The government has finally announced its decision to build a third runway at Heathrow yesterday but there is a long way to go before 2025 – the year when Heathrow expects the new runway to be open.
It has been over a year since the Airports Commission backed the proposal of a third runway at Heathrow. Now the government has endorsed their decision, those expecting things to start moving quickly will be disappointed.
The government believe that the expansion will bring economic benefits worth up to £61Bn, in addition to creating up to 77,000 more local jobs but the Cabinet has been split on the issue. Ministers were allowed by Prime Minister, Theresa May, to voice their own opinions on plans for airport expansion.
Boris Johnson cast doubt on whether the £16Bn project would ultimately go ahead. He commented: “The day when the bulldozers appear is a long way off, if indeed they ever materialise.”
More opposition to the Heathrow plans came from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who had backed Gatwick Airport’s rival bid for airport expansion.
Mr Khan said the government’s decision was “the wrong decision for London and the whole of Britain” and said it could have “devastating” consequences in terms of air quality for the capital.
The Mayor said he would continue to challenge the decision and consider how he could be best involved in any legal process.
Heathrow, however, believe that they have considerable support for the project amongst the majority of MPs.
The Prime Minister said the choice was made “for jobs and growth” in mind and would allow Britain to be an “open, global, successful country” following Brexit.
The Department of Transport described the decision as a “major boost” for the UK economy, with the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, commenting: “The step that government is taking today is truly momentous. I am proud that after years of discussion and delay this government is taking decisive action to secure the UK’s place in the global aviation market – securing jobs and business opportunities for the next decade and beyond.”
A public consultation will now be held to determine the effects of the third runway before the government delivers a national policy statement on aviation.
MPs will then get to vote on the decision in late 2017 or 2018.
Heathrow will now compile a development consent order, which will cover any possible health and environmental impact assessments. A review of flight paths and airspace will also be undertaken. Once all submissions have been made, it will await final approval in 2020.
Given the amount of opposition to the plans, Heathrow can expect numerous applications for judicial review. Windsor and Maidenhead Council, along with Hillingdon, Richmond and Wandsworth councils will fight the expansion. Greenpeace has also vowed to fight the decision.
The Transport Secretary has put forward the idea that the runway may be built as a ramp above the M25. He said that the proposal would mean less disruption and would be cheaper than quicker than building a tunnel for the M25.
Mr Grayling has acknowledged that the construction of the runway would be “difficult for people who live close by” but felt that the decision was in the best interests of the United Kingdom as a whole.
How quickly Heathrow’s expansion gets underway though is far from a sure thing. Ultimately though, the government’s long-awaited decision to press ahead with huge construction projects such as Heathrow, Hinkley Point power station, a significant house building programme and HS2 will be welcomed by many in the construction industry.
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