Heathrow third runway approved

Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

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Published: 26th October 2016

This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group


Following a cabinet meeting yesterday, the government has finally approved the construction of a third runway at Heathrow with the aim of expanding the UK’s overall airport capacity by almost 300,000 flights per year. The decision has been surrounded by controversy for years but the nine-strong committee, led by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, decided on Heathrow over rival Gatwick in a move labelled ‘truly momentous’ by Mr Grayling.

The long-awaited decision followed just seventy-five minutes of debate, putting an end to almost fifty years of discussions and delays around the project.

Mr Grayling said the new runway at Heathrow would bring economic benefits to passengers and the wider economy worth up to £61 billion. He added as many as 77,000 local jobs could be created over the next fourteen years.

The redevelopment will allow the airport to offer more direct flights to UK destinations plus up to forty new cities around the world, including Osaka in Japan and Quito in Ecuador. It is hoped the move will also open new trade avenues post-Brexit, as well as improve the efficiency of worldwide business travel.

The decision has been welcomed by many but has also been met with vitriol from all sides.

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, said it was ‘absolutely vital for Britain’, while CBI chief Paul Drechsler claimed it would create jobs and boost economic growth.

On the opposing side, a spokesperson for Gatwick Airport said it was ‘disappointed’ with the decision, stating it was ‘not the right answer for Britain’.

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport Chief Executive, added: “The challenges facing Heathrow have not changed. Our message today is that Gatwick stands ready to proceed when the time comes.”

Within the government, the announcement has caused an enormous rift too. Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said: “A third runway is undeliverable. The day when the bulldozers appear is a long way off, if indeed they ever materialise.”

In a sensational move, Conservative Zac Goldsmith announced his resignation shortly after the decision was made public. Goldsmith had been serving as Tory MP for Richmond Park until Tuesday; he resigned in protest at the decision, which he called ‘catastrophic’.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, added weight to the dissenters, stating that the Heathrow expansion was the wrong decision for both London and the UK.

He said: “There are more people affected by noise because of Heathrow than people affected by the airports in Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich and Madrid combined.

“The air in London is a killer. It makes you sick and it’s unlawful.”

John Sauven, Greenpeace UK chief, echoed Khan’s sentiments and said Heathrow’s additional runway would increase air pollution and ‘be a waste of time, money and lives’.

Away from government – for those living in the path of the third runway – it was hinted at that the worst-hit locals could be offered 125% of the market value of their homes as an incentive to move, plus local communities would also have access to a government-funded community compensation fund.

The next phase of the Heathrow project involves a public consultation. Aiming to ascertain public opinion and gauge the effects of airport expansion, the consultation will pave the way for a full and final decision by the government in the winter of 17/18. The decision will then be incorporated into a national policy statement on UK aviation.

The Airports Commission has stated that construction work on the third runway is not expected to commence until at least 2020 with the runway becoming operational in 2025 at the earliest. Under the proposal, the new 3,500 metre runway will be located two miles north of Heathrow’s existing runways and is slated to cost in the region of £17.6 billion.  

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