Government announces draft strategy on Heathrow expansion

In the past few minutes the Government has announced the publication, later today, of two major policy statements that will determine how a Colnbrook Runway will be determined, effectively firing the starting pistol on the formal planning process.

chris grayling

With the imminent publication of the Government’s Brexit strategy later, today is, no doubt, a good day to bury bad news.  Perhaps no coincidence then that Government will also unveil its key strategy documents for determination of a Third Runway?

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has issued a written statement to Parliament this morning confirming that both the draft Airports National Policy Statement and proposals for modernisation of airspace (i.e. flight paths) will be published today, confirming speculation in national newspapers at the weekend.

The National Policy Statement will lay out the grounds on which approval for a Third Runway will be determined once it has been fully debated by MPs in the Winter 2017-2018.

Under the NPS, if approved by Parliament, Mr Grayling says Heathrow Airport Ltd would be expected to comply with seven major provisions:

  • demonstrate it has worked constructively with airlines on domestic connectivity – the government expects Heathrow to add 6 more domestic routes across the UK by 2030, bringing the total to 14, strengthening existing links to nations and regions, and also developing new connections
  • provide compensation to communities who are affected by the expansion including noise insulation for homes and schools, improvements to public facilities and other measures – this includes establishing a community compensation fund and a community engagement board
  • honour its commitment of payments for those people whose homes need to be compulsorily purchased to make way for the new runway or for those who take up the voluntary scheme of 25% above the full market value of their home and cover all costs including stamp duty, reasonable moving costs and legal fees
  • put in place a number of measures to mitigate the impacts of noise, including legally binding noise targets and periods of predictable respite – the government also expects a ban of 6 and a half hours on scheduled night flights
  • set specific mode share targets to get more than half of airport users onto public transport, aimed at meeting its pledge of no more airport-related road traffic with expansion compared to today
  • implement a package of industry-leading measures to limit carbon and air quality impacts both during construction and operation
  • demonstrate that the scheme can be delivered in compliance with legal requirements on air quality

Mr Grayling has also announced two simultaneous public consultations on the documents.  Both will last for 16 weeks and close on 25 May 2017, and will run in parallel with scrutiny by Parliament until the Summer recess.

An existing consultation is alread under way on new night flight restrictions proposed for Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow, which closes at the end of February.

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Mr Grayling, in his statement, also confirmed that the timetable remains as per the schedule set out during the announcement of the Government’s backing for a Third Runway in October.  He said:

“Following consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny, and assuming that in the light of these processes the decision is made to proceed, we expect to lay a final Airports National Policy Statement before Parliament for debate and an expected vote in the House of Commons by winter 2017-18”.

I urge everyone who is either potentially affected or with an interest in the Buckinghamshire economy and our environment to attend a consultation event and understand the implications, benefits and costs of expansion at Heathrow.

Bucks County Council has already welcomed the announcement of the draft NPS and has committed to hosting a series of consultation events for residents and businesses.  Leader Martin Tett has described the Government’s consultations as “an opportunity for residents, business and community organisations to say what they want a future application [from Heathrow] to consider” and says it is important that everybody has their say.

The council, which is in favour of expansion, wants mitigation for Iver and the Colne Valley Park.

‘The County Council’s support for Heathrow expansion has recognised the national interest but has always been linked to large-scale mitigation of its impact, particularly for the towns and villages of south Buckinghamshire, and the Iver area in particular.

‘Working with other Councils and Heathrow Airports Limited we will be setting out what mitigation is needed and demanding that road and other improvements are delivered in a timely fashion to protect our residents, businesses and the Colne Valley Park.’ 

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