Heathrow airport has outlined a timeline for submitting a planning application to build a third runway by the end of 2020, with a fresh public consultation announced.
The busy London hub will launch a new, eight-week public consultation in April “to finalise its proposals for airport expansion”, with the aim of filing its application to the Planning Inspectorate towards the end of the year.
The announcement comes after the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) denied Heathrow’s request to increase early construction spending to £2.4 billion, forcing the airport to delay the project at least 12 months.
Announcing its timeline for applying for planning permission, Heathrow said: “Capping spending has prolonged the construction period of a new third runway and means Heathrow will need to undertake refreshed modelling of key aspects of the plan – including public transport to and from the airport – to evidence that Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) targets can be met.”
The consultation will run from April through to June and aims to gather feedback from communities. Heathrow will also be writing to local authorities in the coming weeks with more information and the opportunity to comment on its approach to the consultation.
Details gathered by this feedback will inform the airport’s planning application, which it says will outline how it plans to expand whilst meeting the requirements of the ANPS. This includes information on how Heathrow will meet strict environmental targets while delivering “tens of thousands of new high-skilled jobs and honours commitments to local communities”.
Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s director of expansion, commented: “This country is ready for a decade of infrastructure delivery underpinned by expansion at Heathrow. We are keen to ensure our plans continue to be supported and shaped by local people as we prepare to deliver the economic boost Britain needs.”
The announcement has been met with scorn from anti-expansion groups and alternative proposal organisation Heathrow Hub, which said “the wheels are coming off the third runway” as it urged prime minister Boris Johnson to launch a review of the project.
Heathrow Hub’s Jock Lowe said: “We always said that the rising costs of the complicated third runway plan would be a disaster, and so it has proved. The Department for Transport failed to adequately consider costs when it approved the third runway. But rising costs will inevitably fall on passengers and airlines via higher passenger fees at Heathrow, which are already the highest in the world. There is a risk that taxpayers will have to foot the bill for billions of pounds of rail and road improvements.
“Heathrow expansion, done incrementally and with due consideration to environmental issues, is vital for the economy, to benefit passengers and to improve the resilience of the airport. The irony is that Heathrow Airport Ltd itself has made such a mess of it.”
In December, Heathrow revealed that the two options it would submit as part of its planning application could see passenger charges increase by up to 25 per cent, stoking fears that the cost of expansion could be passed on to consumers in the long run.
Meanwhile, Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, commented: “We are surprised that Heathrow feels it will be ready to make its application for planning permission to expand in 2020. Their announcement of a further consultation on their expansion plans is tantamount to a recognition that they have already failed to meet the consultation standards expressly required of it in the Airports National Policy Statement.
“Their statutory consultation in 2019 lacked vital environmental and health assessment and was wholly inadequate. It did not provide communities with the information required or demonstrate how their plans could meet targets set by parliament on noise, air pollution, carbon emissions and public transport improvements. Moreover, the entire reasoning behind the project may well now require review. According to government, the total net benefit of this expansion was to be just £3 billion. Yet, Heathrow have announced a construction delay of up to three years which, according to the Transport Select Committee, will reduce the total net benefit of Heathrow expansion by £16.3 billion – meaning that the project can now only be a net economic loss to the nation.”