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Heathrow expansion plans set in motion


The government has set out the policy framework which will define how Heathrow develops plans for a third runway.

Environmental conditions must be met before Heathrow is granted planning permission for its third runway, according to the government’s draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) published today.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling set out the government’s proposals for the north-west runway at Heathrow in the House of Commons, kickstarting a four-month public consultation. The government estimates that the project could bring £61bn of benefits to the economy over 60 years. 

Heathrow’s third runway project will have to meet several conditions before it is granted a development consent order (planning permission), should the draft NPS be approved by Parliament.

It must demonstrate it can deliver its third runway in line with the UK’s legal requirements on air quality – although the government has still not confirmed whether it has accepted the Committee on Climate Change’s advice to opt for a carbon capped system rather than carbon trading.

The airport must also adopt measures to limit carbon output during construction of the runway. These include using low emission construction plant and connecting to grid electricity rather than using mobile generators.

“I am clear that the environmental impact of expansion must be minimised,” said Grayling.

“Industry leading measures will be required to mitigate air quality impacts and Heathrow Airport will be required to demonstrate that the scheme can be delivered within legal air quality obligations.”

According to the draft NPS, Heathrow must consult with rail and road bodies on expansion-related transport schemes – such as plans for the new runway to cross the M25. It would pay full costs of the M25, A4 and A3044 diversions, as well as those of local roadworks.

Contributions would also be made to the Western Rail Access and Southern Rail Access schemes – proposed rail links from Reading to Heathrow, and from south London and Surrey to Heathrow respectively. Together the proposed schemes could cost up to £2.5bn. 

It must also commit to keeping landside traffic at today’s levels, ensuring that 50% of journeys are made using public transport by 2030.

Issues affecting the local population must be considered – Heathrow must provide up to £2.6bn for noise insulation and establish a community engagement board. It must also make payments at 25% above the current market value for homes which will have to be demolished.

Heathrow welcomed the publication of the draft NPS.

“The launch of the government’s NPS consultation is an important milestone in the delivery of Heathrow’s expansion plans, said Heathrow executive director for expansion Emma Gilthorpe.

“We look forward to working with the government, our local communities and our airlines throughout this consultation period to ensure Heathrow expansion is affordable and benefits all of Britain.”

Grayling told MPs that that there are no plans to widen the M4, although there are plans to upgrade it to a smart motorway.

He also mentioned plans for £300M spending on rail links around Gatwick. Grayling said the government is in talks with Network Rail and Gatwick Airport on upgrading Gatwick station.

“Making sure that Gatwick has proper, modern, service access for the future is also a priority,” he said.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) welcomed the draft NPS.

“The publication of the Heathrow strategy paper today signals Government’s prioritisation to securing economic growth post-Brexit,” said Ceca head of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming.

“It is estimated that the UK economy is losing nearly £1.2bn a year due to a lack of major airport capacity. Years of indecision on this issue has led to increased congestion and has impacted on our ability to compete in business and tourism.”

A consultation document on airspace policy was published at the same time, covering proposals to modernise UK airspace. These will affect decisions taken later in the planning process for Heathrow expansion.

Both consultations will last for 16 weeks, ending on 25 May. If Heathrow third runway project gets the go-ahead, a final vote in the House of Commons is expected by winter 2017/18.

The government announced it was backing Heathrow for expansion last autumn.

New Civil Engineer’s airports conference will be 17-18 May in London and speakers will include Heathrow development director Phil Wilbraham as well as delivery partners.


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