Government ‘set to make Heathrow third runway decision’

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Campaigners have reacted with concern to reports the Government will give the go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow on Tuesday.

The divisive issue is said to be on the agenda when the Prime Minister chairs a meeting of ministers on the Cabinet’s economic sub-committee on Tuesday morning.

The committee is expected to sign off the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) before putting it before the full Cabinet for approval, BBC News reports.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is likely to then make a statement to MPs, who are expected to be given a vote on the NPS in the coming weeks.

Proponents of building a third runway at the major hub say it is the best option to increase capacity and boost the national economy while being cost-effective.

However critics warn the plan is “expensive and complex” and bad for the environment, while one group hinted legal action may be taken against the Department for Transport (DfT) over its “dodgy” handling of the process.

Airport expansion in the South East
The plan for a third runway has been met by protests (PA)

Any announcement in favour of a third runway is likely to be met with dismay by MPs from across the divide whose constituencies are already affected by Heathrow air traffic.

According to reports, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the MP for Henley, could be forced to vote against the Prime Minister, while former transport secretary Justine Greening, who represents Putney, has also been a vocal critic.

On Monday, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, whose Twickenham seat stands to be affected by expansion, branded the scheme “ill-conceived”.

Meanwhile Extend the Runway, a group advocating increasing capacity by lengthening the airport’s northern runway, said the DfT “lacks both expertise and attention to detail” and had not listened to its proposal.

“People should have zero confidence that the DfT ave run a rigorous process on Heathrow’s expensive and complex plan,” the group said on Twitter.

The No Third Runway Coalition, which counts Sir Vince and Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell among its members, said the DfT’s process had been “dodgy and has favoured Heathrow Airport Ltd from the start”.

“That will be proven in court, if it comes to it,” they added.

The Aviation Environment Federation said it is “extremely unlikely that the Government will have been able to find solutions to key challenges related to the environmental impacts of expansion”.

The group said: “The Aviation Strategy, which is being taken forward under a separate process to the Heathrow NPS, will set out how the environmental impacts of aviation nationally should be tackled, but will not be consulted upon until later this year with publication of the final strategy not expected until the middle of next year.

“The decision on Heathrow is set to be taken, therefore, in the absence of any policy on how to tackle aviation’s carbon emissions, so with no clarity on whether limits on aviation growth will be needed in order to meet climate change obligations.”

The GMB union’s Scotland senior organiser, Louise Gilmour, said: “Heathrow’s expansion is about far more than the status of the airport as Britain’s global hub. The bigger prize is the significant multiplier effect of this expansion which should mean jobs and growth for Scotland.

“The increased capacity of a third runway should mean more domestic flights, greater connectivity and significant opportunities for our civil aviation sector and the supply chains to develop on their existing operations and compete for new infrastructure contracts.

“For staff directly employed in the sector, Heathrow expansion should mean sustaining and growing jobs in services like ground and cargo handling and aircraft maintenance and repair; defending jobs, wages and communities from Renfrewshire to the Highlands.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to boost our economy and we cannot afford to waste it. We need everyone to pull together across industry, politics and the trade unions to take advantage of the benefits.”

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