UK Cabinet approves new Heathrow runway plan

The £14 billion expansion of Britain’s premier airport became official Government policy during two key meetings of ministers in Downing Street yesterday

Controversial plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport have been approved by the UK Cabinet, amid warnings that further delays would make the government look “indecisive”.

The £14 billion expansion of Britain’s premier airport became official Government policy during two key meetings of ministers in Downing Street yesterday.

The government’s economic sub-committee, chaired by Prime Minister Theresa May, backed the plans which were then approved by her full cabinet.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it was a “historic moment” and that it would allow London to “hit new heights”, connect with new markets and cement the nations of the United Kingdom closer together.

Announcing £2.6bn in compensation for residents and noise abatement measures he said it would only proceed if air quality obligations were met.

“The time for action is now,” he told MPs, insisting the decision was being taken in the national interest and would benefit the whole of the UK - with 15% of new landing slots “facilitating” regional connectivity.

Grayling insisted the scheme would be funded entirely by the private sector and while the expansion was a “number of years away”, he believed it could be concluded by 2026.

However, the decision still needs to be backed by a vote of MPs later this month, for a final go-ahead of the plans to increase the number of flights to more than 700,000 a year at Europe’s busiest airport by 2030.

So far, the idea of an expansion has been backed by the Conservatives, as ministers approved a draft national airports policy statement last October. Parliament is yet to give its approval for the detailed planning to begin.

Former transport secretary Justine Greening became the first senior Conservative to say she would defy a three-line whip if necessary to oppose the scheme, which will increase noise in her Putney constituency.

Opponents have threatened a legal challenge while Boris Johnson, who is MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London, has vowed to “lie down in front of bulldozers” to prevent it.

However, the former head of the Airports Commission, which recommended the third runway in a 2015 report, served a warning that the Government should push ahead now or look weak.

Approval for the Airports National Policy Statement in Parliament will mean the scheme has outline planning permission.

A third runway would mean more than a quarter of a million new flights straight into Heathrow each year, strengthening Britain’s links with countries around the world, thus connecting the UK with emerging markets and bringing jobs and investment.

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