MPs have voted to approve a third runway at Heathrow by a majority of 415 to 119.
The expansion of the airport, which is controversial in West London, could deliver over 100,000 jobs nationwide, and is expected to be crucial to the success of post-brexit Britain.
However, issues around noise and air quality made the vote controversial, with many West London MPs opposing the motion in the House of Commons.
Conservative MPs were whipped to support the vote, while Labout MPs had a free vote, with the SNP abstaining. The vote was unpredictable until it was called.
Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, a known opponenent of Heathrow, was absent while on a foreign office visit to Afghanistan.
The vote clears the way for Heathrow to submit a planning application for the £14bn project – one of the largest privately funded projects in Europe. The Airport say this will open the opportunity for “tens of thousands of new skilled jobs for local communities”.
Heathrow also say the decision: “will have major benefits for the local economy, stimulating growth and inward investment opportunities”. Expansion will allow the Airport to add up to 40 new long-haul trading links and double cargo capacity.
The airport says it will sign £150 million worth of contracts with British businesses in the next 12 months, creating 900 new jobs and 200 new local apprenticeships. They have set up the Heathrow Skills Taskforce, chaired by Lord Blunkett, which will aim to coordinate activity to “develop the talent needed today and arm a generation with the skills it needs for the future”.
Heathrow has also made what it describes as binding commitments to deliver a £2.6bn compensation package to residents, implement a 6.5 hour ban on scheduled night flights and a triple lock guarantee to meet air quality obligations.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “Parliament has ended 50 years of debate by deciding that Heathrow expansion will go ahead. This vote will see us deliver more jobs, create a lasting legacy of skills for future generations and guarantee expansion is delivered responsibility. We are grateful that MPs have made the right choice for Britain and today we start work to create the best connected hub airport in the world.”
Some local councils continue to promise legal action against the decision, including Hillingdon, whose leader, Ray Puddifoot, said: “For the avoidance of any doubt, this will not in any way deter Hillingdon and its partners from bringing a challenge and indeed, it will only encourage us to refer the matter to the High Court as soon as possible.”
Cllr Stephen Cowan, the Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, said: “We absolutely refuse to sit back and let such a potentially catastrophic decision be made without a fight. If we need to take legal action, we will.”
The local authority group opposed to Heathrow expansion includes the London Boroughs of Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Hammersmith & and Fulham alongside Greenpeace and the Mayor of London.
If following the MPs’ vote the Government moves to formally designate the National Planning Statement supporting the third runway project, the local councils will have six weeks to challenge the decision by way of judicial review.
Business welcomed the decision. Andrew Dakers, CEO of West London Business, said: “Last night’s vote marks an important milestone for West London, and a confident signal to the world.
“In the next few months we look forward to working with Heathrow to support its expansion proposals to ensure the connectivity and jobs benefits stemming from expansion benefit West London. As the country’s biggest airport by value, and the biggest port, expanding Heathrow will offer more of our small and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to export around the globe, while also making it easier for people to visit the country from London and abroad.
“At West London Business we have spent many years working with Heathrow airport to help inform the thinking behind the Heathrow 2.0 strategy for a sustainable airport and an industry-wide shift towards a sustainable future for aviation. We assure our local MPs and the local community that we will continue to work hard with the airport to ensure the successful implementation of the strategy for a zero carbon, socially responsible airport. This can create a zero-carbon infrastructure legacy that informs future airport design in the UK and around the world.”
The next step is for government to designate the Airports NPS, paving the way for Heathrow to submit a formal planning application.
The Government says construction on a third runway at Heathrow could then start as early as 2021 and the runway operational by 2026.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “This marks a critical step towards ensuring future generations have the international connections we need, as well as strengthening the links between all parts of the UK and our global hub.
“I have always been clear that this issue goes beyond party politics, and this result demonstrates the clear desire to get on with delivering this vital scheme.
“There is still much to be done, including defending this decision against the potential legal challenges, but we are absolutely committed to working closely with local communities and ensuring Heathrow stick to their promises on addressing the local and environmental impacts of expansion.”
Following designation of the NPS, the next stage of the process will see Heathrow bring forward detailed proposals for planning consent, which would be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. As part of this, Heathrow will need to carry out further consultation with local communities on the finer details of their scheme design and the associated compensation and mitigation packages.
Alongside this Heathrow will continue to develop plans for the necessary airspace changes around the airport, including new flightpaths. These will also be subject to consultation with local communities, ahead of being submitted to the Civil Aviation Authority for approval.