Long awaited Government statement on runways – decision will be delayed till summer 2016 – more work needed

After a meeting of the Cabinet Airports Sub-Committee, a statement was finally put out by Patrick Mcloughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, at 7pm. It said that the government confirms it supports the building of a new runway in the south east, to add capacity by 2030 (earlier airports claimed they could have a runway built by 2025). The decision on location is “subject to further consideration on environmental impacts and the best possible mitigation measures.” All three short listed schemes will continue to be considered – so Gatwick is still included.  “The government will undertake a package of further work and we anticipate that it will conclude over the summer.”  On air pollution and carbon emissions “The government faces a complex and challenging decision on delivering this capacity.” More work is needed on NO2. “The government expects the airports to put forward ambitious solutions. …The mechanism for delivering planning consents for airport expansion will be an ‘Airports national policy statement’ (NPS), following which a scheme promoter would need to apply for a development consent order.”… “At the first opportunity I will make a statement to the House to make clear our plans.”


Government statement 7pm this evening: Delay runway decision till summer, after a package of further work. Including on CO2, air pollution and noise.

The statement by the DfT:

Government confirms support for airport expansion in the south-east

From:  Department for Transport and The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP10 December 2015

Government statement on airport expansion in the south-east.

– location decision subject to further consideration on environmental impacts and the best possible mitigation measures

– government agrees with the Airports Commission that the south-east needs more runway capacity by 2030

– government agrees with the Airports Commission’s shortlist of options, all of which it concluded were viable
The government has accepted the case for airport expansion in the south-east and the Airports Commission’s shortlist of options for expansion.  It has also identified the most appropriate way of delivering planning consents for new capacity, it was decided today (10 December 2015) at the Airports Sub Committee.The government will undertake a package of further work and we anticipate that it will conclude over the summer.The government will do this quickly so that the timetable for delivering capacity set out by the Airports Commission can be met.

The Airports Commission published a large amount of very detailed analysis on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions for their 3 shortlisted schemes. The government faces a complex and challenging decision on delivering this capacity.

The Airports Commission’s air quality analysis will be tested using the latest projected future concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.

The next step is to continue to develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people and the environment. This will include a package for local communities to include compensation, maximising local economic opportunities through new jobs and apprenticeships, and measures to tackle noise.

More work will be done on environmental impacts. The government expects the airports to put forward ambitious solutions.

The mechanism for delivering planning consents for airport expansion will be an ‘Airports national policy statement’ (NPS), following which a scheme promoter would need to apply for a development consent order.

Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said:

“The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come. We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon.

“We must develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people. We will continue work on all the shortlisted locations, so that the timetable for more capacity set out by Sir Howard is met.

“At the first opportunity I will make a statement to the House to make clear our plans.”



What is a Development Consent Order?

It is a fast means of getting permission for infrastructure developments of national significance

These could include transport, water, waste or energy projects

It was introduced in 2008 as a means of speeding up the planning process.

Article at  https://www.bdb-law.co.uk/blogs/planning-act-2008/669-no2-runway-decision-but-it-is-a-dco/

“… – the runway(s) will be consented by means of a Development Consent Order (DCO) under the Planning Act 2008 rather than a hybrid bill, and the government will be publishing an Airports National Policy Statement as the ‘mechanism’ for delivering the DCO. The statement does not say whether the NPS will be ‘locationally specific’ as to sites suitable for new runways, which it can do but doesn’t have to. If a site is named in the NPS as suitable, then when an application is made you can’t object to the choice of site, which obviously helps an application at a named site.

Patrick McLoughlin makes bland statement to Parliament about runway decision delay

Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, made an oral statement in the House of Commons on the government’s announcement that it is delaying a decision on a new runway. It is carefully worded, to give nothing away and be entirely non-committal. He was asked various questions by MPs after it, and his answers also give nothing away – and barely answer the questions. Some MPs wanted to know if Gatwick was now being considered. Henry Smith (MP for Crawley) asked whether, if the government decides on a Gatwick runway, he could have a “guarantee that the significant investment that will be required in housing, highways, the rail network and healthcare and all other public services will be forthcoming?” Mr McLoughlin: There are already significant commitments with regard to Gatwick; improving the infrastructure for Gatwick is already taking place and further such schemes will be coming on board over the next few years. It is vital that we get the surface access to our airports correct. That is something we are dealing with over a period of time. My hon. Friend asks whether there would be other consequences if the decision should go towards Gatwick. That will be the case for any option we choose, and of course we want to look at those options and see which ones we would want to take forward.” ie. more vague waffle.

More details at  https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2015/12/patrick-mcloughlin-makes-bland-statement-to-parliament-about-runway-decision-delay/

Below are some comments by various groups etc:

Comment by AEF on government runway statement: continued support for a new runway premature without environmental safeguards

Commenting on the government announcement that the government confirms its support for building a new runway, but it will be delayed, the Aviation Environment Federation said a decision in support of expansion is premature without knowing whether important environmental questions can be answered. “Heathrow is one of the biggest sources of CO2 emissions in the UK and people living around the airport are already subject to aircraft noise and pollution levels that impair their health. Yet the Airports Commission failed to show, in two years of work, how a new runway could be compatible with key Government commitments on air pollution and climate change.” With key environmental challenges remaining, the Government should not commit to a new runway until and unless environmental questions relating to noise, air quality and climate can be answered. “The challenges of addressing the environmental impacts of a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick are no less significant than they were when the Coalition Government ruled out expansion for environmental reasons in 2010. The current Government should do the same.”

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Comment by TAG on government runway statement: disappointed 3rd Heathrow runway hasn’t been ruled out, once and for all.

Responding to the Secretary of State for Transport’s statement that the government has delayed its decision on future airport capacity, Paul McGuinness, spokesman for Teddington Action Group (TAG) said: “We’re very disappointed that a third Heathrow runway hasn’t been ruled out, once and for all. Heathrow is crammed between two immovable motorways, and expansion means building over the M25 and villages. It’s already the UK’s largest noise polluter and, even now, breaches air quality pollution targets. It’s situated in the middle of one of the UK’s most populated residential areas and it’s implausible that 250,000 extra plane movements won’t increase noise and pollution and make yet more dangerous the already full skies over our capital city. It’s simply in the wrong place to be growing what is already Europe’s busiest airport. The economic case has been found to be overstated, and Heathrow are refusing to accept environmental protections such as night flight bans and are refusing to rule out a fourth runway. We shouldn’t forget that the current proposal for the north west runway has been designed to occupy sufficient space to allow for the building of a fourth runway….. We believe that Heathrow expansion was only recommended because Sir Howard Davies was predisposed towards Heathrow….”

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Comment by GACC on government runway statement: Gatwick is not an easy option, especially on surface access

GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has responded to the news that the government is postponing its runway decision for at least 6 months – and therefore leaving Gatwick as a possible location. GACC is not surprised that the Government has delayed the decision, because Gatwick is not an easy option – there are substantial environmental problems at Gatwick as well as at Heathrow – for which no solution has been found. At Gatwick these include aggravating the north-south divide; 50,000 people would be affected by worse air quality; there would be a need for a new town the size of Crawley; three times as many people as at present would be affected by severe levels of aircraft noise; and the road and rail system could not cope, when the airport approached full capacity. A key issue that has no far been neglected by government, or the Commission, is the real cost of the road and rail infrastructure work that would be required for a 2nd Gatwick runway. The M23 and M25 would need major widening, the M23 would need to be extended into London, several new A roads would need to be built east and west of Gatwick, and the Brighton main rail line would need extensive work – all of which could be just as costly as anything needed at Heathrow. The reality is that the annual number of Gatwick flights is now only 5% higher than it was in 2000.

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Government’s Heathrow indecision met with opprobrium from group of Gatwick area MPs

Speaking as Chair of the Gatwick Coordination Group of MPs (all eight MPs in the areas affected by Gatwick), Crispin Blunt MP lambasted the Government’s indecision over its response to the Airports Commission recommendation for a new runway at Heathrow Airport. Crispin said: “This is a disgraceful vacillation by the Government. They will richly deserve the opprobrium to be poured all over this shocking non-decision.”….“We were promised a decision by the end of the year. Recently we were promised a direction. What we have is neither decision, nor direction, but political cowardice, weakness and prevarication.” … “We will fight tooth and nail any attempts to resurrect Gatwick, whose flawed and costly proposal was left dead and buried by the Airports Commission. It is not the easier option. It would not survive the scrutiny of Parliament and the courts. Gatwick would deliver half the economic benefit, has wretched rail and road transport connections, and would fail to provide the hub airport which the UK needs.”

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Comments by Zac Goldsmith and Boris Johnson on the government runway statement

Zac said he was “absolutely delighted” that the Government has acknowledged that the airports decision cannot be made without further environmental tests – “after much campaigning, the Government has heard the arguments, seen sense and taken this course of action.” …”We know that any airport expansion must meet our legally binding carbon, noise and air quality limits”. …”The choice has always been between an outdated model which would lead to higher costs and less choice, or investing in a network of well connected and competing airports.” Boris said: “Time to jettison the 3rd runway, chuck it overboard… it ain’t gonna happen”. He said many will think a 3rd runway at Heathrow is “pathetically unambitious”….”A lot of people will see this as just more fudge-erama to push a decision beyond the Mayoral elections.” He said Heathrow expansion has been “officially grounded” despite airport officials putting a “superhuman effort into bouncing the Government into a quick decision in their favour”….”The wheels are falling off the Heathrow fuselage” and Heathrow will realise that “due to the environmental impacts, the legal obstacles and the cost to the public purse, this bird will never fly.” He still has hopes for the Thames estuary …

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Predictable arrogant shouting from business lobby – they want their runway, no matter what its impacts are

The media have been unimpressive in their coverage of the statement by the government that they are not making a runway location decision this year. They have almost entirely focused on the demands of the business lobby. While the government decision is in large part to avoid political difficulties, of Zac Goldsmith being Tory London Mayoral candidate – there are very real environmental and other problems with either runway location. The Airports Commission did a very incomplete job in its recommendation. It left key areas such as carbon emissions, local air pollution and noise impacts for the government to sort out. It largely neglected health impacts, or costs to the taxpayer, or long term social and economic costs to areas near the “chosen” airport. It was therefore inevitable that a vast amount of additional work would need to be done, before any government could – responsibly and prudently – make a runway decision. Due to the flaws in the Commission’s recommendation, the government is aware it will face forceful legal challenges, especially on air pollution. The Environmental Audit Committee set out the extra conditions the government needs to fulfil before making any decision. By contrast the business lobby just things shouting loudly and aggressively that they want a runway, and they want it now, (regardless of its adverse effects) will win them the day. Stunningly arrogant, and without any apparent analysis of the actual facts. But the media seem to love it.

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Comment by Heathrow on government runway statement: it has “full confidence” in its runway plan “within environmental limits”

Heathrow responded to the announcement that the government will postpone a runway decision till summer with a typical example of its PR-speak: “…it has full confidence in its new expansion plan and pledged to work with Government to deliver Britain the hub capacity it needs within tough environmental limits.” There is a page full of Heathrow’s usual claims about economic benefits, jobs, “linking the regions to global growth” and the same stuff that has been trotted out again and again. This is one of the statements, as full of holes as a Swiss cheese: “The Commission confirmed that expanding Heathrow would have the biggest economic benefits for the UK and can be done while reducing noise for local communities and within EU air quality limits.” Really not a brilliantly persuasive response. It is copied below, with a few links to the actual facts and figures, other than Heathrow spin. Another gem to appreciate (avoiding mention of economic benefit at its most exaggerated, and over 60 YEARS, and jobs by 2050): the runway will “result in up to £211bn of economic growth, 180,000 jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships spread across the whole of Britain.” Seems government has not been taken in by this stuff ….

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