- Government approves controversial plans for third runway at Heathrow.
- Transport secretary said Heathrow expansion was the “best option” to ensure the UK remained “one of the world’s best-connected and outward-looking countries” after Brexit.
- The debate over a third runway at Heathrow has continued for over 20 years: Opponents say it will breach air and noise pollution laws, while advocates say it will boost Britain’s economy.
LONDON – The government has approved controversial plans for a third runway at Heathrow.
The government’s economic sub-committee, chaired by Prime Minister Theresa May, presented the plans to her Cabinet, which approved them in full.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling told MPs on Tuesday that “the time for action is now” and described it as a “historic moment,” but added that the expansion was still “a number of years away.”
He said that residents affected by noise and construction would receive a total of £2.6 billion compensation and said the plans would only proceed if they complied with air quality obligations.
“As we leave the EU, the UK must remain one of the world’s best-connected and outward-looking countries and a third runway at Heathrow is the best option to deliver this,” Grayling said.
“We have listened to views through our consultations and will ensure a world-class package of measures to help any local communities affected by the expansion.”
MPs will vote on the expansion plans in the next several weeks.
The debate over the merits of expanding Heathrow has raged for over two decades. The last Labour government backed the idea – and won a Commons vote on the issue – but it was mothballed by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition that took power in 2010.
Advocates say the expansion is vital to keeping Britain globally competitive, while opponents say a new runway would breach the UK’s air pollution laws and increase London’s noise pollution even further.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents 190,000 UK businesses, welcomed the news.
“It’s fantastic that the new runway at Heathrow is getting closer to take-off,” said Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general.
“All the more so as the United Kingdom has waited for nearly half a century for this decision.”
Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party and a long-time opponent of expansion, called the decision “disastrous” and said it “flies in the face of common sense and climate science.”
“The fact that Chris Grayling didn’t even mention climate change in his statement is an absolute disgrace. We know that expansion at Heathrow will make meeting our carbon emission targets near impossible, and that local people will suffer as a result,” she said.
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