The Cabinet has taken a decision to formally back Heathrow Airport’s North West Runway plan for expansion.
The plan for a third runway has been signed off by the Cabinet economic sub-committee, chaired by Theresa May, and approved by the full cabinet. The issue will now go to parliament for a vote, at most 21 days after any commons statement by the Transport Secretary on the cabinet decision.
There has been some speculation as to whether Conservative MPs will be allowed a free vote, or be subject to a three lne whip as has been the custom on major infrastructure decisions. This would discomfort some London MPs like Boris Johnson and Justine Greening who are known opponents to Heathrow expansion.
A decision ratified by parliament might promise to bring to an end what is now decades of indecision on the issue, but there would remain a number of hurdles, including being able to satisfy air quality limits, and potential legal action threatened by the 2M group of local authorities, which includes Hillingdon.
The draft National Policy Statement which would be the subject of the parliamentary vote sets out the conditions for approval. It has been subject to consultation since it was published in October 2017. Essentially it is an acceptance of Sir Howard Davies’ report published in 2015 which concluded that the best economic option for easing the UK’s aviation capacity crunch was the plan presented by Heathrow Airport to add a North Western runway.
The expansion plan would increase capacity from 85.5 million passengers a year to 130 million. It is hoped it would be operational between 2025 and 2030.