UK government seeks further consultation on Heathrow's third runway

07 / 09 / 2017

The UK government has called for further consultation on its selection of a new north-west runway at London's Heathrow airport.

A statement today from the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, on the extension came as the government published Sir Jeremy Sullivan's interim report on consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS).

The draft NPS sets out the reasons for the choice of Heathrow rather than a rival runway proposal at Gatwick airport, a decision announced in October 2016 by the government . The draft also includes the "mitigation and compensation measures" the government expects the promoter to put in place if planning permission is granted.

Consultation closed on May 25 this year, with more than 70,000 responses, reflecting the scale of the regulatory obstacles that approval for a third runway at Heathrow has to overcome before construction can begin.

In his statement today, Grayling said: "In the consultation document, my department was clear that further work was underway to update the evidence base, including revised aviation demand forecasts and the government’s final air quality plan. It was intended these documents would be presented for consideration during the initial consultation, but the timing of the general election meant this was not possible.

"I am therefore confirming that there is a need to conduct a short period of further consultation to allow this updated evidence to be taken into account. This further consultation will focus mainly on the specific elements of the NPS affected, and is expected to begin later this year."

The UK General Election on June 8 this year pushed the reset button on Parliament's Select Committee process, meaning that any final NPS would be delayed until the first half of 2018 for a vote in the House of Commons.

The minister said that the Conservatige government "remains committed to realising the benefits that airport expansion could bring, and I can confirm that we do not expect this additional period of consultation to impact on the timetable for parliamentary scrutiny of the NPS".

Immediate industry reaction described the announcement as unfortunate but not a surprise.

Duncan Field, UK head of planning, global law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright, said:“The need for a short period of further consultation on the draft Airports NPS announced today by Chris Grayling, is unfortunate but does not come as a surprise. 

"The importance of air quality to the future expansion of Heathrow made it almost inevitable that as soon as the Government published its Air Quality Plan, the draft NPS would have to be reviewed again. 

"However, if it is to avoid a third round of consultation, the Government must not only allow sufficient time for responses but also take this opportunity to set out much more clearly the relevance of the draft NPS to other airports in the UK and whether, for example, we will see a separate overarching Airports NPS as a product of the government’s ongoing review of the Aviation Policy Framework.”