|Airport Campaign Group Concede Third Runway Approval Inevitable
HACAN expect green light for Heathrow expansion to be announced next week
Campaign group HACAN has acknowledged that the announcement on airport expansion due to be made by the Government this month is likely to give the green light to a third runway at Heathrow.
It has been widely concluded that Heathrow would be the choice after it was learnt that the Prime Minister was allowing ministers a free vote on the issue. This would allow cabinet ministers such as Putney’s MP Justine Greening and the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to vote against a recommendation to expand Heathrow. Normal protocol would be that a minister would be required to resign if they didn’t support a government policy. As there are no ministers likely to vote against a decision to expand Gatwick it is assumed that the free vote can only signify that Heathrow is the choice.
HACAN chair John Stewart said, “What did become clear from yesterday’s statement is that it will be Heathrow not Gatwick which gets the green light. This is the reason why Theresa May announced that Cabinet members who have expressed long-standing opposition to a new runway at Heathrow can continue to oppose it.”
He also dismissed the idea that there was any cause for optimism over the announcement this Tuesday (18 October) that there would be no Parliamentary approval of a new runway until after a vote on the National Policy Statement (NPS) on Aviation in winter 2017/18. HACAN believe this will not alter the timetable for the runway to be up and running.
Mr Stewart said, “It would be wrong to see this as a delay. It is the process we have always known has to be gone through in order to get a new runway agreed. It is what we were expecting and planning for”.
Unusually the decision is not going to be made by a full cabinet but by a sub-committee and MPs will not be voting on the decision for over a year. The prime minister spokeswoman said that she believed it was important to now take a decision "in the national interest" and that the decision to give ministers a limited period to voice their personal views was a "mature, common-sense approach reflecting the fact that many ministers have long-held views and that ministers are also MPs and some have specific constituency issues that they have to address".
Assuming the NPS is approved by parliament Heathrow will then be required to draw up an Environmental Impact Assessment to form part of its detailed proposals for a new runway which will need to go to a Planning Inquiry. The completion of this process on schedule would mean that construction on the runway would start in 2020 or 2021
Boris Johnson has already made clear that he will not be resigning if Heathrow expansion is approved despite a previous pledge to ‘lie down in front of bulldozers’ to prevent construction. Education Justine Greening has refused to be drawn on the question of whether she would continue in the cabinet. Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith has received the support of his local Conservative party in the event of his resigning from the Commons over the issue. According to the Evening Standard, the membership have voted to support him as an independent candidate should he stand in any resulting by-election.
Greenpeace UK has joined forces with Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils to prepare grounds for a joint legal challenge against Heathrow expansion. The group say that any Heathrow expansion scheme would be unlawful due to their environmental impacts, which include they say would worsen air quality, expand the aircraft noise footprint and put undue pressure on the transport network.