There has been no meaningful consultation and key information like the location of new flightpaths remain a secret even now. The work of the Airports Commission was also profoundly flawed and doesn’t not provide a sound basis for Government policy.'

Airport expansion would be delivered under the 2008 Planning Act and 2011 Localism Act. Members of Parliament will be consulted and there will be a vote in the House of Commons followed by a planning application by the airport to the Planning Inspector who will take a view and advise government. Final sign off will be taken by the transport secretary before construction.

Claims for an extra Heathrow runway:

  • economic benefits to passengers and the wider economy worth up to £61bn over 60 years
  • up to 77,000 additional local jobs created by 2030
  • Heathrow have committed to 5,000 new apprenticeships by 2030
  • an extra 16 million long haul passenger seats in 2040

Noise reduction: Pledges from the Government -

  • it will propose that a six-and-a-half hour ban on scheduled night flights will be introduced for the first time at Heathrow
  • it will make more stringent night noise restrictions a requirement of expansion
  • it proposes new legally binding noise targets, encouraging the use of quieter planes, and a more reliable and predictable timetable of respite for those living under the final flight path.
  • it will bring for proposals on whether there is a role for a new independent aviation noise body as the Airports Commission recommended
  • The airport has also pledged to provide over £700m for noise insulation for residential properties.

Air Quality –

  • Heathrow’s scheme includes plans for improved public transport links and for an ultra-low emissions zone for all airport vehicles by 2025
  • The Government will make meeting air quality legal requirements a condition of planning approval

Extra UK routes -

Heathrow has proposed a further 6 new routes to Belfast International, Liverpool, Newquay, Humberside, Prestwick and Durham Tees Valley to be added after expansion.

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