Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced yet another delay in the decision to expand Heathrow, blaming the snap General Election.
In October 2016, the government selected a new north-west runway at Heathrow as its preferred scheme for delivering new airport capacity in the south-east.
In February a consultation on a draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) was launched, which set out the reasons for this preference, along with the mitigation and compensation measures the government expects Heathrow to put in place if planning permission is to be granted.
Chris Grayling said that the work to analyse the over 70,000 responses to that consultation is progressing well, and continued: “This government is fully committed to realising the benefits that a new north-west runway at Heathrow would bring, in terms of economic growth, boosting jobs and skills, strengthening domestic links and – critically – increasing and developing our international connectivity as we prepare to leave the European Union”, reconfirming Heathrow as the clear Government choice.
However, he added some bad news, saying: “The timing of the election, in particular the need to re-start a Select Committee inquiry into the draft Airports NPS means we now expect to lay any final NPS in Parliament in the first half of 2018, for a vote in the House of Commons.” It had originally been expected in last 2017.
He promised a further update after the summer recess.
A business source commented: “Sir Howard Davies started talking about expanding Heathrow before the date for the EU Referendum was even set. Now there’s a real danger we may leave the EU before we’ve even taken a decision on where to put the runway we desperately need. What must our european friends think of us?”
There was good news on noise. He announced the publication of a Government response to the consultation held earlier this year on a new night flight regime for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
The new rules encourage the use of quieter aircraft at all three airports by reducing the amount of noise airports are legally allowed to make, and will give local residents a 5 year guarantee about the level of noise that they will be exposed to.