A major hurdle has been overcome in the long-running saga to build a third runway at London/Heathrow.
Prime Minister Theresa May held a meeting of the Cabinet’s economic sub-committee on June 5 where she signed off on the £14bn plan to expand the airport, before putting it to her full Cabinet for approval. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling reported to the House of Commons that the plan had been given the green light to proceed.
Grayling told the Commons: “Today I am laying before Parliament our final proposal for an Airports National Policy Statement which signals our commitment to securing global connectivity, creating tens of thousands of local jobs and apprenticeships, and boosting our economy for future generations by expanding Heathrow Airport.”
The debate about the airport’s expansion, one of the most divisive issues within parliament, has been raging for nearly 50 years and although it has now potentially come a step closer, but there are still many obstacles to overcome before construction work can begin. The first of these will a full vote in Parliament (by July 11) with all MPs being given the opportunity to debate the proposal.
Unsurprisingly, reaction to the announcement has been evenly split between supporters of expansion and those against it. Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, remarked: “The message from business to Parliament couldn’t be simpler: no more delays, no more excuses on Heathrow expansion. A green light for Heathrow’s third runway will show international investors, our trading partners and our competitors that the United Kingdom is serious about being at the heart of the global economy.
Those opposing expansion include high-profile MPs such as the former Transport Minister Justine Greening, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable and the former London Mayor and current Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who all say the costly project will be an environmental and social disaster.
One of the main stumbling blocks may yet be the prospect of a full judicial review and the threat of other legal actions by opponents.