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Heathrow’s third runway expansion in the hands of private sector, minister says

The project has been delayed by legal challenges and the pandemic.

David Lynch
Thursday 26 October 2023 14:34 BST
The central area of Heathrow Airport in Middlesex (Steve Parsons/PA)
The central area of Heathrow Airport in Middlesex (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Archive)

The future of Heathrow Airport’s expansion is in the hands of the private sector, a minister has suggested.

Transport minister Jesse Norman told the Commons the third runway at the west London airport, which has been delayed by legal challenges and the Covid pandemic, still had the “in principle” support of Parliament.

But he added it now required Heathrow to come forward with its plans and funding.

Asked for an update on the airport’s third runway, Mr Norman told the Commons: “As the House will know, Parliament has voted in principle to support a third runway at London Heathrow, but the Government has always been clear that this Heathrow expansion remains a private sector project.

“To go ahead it would be required to meet strict criteria on air quality, noise and climate change, as well as being privately financed.

“It is for any scheme promoter to decide when it submits a development consent order application as part of the statutory planning process.”

Sir Robert Goodwill, the Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby, insisted there was an “important role” for regional airports in the Government’s levelling up agenda, but added that Heathrow’s expansion was needed to unlock this.

He asked: “Would the minister agree with me to deliver true global connectivity we need more slots for regional airports into our national hub, and ultimately that will mean more tarmac on the ground at Heathrow?”

Mr Norman agreed regional airports were “vital to the UK”, adding: “It nevertheless is the case that as Heathrow considers its expansion plans it will need to decide when to take those forward, and when it does so I hope it will bear the very important issue of regional connectivity in mind.”

The Heathrow expansion has garnered cross-party support from Parliament in the past, though MPs with constituencies neighbouring the airport have expressed concerns about the plans.

Former Tory prime minister Boris Johnson voiced strong opposition to the third runway when he was the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, pledging in 2015 that he would lie in front of the bulldozers if expansion went ahead.

Outgoing Heathrow airport boss John Holland-Kaye recently insisted a third runway at the major air hub is vital for the UK to have a “thriving, healthy economy”.

The airport’s new chief executive Thomas Woldbye is expected to consider the project in consultation with others before providing an update.

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