The British Government has published its draft National Policy Statement (NPS) on a third runway for Heathrow Airport. It sets out the government’s views on the need for additional airport capacity, as well as the reasons why it believes that need is best met by a north-west runway at Heathrow. The Government now begins 16 weeks of public consultation across the country on the draft NPS, before submitting a final version for a vote in Parliament this coming winter. The consultation will cover issues such as carbon emissions and noise pollution, new road and rail links, and the impact on the local community.
Speaking in the House of Commons on February 2, the Transport Secretary, Christopher Grayling, launched the NPS by saying that building a third runway at Heathrow would create tens of thousands of jobs and provide a boost to the UK economy as the country prepares to leave the European Union. He stated: “By backing the north-west runway at Heathrow airport and publishing our proposals, we are sending a clear signal that when we leave the EU, we are open for business.” Furthermore, he said a third runway would enable more connecting flights to be introduced from other UK airports. Although he did not name them, he said that six more regional airports could gain connecting services to Heathrow, bringing its total number of domestic airport links to 14.
During his speech, he also announced a consultation document about improving Britain’s air space infrastructure and investing in new technology, saying that it made sense to be studying the two subjects at the same time. Both consultations will run until May 25, with the final decisions going before Parliament either late this year or in early 2018. The projected cost of a third runway for Heathrow is approximately £22bn. Under the proposals, the current 480,000 cap on the number of take-offs and landings would rise by 260,000 to 740,000 per annum.
A statement from Heathrow Airport said it is encouraging all stakeholders and those with an interest in the project to visit the Department for Transport’s website for further information on how to respond to the consultation:
It added that, once designated by Parliament, the NPS will provide the planning policy that will apply to a third runway and set out the policy tests that the project must meet.
Later this summer and in addition to the Government’s NPS consultation, Heathrow will launch its own Phase 1 consultation to gather feedback from stakeholders on options for the Northwest Runway Scheme. The feedback will influence the next phase of design for the scheme which will then be further refined following a Phase 2 consultation in the summer of 2018. A final proposal is expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate as part of an application for a Development Consent Order in the summer of 2019.
Even if political and environmental groups’ objections are overcome, it seems likely that a third runway for Heathrow could not be operational before 2025.