Whitehall logjam of work due to EU vote could push runway decision back to September
The Standard reports that the Government may delay their decision on a runway until perhaps September, rather than July. Patrick McLoughlin had said earlier (8th Feb) that he hoped there would be a decision before the summer recess (mid-July). However the government has such a “log-jam” of work caused by the EU referendum that, frankly, the runway issue is not top of the agenda. Insiders in government are said to believe the runway problem is only one of many major decisions competing for time in a one-month window between the referendum (23rd June) and the summer parliamentary recess (21st July). Many Whitehall departments are keen to get their decisions time-tabled to be taken in July. Parliament returns briefly between the 5th and the 15th, and it is considered possible that the government might make an announcement then. That way, there would be a runway decision (perhaps stating a location?) in time for the Party Conferences. However, it is possible there could be a longer delay. It is thought that No.10 is somewhat “paralysed” by its battle to win the referendum on June 23.” It is known that the DfT is having to carry out a considerable amount of further work on the runway options, to add to the work of the Airports Commission, and fill in gaps.
Whitehall logjam over EU vote ‘could push Heathrow ruling back to September’
By JOE MURPHY AND NICHOLAS CECIL
27.4.2016 (Evening Standard)
The Government decision on Heathrow’s third runway faces yet another delay because of a Whitehall “logjam” caused by the EU referendum. Insiders say it is among a raft of major decisions competing for time in a one-month window between the referendum and the summer parliamentary recess.
September is increasingly seen as the earliest date for a new South-East runway site to be chosen, but a longer wait is not being ruled out. The slippage is embarrassing for David Cameron, who pledged to settle it by the end of 2015.
No 10 officials strongly denied claims made by MPs and ministers that the Government is “paralysed” by its battle to win the referendum on June 23.
But one senior Tory said: “The Prime Minister is absolutely consumed by the referendum and a lot of decisions are piling up in the in-tray.” An industry figure who deals with government said: “We’re seeing every Whitehall department fighting to get its decisions timetabled to be taken in July.”
Ministers have to choose between three schemes: a third runway at Heathrow, a second at Gatwick or the independent Heathrow Hub plan. However, the boss of Gatwick says the Government must redraft its air quality plan in the wake of the emissions scandal.
Diesel cars being sold in the UK emit an average of six times more nitrogen oxide in real-world driving than the legal limit used in official tests, according to a government report last week.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate claimed the findings were a “hammer blow” for Heathrow expansion: “It also obviously means the Government will have to revisit its air quality plan.”
Heathrow rejected the claim about its plans for a third runway, which it says can operate within EU air quality rules. It said: “Heathrow’s forecasts are modelled on real-world emissions data.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We will consider any revisions and, if necessary, update our air quality plans.”
The Department for Transport said: “We have accepted the case for airport expansion in the South-East and we are further considering the environmental impacts. We will take account of any relevant evidence and expect to conclude this work by the summer.”
Patrick McLoughlin evidence to Transport Cttee – he “very much hoped” to give runway location decision by July
The Commons Transport Committee held an oral evidence session on 8th February, inviting Transport Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin, to comment on the decision by the government to delay a statement on the location of a possible new runway. The tone of the session was that the Committee was eager for a decision to be made rapidly, with concern that undue time was being taken. Mr McLoughlin explained that even an EU referendum in June would not rule out a decision before Parliament’s summer recess. He said though there has been a delay, partly due to air pollution problems and the VW “defeat” scandal, he hoped the government was ensuring all necessary research had been done, to minimise the chance of legal challenges causing yet further delays. The timetable the government is working to is a runway by 2030, though Heathrow and Gatwick would prefer it to be by 2025. Mr McLoughlin said he “very much hoped” there would be a statement to Parliament at least several days before summer recess (mid-July, date not yet published) to allow time for MPs to comment etc. He stressed how the 2008 Planning Act would make pushing a runway through fast, and gave the various timings, with only 6 months for a planning inquiry and examination in public.
Patrick McLoughlin hints that EU referendum could delay runway decision, even beyond this summer
One of the many omissions by the Airports Commission, in its analysis of whether a runway should be built, and its recommendation, is the impact of the UK leaving the EU. It was not considered. Clearly, if the UK did leave Europe after a referendum, there would be complicated economic impacts – which would take years to work through. Now the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, speaking in an interview on LBC, has said there could indeed be a delay in the government making a decision due to the referendum and the uncertainty about that. Asked when there would be a decision, he replied: “I hope later this year. We have said we would hope to move some way by the summer of this year.” And he went on: “There’s lots of other things which are going on in the political spectrum – if there’s a referendum this summer, and the like. But I would hope by the summer of this year we will be able to make progress.” There is no mention at all of the issue in the Airports Commission’s final report in July 2015 nor in the many supporting documents, nor in its interim report, in December 2013. David Cameron has said the EU referendum will happen by the end of 2017. It may happen as early as June or July 2016.
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.”