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Government backs Heathrow expansion

Words: Laura Edgar
Third runway at Heathrow Airport / Heathrow Airport

The government has announced that it supports proposals for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

It will be the first full-length runway to be built in the south-east of the UK since the Second World War.

Last year, a report by the Airports Commission stated that London’s airports are “showing unambiguous signs of strain” and concluded that expanding capacity at Heathrow, rather than at Gatwick Airport, was the best option.

Plans to expand Heathrow Airport will now be taken forward in the form of a draft national policy statement for consultation, which is to be published in the new year.

The government said its decision today (25 October) is a central part of its plan to “build a global Britain and an economy that works for everyone”.

It is expected that the new runway will bring benefits to the wider economy worth up to £61 billion, as well as the creation of up to £77,000 additional local jobs over the next 14 years. Heathrow Airport has said it would create 5,000 new apprenticeships over the same period.

Chris Grayling, transport secretary, said: “A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the UK itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities. 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.

“This is an important issue for the whole country. That is why 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 £2.6 billion, including community support, insulation, and respite from noise – balancing the benefits and the impacts of expansion.”

Expansion costs will be paid for by the private sector, said the government. The Civil Aviation Authority, the independent industry regulator, will work with Heathrow Airport Ltd and airlines operating at the airport on design and costs to “ensure the scheme remains affordable”.

The government has said it will propose that a six-and-a-half-year ban on scheduled night flights be introduced for the first time at the airport, and make more “stringent noise restriction” a requirement of expansion.

The airport has pledged to provide over £700 million for noise insulation for residential properties.

Richard Blyth, head of policy, RTPI, said: “Our overriding concern is that investment in new airport capacity should provide an opportunity not only to meet demands for air travel, but also to solve other pressing needs that London and the South-East face, notably land for affordable housing and additional transport capacity.”

Reaction to this from the industry can be found here.

Image credit | Heathrow Airport