The shortest history of Heathrow expansion


When the news came through last night that MPs had backed the plans for a third runway at Heathrow, the CEO of the airport's management company said it had ended 50 years of debate.

Just like the 'end of history' proclamations made after the fall of communism, this may be somewhat premature. The debate, if nothing else, will surely continue and the plans could still be scuppered by judicial review as they were in 2010.

Councils have already confirmed to Transport Network they are committed to doing just that. 

(Those who feel the matter is decided may wish to get ahead of the game and marshal their arguments for or against a fourth runway.)

In a statement, Heathrow Airport said the vote clears the way for it to submit an application for development consent for the project – 'unlocking billions of pounds in growth and creating tens of thousands of new skilled jobs across the UK in the early years of Brexit'.

The link to Brexit was also made by transport secretary Chris Grayling, though of course the expansion plans have nothing to do with the UK's exit from the European Union having been on Whitehall's books for decades.

For the avoidance of doubt here is a short history of the plans:

  • 1949 Labour Government proposes additional two runways for newly opened Heathrow airport
  • 1990 Conservative government publishes plan for third runway
  • 2003 Labour government produces white paper proposing short third runway
  • 2007 Consultation begins
  • 2009 Gordon Brown decides to go ahead with third runway
  • 2010 Legal action against the plans wins in High Court
  • 2010 David Cameron elected on promise to ditch third runway 'no ifs, no buts'
  • 2012 Cameron commissions Sir Howard Davies to look into airport expansion
  • 2015 Davies recommends a third runway
  • 2016 Theresa May's cabinet decides to go ahead with third runway
  • 2018 Vote approves a national policy statement for the scheme councils promise legal action against it

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