Heathrow has begun geeing up airport workers in the past few weeks with internal messages that suggest it could still gain development consent for a new runway as early as 2020.
Heathrow remains in bullish mood for the New Year, predicting that a Development Consent Order for a new runway could be granted as early as 2020. The announcement, to employees and contract workers, implies that the airport believes it could still see a new runway opening within ten years.
The internal statement follows a press release issued before Christmas that confirmed it had begun work on its development consent application and intended to make a submission in 2019.
In the communiqué the airport says it will undertake two public consultations and assessment of the benefits and impacts of the project before submitting an application for development consent “sometime in 2019”. It anticipates a six month sprint through the DCO approval process, which will be carried out by the Planning Inspectorate, before a decision by the Secretary of State.
In public Heathrow is predicting approval in 2021, but it suggestion internally that consent may come even in 2020 demonstrates the confidence the airport has that it will have no major hold-ups.
By contrast, the recent Development Consent Order for the M4 Smart Motorway took 18 months. Applied for in March 2015, a recommendation from the Examining Authority was not made until June last year. A decision was finally made in September 2016.
Originally Heathrow anticipated development consent by 2019, with an opening of a new runway in June 2025. It has, however, made no mention of an opening date in its latest communication.
For residents and small business owners the date for which development consent is gained is key: Heathrow has said it will not open its compensation scheme until then.
However its optimism is not matched by other stakeholders.
The Government set out a more conservative timeline for a new runway to be operational in publishing its decision recommending a Colnbrook runway in October. It believes the process will take another year.
Slough Borough Council anticipates consent not earlier than 2023 – which would push the opening of a new runway to 2028 at the earliest, and possibly later if Heathrow’s construction schedule unravels with complications over the M25.
Terminals 2 and 5 took five and six years respectively to build.
Draft timeline from the DfT of how they hope the Heathrow runway will proceed to completion
The DfT has put forward its anticipated timeline, of how it envisages the various stages progressing. This will start with a draft Airports National Policy Statement being published early in 2017 – followed by a consultation for 16 weeks. There will be a series of local and regional events around the country and in the vicinity of Heathrow. The NPS then goes to a Commons Select committee (probably the Transport Select committee) which scrutinises it and gives MPs and others the opportunity to present evidence to the committee. This could be 12 weeks. The Select Committee makes its report to Parliament. The Government reviews all the responses to the consultation. The NPS and its supporting documents will be amended and updated by the DfT, taking account of the consultation responses and the Parliamentary scrutiny process. ￼By now it is autumn 2017. By perhaps late autumn Government publishes final NPS in Parliament, with a subsequent debate, followed by a vote. [It goes to the Lords as well as the Commons]. There could be legal challenges at various stages, which might hold things up. (This is not yet clear). If the NPS is voted through, it is then “designated” (ie. comes into force) by the Transport Secretary. That might be by the start of 2018. Once the NPS is agreed, then Heathrow can begin the formal process of seeking planning permission (a Development Consent Order), which includes further consultation with local communities. The DfT has this down as perhaps 3 years, 2018 – 2021 or 2022. There will be a General Election by May 2020, perhaps in the middle of this. The DfT hope the runway would be operational by some time after 2025 or the late 2020s.