Airport expansion confirmed
Heathrow gets backing to build a third runway
Heathrow was today given the go ahead to expand though the decision has already created a rift in government.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the £17.6 billion expansion would improve the UK’s connections with the rest of the world and support trade and jobs.
But Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who opposed the project while Mayor of London, said he will fight the decision, as will fellow Cabinet minister Justine Greening.
Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith will resign as an MP after describing the decision as “catastrophic”.
A public consultation will take place before the government makes a final decision next autumn as part of a national policy statement on aviation.
Expanding Heathrow will add 260,000 flights a year.
It is unlikely that any new runway capacity would be operational before 2025. More than 780 homes will be demolished. Plans to build section of the M25 through a tunnel may be dropped in favour of building the runway on a ramp over the motorway.
Mr Grayling said: “One of the things Heathrow has been looking at is doing what many other airports have done around the world which is to build their runway over the top of the road, rather than tunnelling the road underneath it.
“It’s a cheaper and quicker way of doing it.”
Paul Drechsler, CBI President, said: “The Prime Minister’s green light to expand the UK’s aviation capacity comes 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.
“It will create the air links that will do so much to drive jobs and unlock growth across the UK.
“With contracts to tender for, apprentices to recruit and supply chains to build, this decision must be taken forward swiftly, giving businesses the confidence to invest.
“This project should form part of a long-term framework for aviation capacity for the whole of the UK.
“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.”
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick said: “We warmly welcome today’s decision by the UK Government to support Heathrow expansion, and also welcome Scottish Government support for the move.
“The Heathrow service is the most popular of the 110 routes from Glasgow Airport, carrying 870,000 passengers a year, with 40 per cent of those travelling further abroad.
“For businesses across Scotland, it will mean the opportunity of getting our goods and services to new customers in every corner of the world, with access to up to 40 new long haul destinations.”
SCDI’s director of policy & place, Claire Mack, said: “It is vital that new airport capacity works for and benefits the whole UK economy. The UK Government and Heathrow should ensure that approval guarantees access for Scotland’s city regions – especially those with no competitive surface alternative.
“The Airports Commission produced strong evidence that Heathrow is the best option to support our global competitiveness, particularly given its current international networks, and SCDI has found that it is also the preference of Scottish businesses.”
SCDI’s Highlands & Islands director, Fraser Grieve, added: “The inability of the UK’s largest airports to expand had seen commercially viable domestic routes squeezed out, and we must ensure that we will not see that past experience repeated when this new capacity at Heathrow begins to fill up.
“The UK’s Hub airport must work for the whole UK and it is vital to ensure that areas without a competitive surface alternative have access enhanced and safeguarded.
“Since the reinstatement of an Inverness to Heathrow service in May this year we’ve seen a huge surge in visitors to the Highlands & Islands, and improved access for businesses, highlighting the benefit that hub access brings. 40-50% of passengers on this new service have connected through Heathrow from international destinations.”
SNP Transport spokesperson Drew Hendry MP said the decision to increase airport capacity in the South East of England is welcome but that businesses and travellers alike will be frustrated that there is at least a year before there is a decision in parliament to finally go ahead and that will just mean more “dither and delay”.
“The UK government must ensure that when this does eventually get approval Scotland gets a fair deal from the process,” he said.
“We should see a commitment on route investment, guarantees to Scottish cities and an equitable share of any public spending that might be accrued coming to Scotland.
Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, said: “The approval of a third runway for Heathrow, seven years after it was first mooted by the then-government, is long overdue good news. It’s a big point in this government’s favour that it has finally gone ahead with the plans, and a sign that it might be willing to push ahead with other important projects that local NIMBYs don’t like.
“We shouldn’t feel too sorry for local residents, no matter how vocal they are. Their house prices will have been lower to reflect the inconvenience of living in the flight path, compared to similar houses in quieter areas and, for anyone who has bought a house in the past four decades, also to reflect the probability of a third runway being built. So the trade-off for them is cheaper housing in exchange for a bit more ambient noise from aircraft.
“There’s no real reason that Gatwick shouldn’t also be given approval for an extra runway too, though. Britain should be as open to air passenger traffic as possible, being one of the world’s premier tourist and business travel destinations. The more runways the better. It’s also important now that the government gets the Border Force’s house in order to be able to deal with the increase in passenger numbers that the third runway will deliver, which means modernising its equipment and processes along the lines detailed in a recent Adam Smith Institute report.”
Mick Rix, GMB national officer for transport and distribution, said: “GMB has a long standing policy of support for Heathrow expansion for the best part of a decade. Heathrow expansion has a clear cut case.
“The airport needs expansion if it is to retain its world class status as a global hub airport. In recent years because of this long standing process work has slowly drifted to European competitor hub airports. Heathrow expansion is not reliant on public money. It will be built to stringent environmental standards. Heathrow must now mean Heathrow.
“This not only protects the 80,000 jobs directly employed at the airport but will increase to a further 114,000 jobs that will be needed, and 10,000 local apprenticeship schemes.”
The Green Party’s co-leader has slammed the Government’s decision. Jonathan Bartley, who leads the Party alongside Caroline Lucas, said that the decision “tramples over the concerns of local people and puts a wrecking ball through the Government’s claim to be concerned about climate change.”
The Green Party opposes airport expansion, and is calling on the Government to reduce demand for flying through a frequent flyer levy and investment in cheaper public transport options.