Parliament will not take a vote on South East airport capacity for another year, the Department for Transport has confirmed.
Although the government is set to announce its preferred choice at the end of this month, following a Cabinet sub-committee investigation, Parliament might not take a final vote until late 2017 or early 2018.
The prime minister’s decision next week may be followed by a non-binding vote of MPs, which does not carry any legal weight.
Following this month’s decision, there will be a National Policy Statement (NPS) that gives detailed reasons for the decision and, in particular, will set out how it relates to climate change mitigation and infrastructure objectives.
NPSs undergo a public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny before being published. This will take a year. Both the Department for Transport and Heathrow have said an NPS was always in the pipeline and, therefore, there has been no delay to the current expected timetable.
“It is the expected and appropriate political process, there is no delay. Government announces its preferred option, consults on that position and publishes a National Policy Statement which Parliament then approves. Heathrow then applies for planning permission with support of government policy,” said a Heathrow spokesperson.
Sir John Armitt, deputy chair of the National Needs Assessment and president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said: “We’ve heard government’s announcement today that it will present its view to Parliament and then have a debate. Personally, I think that’s great.
“It may take a little more time, but it is an opportunity to build cross-party consensus and it is a chance to show the public that the debate is being had.”
Pinsent Masons head of infrastructure planning and government affairs Robbie Owen insisted the move was not a delay: “This is not a year delay and to call it that is just wrong. It was always going to take a year to get the NPS approved and that is what will happen here.”