Government approves third runway for Heathrow Airport

Government ministers today approved a new runway at Heathrow Airport, a decision expected to create up to 77,000 jobs in the region by 2030.

The Department for Transport predicts 5,000 new apprenticeships over the same period and economic benefits worth up £61bn.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “After years of discussion and delay this government is taking decisive action to secure the UK’s place in the global aviation market.

“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 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 £2.6bn, including community support, insulation, and respite from noise – balancing the benefits and the impacts of expansion.”

According to DfT, the new runway at Heathrow will be deliverable within air quality limits if necessary mitigation measures are put in place in line with the National Air Quality Plan, which was published in December 2015.

Plans for Heathrow also include improved public transport links and an ultra-low emissions zone for all airport vehicles by 2025. The government claims it will make meeting air quality legal requirements a condition of planning approval.

Dr Marc Stettler, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “Noise and air pollution will continue to impact upon local communities. Noise should be tackled by banning night time flights, which would be possible with a new runway and was recommended by the Davies Commission. Air pollution should be tackled through an integrated transport strategy for the South East, including HS2 that reduces road traffic emissions on major roads around the airport.”

A draft National Policy Statement, setting out why the government believes a third runway at Heathrow is  right for the UK, will be published in the new year when the public will be consulted on the proposals.

Philippa Oldham, head of Transport and manufacturing IMechE, said: “This is so near and yet so far. Without a clear view from government on its support for expansion at Gatwick and Birmingham airports, investors are still unable to take a long-term view on how to future-proof UK airport capacity.

“The year of consultation means yet more uncertainty, at a time when we need to be definite about our industrial strategy. We need to use airport capacity in the South East to boost the whole UK economy. Air freight is an important contributor, with a particularly important role in supporting trade with countries outside the EU. This delay is therefore particularly worrying following the Brexit vote.”

A third Heathrow runway in numbers:

  • economic benefits to passengers and the wider economy worth up to £61 billion over 60 years
  • lower fares relative to no expansion, fewer delays, better connections to destinations including to Asia and South America
  • up to 77,000 additional local jobs created by 2030
  • Heathrow has committed to 5,000 new apprenticeships by 2030
  • an extra 16 million long-haul passenger seats in 2040
  • new regional routes proposed by Heathrow – giving 14 in total
  • following consultation, a six-and-a-half hour ban on scheduled night flights will be introduced for the first time at Heathrow
  • a mitigation package for the local community most affected by expansion worth up to £2.6bn

Source: DfT

Reaction round-up

“As with Hinkley, the biggest boost this provides to the construction industry is our confidence. Our business plans and recruitment drive can continue with conviction. However, this should be seen as just the first step to increasing airport capacity in the South East. The strategic importance and growth potential of London Gatwick remains critical, we also need a new runway there too in due course, for the UK to be able to maintain its position as a leading global aviation player and economic powerhouse.” Jason Brooks, UK head of aviation at WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff

“Heathrow will be a key linchpin in enabling post-Brexit trade and this decision provides reassurance to manufacturers that access to direct, efficient and cost-effective trade routes to the rest of the world will be backed by action and not just words.” Terry Scuoler, chief executive, EEF

“Expansion at Heathrow, or any other airport, will create a serious obstacle to the UK meeting its greenhouse gas, and air quality, targets. Increased flights, more traffic on roads in and around the airports, and emissions from the new construction will add to an already woeful situation, particularly in London and the South East of England. While I appreciate that current business projections suggest the need for more flights, by the time new runways are operating, they could look seriously outdated. Rolling out of the best quality telecommunications networks to all businesses, including fast and reliable internet on trains, could benefit business productivity whilst reducing pollution by greenhouse gases and particles.” Prof Joanna Haigh, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, and Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London

“This is the right decision, not a moment too soon. As the UK prepares for post-Brexit scenarios, decisive action to increase aviation capacity where it is most needed is all the more critical. Giving Heathrow the green light for a third runway will enable the UK to be more outward-facing and better positioned to compete on the global stage.” Richard Robinson, chief executive – Civil Infrastructure, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, AECOM

“While we are well prepared within the UK, the scale of the Heathrow expansion will inevitably call for skilled professionals from overseas. Depending on the nature of the UK’s departure from the European Union, we may face challenges importing qualified engineers, which would significantly narrow the talent pool available for this scheme.” Grahame Carter, operations director at engineering recruitment specialist Matchtech

“The focus for government must now be to build on the work of the Airports Commission and develop the national policy statement that both underpins expansion at Heathrow and supports aviation more widely across the UK.  In the meantime industry can press ahead with the planning needed to deliver the extra capacity quickly, efficiently, considerately and with minimum disruption.” Nick Roberts, CEO, Atkins’ UK & Europe

“Heathrow’s business case has been successfully made. But now it must be successfully delivered. The challenge for Britain’s construction industry is clear – together we must ensure that the third runway cements Heathrow’s position as the world-class, sustainable hub airport that the UK needs, and that global airlines demand.” Vincent Clancy, CEO, Turner & Townsend