Government signals start of NPS vote process

Ministers have set out final proposals to back Heathrow expansion – which, they say, is moving Britain a significant step closer to more flights, more jobs and greater economic growth.

The government has published the proposed Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), backing Heathrow expansion through developing a new north-west runway.

The government says that under the proposal, expansion will be delivered in a “cost-efficient and sustainable way”, with a comprehensive package of measures to support affected communities and protect the environment.

The government is quick to point out that the expansion will be privately financed and costs will not fall on the taxpayer, and the Civil Aviation Authority has been asked to ensure the scheme remains affordable while meeting the needs of passengers.

The government believes that a new runway at Heathrow would provide benefits of up to £74 billion to passengers and the wider economy and create tens of thousands of local jobs. It will also better connect the UK to the rest of world with an extra 16 million long-haul seats available by 2040 – seen as vital given the UK will be leaving the EU.

Heathrow is already the UK’s biggest airport for passengers and freight and the north-west runway will almost double the airport’s capacity for goods, allowing businesses across the country to increase their exports and take advantage of new global customers.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Expansion at Heathrow presents a unique opportunity to deliver a multi-billion pound boost to our economy, strengthen our global links and maintain our position as a world leader in aviation.

“As we leave the EU, the UK must remain one of the world’s best-connected and outward-looking countries and a third runway at Heathrow is the best option to deliver this.

“We have listened to views through our consultations and will ensure a world-class package of measures to help any local communities affected by the expansion”.

The government says in drafting the NPS it has taken into account public and industry feedback and recommendations made by the Transport Committee, aiming to ensure that airport expansion in the south-east will be delivered in a way that is cost-efficient, sustainable and in passengers’ best interests.

This includes what they describe as “a world-class package of compensation and mitigation measures to support those affected by the expansion”, with up to £2.6 billion for compensation, noise insulation and community amenities, which could include improvements to parks and leisure facilities.

These are reinforced by plans for a 6.5 hour scheduled night flight ban and noise restrictions which will be legally enforceable.

The government has also formally announced the creation of a new Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise, which will be an independent expert voice on noise issues, acting as a link between airport operators, airlines and local communities.

Also, development consent for the expanded airport would only be granted on the basis that the new runway is delivered within existing air quality obligations.

Over the next few weeks Parliament will have the opportunity to debate and vote on the NPS.

Heathrow instantly urged MPs “to help secure Britain’s future as a global trading powerhouse” by voting in favour of the NPS. The Airport said it is writing to all MPs today to tell them how their votes would “green light” the airport’s privately-funded expansion plans, and that the project is set to boost Britain’s economy.

Heathrow’s latest polling (from ComRes) shows strong cross-party support, with 75% of MPs backing Heathrow expansion. The Parliamentary vote will be a major milestone for Heathrow expansion and if it is in favour will set the policy framework for Heathrow’s northwest runway application.

Heathrow is currently preparing to hold a second public consultation on its plans before submitting a development consent application to the Planning Inspectorate, kick-starting an 18-month approval process.

Commenting on the decision to table the vote, Heathrow CEO John Holland Kaye said: “Together with our supporters across the country, we urge all MPs to vote for expansion. Their votes will connect all of Britain to global trade, increase competition and choice for passengers and create tens of thousands of new skilled jobs for future generations. The world is waiting for Britain. It’s time to vote for Heathrow expansion.”

Business groups and Unions also made positive statemnts, with Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey saying: “Heathrow expansion, one of the biggest construction projects in Europe, answers the demands of many Unite members across the UK – for more skilled, well-paid and sustainable jobs. Expansion will deliver these jobs and growth to every nation and region of the UK, whilst Heathrow deliver on the work they have been doing to address environmental concerns; all at a critical time for UK workers.”

British Chambers of Commerce Director General, Dr Adam Marshall said: “Business communities across the UK want an end to decades of political indecision and an unequivocal green light for Heathrow expansion. A resounding vote for Heathrow expansion in Parliament would do more than just unlock this crucial infrastructure project, as it would give a huge boost to business confidence and investment at a time of significant change.”