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Heathrow decision faces turbulent take-off

Published: Thursday, 3rd November 2016

According to experts the government’s decision on Heathrow is likely to face a number of legal challenges as well as parliamentary scrutiny that could delay work starting until the late 2020s...

Last week Transport Secretary Chris Grayling formally announced the government’s support for a third runway at Heathrow as the preferred option for increasing airport capacity in south east England.

His statement confirmed that a draft National Policy Statement (NPS) will have to be published, consulted and then voted on by MPs before airport operator Heathrow Airport Ltd is likely to apply for a Development Consent Order for the scheme, which will be largest yet to be considered as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. A draft NPS is scheduled next year.

Grayling has appointed Sir Jeremy Sullivan, the former Senior President of Tribunals, to oversee the NPS consultation process. “This is an independent role, and Sir Jeremy will be responsible for holding the government to account and for ensuring that best practice is upheld” insisted the Transport Secretary.

Minsters have suggested that work on the expansion of Heathrow could begin by 2022 and be finished by 2025 although they concede this stage may not be reached before “the late 2020s”.

Angus Walker, head of infrastructure planning at law firm BDB has blogged pointing out that the government’s stance faces a number of legal challenges as well as a lot more consultation, parliamentary scrutiny and other considerations which could delay any planning decision on the scheme until at least 2022, but probably later.

Walker wrote: “A lot will hinge on the precise wording of the NPS, both the initial draft and the final version against which any application(s) will be measured. Other projects have come a cropper, at least temporarily, because they didn’t satisfy the particular wording used. The wording on need and suitable sites will also determine how open the door is for any other runway applications.

“The time taken will depend to a large extent on the time legal challenges take at the three possible stages, minus any time the government or Heathrow Airport Ltd decide to press ahead before they are resolved.”

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Read the blog post from law firm BDB.

Roger Milne