Transport Committee announces start of its inquiry into (Heathrow) Airports NPS (24th March deadline for evidence)

When he was Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin told the Transport Select Committee that there would be a 3 month inquiry, by a select committee, into the draft National Policy Statement for a Heathrow runway. He said in February 2015 that the inquiry would take place after the end of the NPS consultation. Now the Transport Select Committee has announced, just 20 days after the publication by the DfT of the draft NPS consultation, the start of their own inquiry into the NPS. They are only taking written evidence until the deadline of 24th March. The committee’s website does not say what happens next, if or when witnesses would be called, etc.  The Committee says they are interested to hear more about a variety of issues including:  “How well the proposal reflects government policy on airports and aviation more generally” … “The suitability of the Government’s evidence and rationale in support of a north-west runway at Heathrow” … “How well the proposal takes account of other aspects of the Government’s transport strategy.” … “How comprehensive the proposal is in terms of the supporting measures for affected communities” … “How well the proposal takes account of sustainability and environmental considerations and the adequacy of relevant documentation and information published alongside the draft proposal.”  And so on.


Airports National Policy Statement inquiry launched

Transport Select Committee website  


The Transport Committee launches an inquiry on the Government’s draft Airports National Policy Statement.


In its Final Report (PDF 6.08 MB) in July 2015, the Airports Commission concluded that the proposal for a north-west runway at Heathrow Airport, combined with a significant package of measures to address its environmental and community impacts, presented the strongest case and offered the greatest strategic and economic benefits.

On 25 October 2016, the Government announced that a north-west runway at Heathrow Airport was its preferred scheme to deliver additional airport capacity in the south-east of England. It also confirmed that this would be included in a draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) which provides the primary basis for decision making on development consent applications.

The draft Airports NPS is subject to consultation according to the procedures laid down in the Planning Act 2008, as amended by the Localism Act 2011.

Terms of reference

The draft Airports NPS has been published by the Department for Transport. It sets out:

  • The need for additional airport capacity in the south-east of England
  • Why government believes that need is best met by a north-west runway at Heathrow Airport
  • The specific requirements that the applicant for a new north-west runway will need to meet to gain development consent

The Committee conducts a brief inquiry into the draft Airports NPS. The Committee is particularly interested in receiving submissions on:

  • The clarity of the NPS in terms of scope and its applicability to other airport expansion applications in the South East
  • How well the proposal reflects government policy on airports and aviation more generally
  • The suitability of the Government’s evidence and rationale in support of a north-west runway at Heathrow
  • How well the proposal takes account of other aspects of the Government’s transport strategy
  • How comprehensive the proposal is in terms of the supporting measures for affected communities
  • How well the proposal takes account of sustainability and environmental considerations and the adequacy of relevant documentation and information published alongside the draft proposal
  • The extent to which the NPS provides the Secretary of State with the basis for judging applications for development
  • How well the proposal addresses changes to surface access
  • The effectiveness of the Government’s consultation on the proposal

The Committee has already announced an inquiry into airspace management and modernisation.

Written submissions

The Committee would be grateful to receive written submissions by 24 March 2017.

Further information

22 February 2017


The DfT website at  has the statement by Chris Grayling to Parliament on 2nd February which says:
“Consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny

These 2 consultations will last for 16 weeks and close on 25 May 2017. At the same time, and as required by the Planning Act 2008, a period of Parliamentary scrutiny (the ‘relevant period’) now begins for the Airports National Policy Statement, ending by summer recess 2017.”


Note from the Transport Committee secretariat: 

On 20 February the Liaison Committee designated the Transport Committee to consider the proposal for a national policy statement on airports. The Transport Committee agreed terms of reference that same day and these were published on Wednesday.

Under section 9 of the Planning Act 2008 the Committee needs to complete its work within the relevant period (which was specified by the Secretary of State when he laid the proposal for an NPS).

The Committee’s deadline for written evidence, like all such deadlines in its inquiries, is indicative. It is necessary to have some kind of deadline so that a plan for oral evidence sessions can be agreed and the arrangements made. The Committee will not refuse to accept submissions made after the deadline. But submissions made after the deadline and certainly those made shortly before an oral evidence session are much harder to take into account when compiling briefing for committee members.

There is no limit on the number of submission that an organisation can make. An initial submission can be followed up by a further submission providing new information or adding to existing evidence (perhaps responding to questions raised in oral evidence or by other submissions).

At this stage no date has been set for oral evidence sessions but the Committee will need to agree how many sessions to have and how to fit them in with the other inquiries that the Committee is currently working on.

As things stand it is expected that the oral evidence sessions on the proposal for an NPS will take place in April or May and that a report will be agreed in late June or early July so that there is time for a debate within the relevant period.

(personal communication)

From CPRE planning help 

Guidance on how NPSs are dealt with in Parliament states: 

“Parliamentary scrutiny of the draft NPSs, which takes from 4-8 weeks, overlaps with the final weeks of the public consultation so that any comments received are allowed to inform a parliamentary resolution or the recommendations of any Select Committee.”

This also says:

“Parliamentary approval of NPSs

The Localism Act 2011 changed the process for preparing NPSs, in that Parliament will now have a chance to resolve that a draft NPS should not proceed if there are serious concerns about its contents. When a draft NPS has been presented to Parliament, it will have 21 days in which to pass a resolution stating that the NPS should not proceed.”


The Timescale of the Heathrow NPS – according to the previous Transport Secretary, in February 2015

This is what Patrick McLoughlin, then Transport Secretary, said to the Transport Select Committee on 8.2.2015 on the timescale of getting a runway built:

Question 62   

Mr McLoughlin: I went through it a few moments ago. Earlier this morning, I had a very good aide-mémoire which went right the way through it, but I can’t put my hand on it at the moment. The timeline at the moment is for a decision by the Government on the preferred location. Then there will be

– a draft national policy statement published for consultation and laid in Parliament.

 – This is published a minimum of four weeks after the announcement on the runway location to avoid the legal risk of pre-determination.

 – There is no decision yet on the length of the public consultation, but it could be 16 weeks.

A Commons Select Committee will examine the draft NPS and hold a full-blown inquiry for 12 weeks immediately following the public consultation. 

The Commons Select Committee will submit a report to [the Secretary of State for Transport] by the end of the 12-week period. 

– Once a final NPS is laid, debates and votes must happen within 21 sitting days of the House.

– At any time after the vote, or it could be the same day, if there is a negative vote, the Secretary of State will change and lay a new NPS, again for 21 voting days. 


Another timescale was given by the DfT in October 2016

Early 2017

Draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) published
The NPS will set out the Government’s position for developing a new runway by 2030.

Early 2017

Start of national and local consultation on contents of draft NPS
This will include a series of local and regional events around the country and in the vicinity
of the selected airport. Expected to last for 16 weeks until Spring 2017.

Spring – Summer 2017  (Spring is considered to be March, April, May)

Select Committee Scrutiny of Draft NPS
The opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of the draft NPS by the appointed Select

Summer – Autumn 2017 (ie.  June to November)

Analysis and review of responses & revision of NPS
Full analysis of all responses received during the public consultation and associated
events. Government reviews responses to the consultation and final report from the Select
Committee and the NPS is revised to take these into account.

Late 2017/early 2018

Publication of final Airports National Policy Statement
Government publishes final NPS in Parliament, with a subsequent debate followed by a vote.

Late 2017/early 2018

Designation of National Policy Statement
Assuming the final NPS passes the parliamentary vote, it can be designated by
the Transport Secretary.

2018 – 2021/22

Promoter [Heathrow airport presumably] takes forward scheme
Once the National Policy Statement has been designated, Heathrow is able to begin the
formal process of seeking planning permission, which includes further consultation with local communities.

[ May 2020 or before – General Election ]

2025 – late 2020’s

New runway operational
Assuming the planning and construction process runs in line with the timetable set out by Heathrow, the new runway is expected to be operational between 2025 and late 2020’s.