In Depth

'Third Heathrow runway is not enough,' say business leaders

Institute of Directors calls for further expansion at UK's airports, saying country is 'lagging behind'

Why Zac Goldsmith's Heathrow gamble could end in tears

26 October

The government's decision to back a third runway at Heathrow has left "Theresa May's Tories in turmoil", says Sky News's Faisal Islam.

Firstly, the government suffered the ignominy of "the holder of one of the four big offices of state, the Foreign Secretary", Boris Johnson, calling the project "undeliverable".

Nor is he the only Cabinet member strongly opposed to the plans: Education Secretary Justine Greening will also speak out against a third runway.

Secondly, high-profile Tory backbencher and former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith honoured his pledge to resign over the issue, triggering a by-election in his Richmond Park constituency in which he will stand as an independent.

The Conservatives are not going to field a candidate - the first time a governing party has not contested a parliamentary seat it holds since 1963, "when Tony Benn renounced his peerage to return to the Commons".

It'll only be the second time it has happened ever, the other being in 1936, Sky adds.

Goldsmith has pledged to make the by-election a "referendum on Heathrow" and hopes a win will underscore opposition to the expansion.

But the real concern for the government, says Asa Bennett in the Daily Telegraph, is that Goldsmith could lose – and this has nothing to do with Heathrow and everything to do with Brexit.

Goldsmith is regarded as popular with constituents and increased his majority by the largest margin of any sitting MP at the last election.

However, he'll be going up against the Liberal Democrats' Sarah Olney, another anti-Heathrow candidate.

While 77 per cent of Richmond Park residents voted to Remain in the EU, says Bennett, Goldsmith backed Brexit – and the Lib Dems last week scored a 19 per cent swing from the Tories in David Cameron's old seat of Witney after campaigning heavily on this issue.

If voters "decide it's time for someone who shares their scepticism on Brexit, [Goldsmith's] 'Zaxit' gamble may well end in tears", argues the journalist.

Heathrow third runway gets government green light

25 October

Heathrow's bid to build a third runway has finally been given the green light by ministers, six years after the government blocked the plans.

A sub-committee of the cabinet had been widely expected to approve expansion of the UK's hub airport this morning. Alternative proposals being considered included a second runway at rival Gatwick, or a simpler extension of one of Heathrow's two existing runways.

The Conservative-led coalition scrapped previous plans to expand Heathrow in 2010 – and before the election that year David Cameron said he would oppose the development, "no ifs, no buts".

But it was put back on the table when the government commissioned a review led by Howard Davies in 2012, which ultimately backed Heathrow's proposal last year, saying it would add £150bn to the economy over 60 years and create 70,000 jobs.

There is, however, still a long way to go before the new runway is built.

The government will now open a public consultation that will last about a year – and which, says The Guardian, will be inundated with critical responses from affected communities.

Parliament will vote on the plans no earlier than late next year, after which a "development consent order, which would include health and environmental impact assessments", will need to be sought. That process will take until 2019, the paper says.

Final planning permission could be granted in 2020 or 2021, with the runway and a new sixth terminal becoming operational from 2025.

John Stewart, chair of the campaign group Hacan, which represents people living underneath the Heathrow flightpath, said "real doubts must remain whether this new runway will ever see the light of day". 

Several Conservative councils are likely to object to the proposals, including one in Theresa May's own Maidenhead constituency.

Senior Tory figures are also likely to publicly dissent. Boris Johnson and Justine Greening are expected to announce opposition to the plans, although the BBC says they will need permission from May to do so.

Former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith has previously said he will resign and trigger a by-election if Heathrow is allowed to build a third runway. 

Theresa May faces backlash over third Heathrow runway

24 October

The government will finally decide whether to endorse a third runway at Heathrow tomorrow in a move that could prompt a backlash in Prime Minister Theresa May's own constituency.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling confirmed that a decision by the airports expansion sub-committee would be taken tomorrow, says The Times.

The sub-committee does "not contain any strong critics of Heathrow" and May is widely expected to back the near-£18bn required to extend the UK's existing hub airport, which was recommended by an independent committee last summer.

That the process has dragged on for a further 15 months despite the committee chair, Howard Davies, describing Heathrow's case as "overwhelming" shows the extent of Tory division on the issue.

Several cabinet members, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have long been strongly opposed to a third runway at Heathrow.

May has already broken with convention and said senior colleagues can publicly dissent from the government's decision in an attempt to prevent resignations from her frontbench team.

But giving the official go-ahead will only signal the start of the battle.

The Times says that four Conservative-controlled local councils will launch formal legal action against the development. They are likely to get support from "some Tory MPs".

Notably, one of these councils is situated in May's own constituency of Maidenhead, which is within half an hour's drive of Heathrow.

The Prime Minister is likely to face personal criticism, too, after the Sunday Telegraph reported that she had vowed to "fight to stop the third runway" in a letter to constituents in 2009.

"[The revelations] will leave her open to the same claims of backtracking on earlier promises as David Cameron, who was criticised for ditching his 'no ifs, no buts' promise to oppose a new runway," says the Telegraph.

Finally, there is the looming resignation of former Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith. He's pledged to trigger a by-selection if the government supports Heathrow's expansion – and then to stand as an independent.

May will hope to weather the storm by pointing to the unanimous verdict of the Davies commission, which says an enlarged Heathrow will boost UK growth by £150bn over 60 years and create 60,000 jobs.

"Allies of Mrs May have said she is determined to make an airports decision in the 'national interest' since taking office," says the Telegraph.


Heathrow boss: 'It's time to get on with' third runway

20 October

Heathrow bosses have used a results announcement this morning to "bang the drum for a third runway" that is now expected to be approved next week, says the Financial Times .

In a trading update this morning that covers the first nine months of the year, the company that operates London's hub airport said it has "broad support" for expansion "from Newquay to Inverness".

After years spent evaluating a number of airport expansion options, including a new runway at Heathrow's main rival Gatwick, reports this week suggest the government is set to approve Heathrow's plans by the end of this month.

The airport's chief executive John Holland-Kaye sounded an impatient tone when he spoke to the BBC this morning. He said: "It is time to get on with it."

Heathrow's results confirm the UK's largest airport is effectively operating at capacity, but an increase in larger planes on long-haul routes boosted passenger numbers to a new record of 57.3 million for the nine months to September.

Operating profit for the period rose by four per cent to £1.2bn, with revenue up a little more at £2bn. But the FT notes a "hefty slug of exceptional items, which include things such as fair value… losses on investment property revaluations" pushed Heathrow to a £293m loss.

That's a significant drop from a £552m profit during the same period a year earlier.

Prime Minister Theresa May this week signalled that cabinet ministers would be able to personally dissent from the government's official policy when the decision is announced later this month.

Most experts say this paves the way for approval for Heathrow's third runway, which has long been vigorously opposed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Justine Greening, among others.

A parliamentary vote will not take place until next year, but The Guardian says that is standard practice. Planning permission would be finally granted by 2025.

May tries to head off Tory revolt over Heathrow third runway

19 October

Theresa May has offered an unusual deal to Cabinet colleagues in an attempt to manage a split over a controversial third runway at Heathrow.

Reports widely suggest the Prime Minister, once an opponent of expanding the airport, is moving towards approving the plan. She has indicated to a sub-committee of ministers that she will reach a decision by the end of this month.

However, that panel does not include the likes of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who once said he would lie down in front of bulldozers to prevent expansion of Heathrow, or Justine Greening, the Education Secretary whose Putney, Roehampton and Southfields constituency is on the proposed flight path and who has also consistently opposed the plans.

To resolve the discord, May has broken with convention and, in a letter to the Cabinet, said she would free colleagues from their usual obligation to back the government's official policy position, says The Guardian.

In a move the paper said "paves the way" for backing Heathrow, May said "Cabinet ministers with longstanding opposition to the chosen option could dissent publicly as long as they do not campaign against the government or speak against it in parliament".

The letter also suggested parliament would not get a vote until next year, when "a national policy statement needed for planning purposes is put before parliament". 

Both the Guardian and The Independent speculate this could be designed to prevent high-profile resignations among Conservative MPs representing affected constituencies, although even long-standing critics say this is the "normal" procedure.

Richmond Park and North Kingston MP Zac Goldsmith, who put his Heathrow runway opposition at the heart of his failed campaign for London mayor, is expected to honour his pledge to stand down either at the point of the decision being made or when a parliamentary vote ratifies the plan.

In what the London Evening Standard describes as a "bombshell development", it has also emerged that Goldsmith's local Conservative branch would back him as an independent over an endorsed rival – a move that is "strictly against the party's rules".

"They see it as a referendum via the ballot box on Heathrow," said an insider.


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