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Government backs Heathrow’s third runway

by Marco Cillario Tue 25 October 2016, 1:06 pm

The government has approved the expansion of Heathrow airport.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling announced on 25 October support for a third runway at the airport in west London.

The decision will now have to be voted on by parliament in 2017 or 2018.

The long-awaited announcement comes 13 years after the project was first published by the then Labour government. Former prime minister David Cameron scrapped the plans in 2010, while the airport commission last year published a report recommending to expand Heathrow rather than building a second runway at Gatwick airport.

Under the airport’s proposed scheme, an additional runway with a 600m tunnel for the M25 and a sixth terminal will be built at a cost of around £17 billion. The nearby village of Harmondsworth will be demolished.

A draft national policy statement will now be produced on the scheme and public consultation on the impact of the expansion will be held next year.

Grayling called the decision “truly momentous”. “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,” he said.

However, the announcement is likely to face protests and possibly legal challenges by environmental groups and London boroughs, with mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, saying a new runway for Heathrow would be “devastating for air quality" across the capital.

“Air pollution around the airport is already above legal levels of NO2. Heathrow already exposes more people to aircraft noise than Paris CDG, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich and Madrid combined. A third runway would mean an extra 200,000 people impacted, exposing 124 more schools and 43,200 more schoolchildren to an unacceptable level of noise,” Khan explained.

“I will continue to challenge this decision and I am exploring how I can best be involved in any legal process over the coming months."

Councillor Steve Curran, leader of Hounslow Council, reiterated the council’s message that it favoured “a better, not bigger Heathrow Airport”.

Heathrow welcomed the government’s announcement. A spokesperson said the expansion was “the only option that will connect all 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," they concluded.

Many British companies also stood by the government’s approval. Paul Drechsler CBE, president of UK-wide business organisation CBI, said the green light came as “an enormous relief to firms in every corner of the country”.

“A new runway at Heathrow is really fantastic news, especially as the country has waited nearly 50 years for this decision,” he continued. “It will create the air links that will do so much to drive jobs and unlock growth across the UK, allowing even more of our innovative, ambitious and internationally focused firms, from Bristol to Belfast, to take off and break into new markets.

“Pressing ahead with key infrastructure projects like this will provide not only a welcome economic stimulus, but will show the world that we are well and truly open for business as we negotiate our exit from the EU.”

If the parliament grants approval, the third runway should open by 2025.

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