Following last year’s public consultation on adding a 3rd runway & a 6th terminal and introducing “mixed mode” runway operations at Heathrow, which saw more than 70,000 responses, the government’s supportive decision was delayed from December to 15th January, as there were “strong views” that needed “proper consideration”!! The £9bn scheme, which is due for completion by 2020, is opposed by local councils, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats & the Mayor of London & is believed to have divided the Cabinet. Concessions to the “no” lobby include proposed high-speed rail links through a Heathrow hub, a reduction in extra flights to 125,000 p.a. (on top of the current 480,000), strict monitoring of noise & pollution levels (with “green slot” limits for the new runway requiring the newest, least polluting aircraft) and the dropping of “mixed mode” plans to make more use of the existing runways. Nevertheless campaigners plan a legal challenge, claiming that the Government has tinkered with the evidence & that Heathrow will fail to meet, & already breaches, noise & carbon emissions levels required under EU legislation. It is also expected that if Labour lose the next election in 2010 then the scheme will be cancelled? The immediate next stage is for BAA to prepare detailed plans for submission to a Public Inquiry, ahead of a detailed planning application which is unlikely to be submitted before 2011.
The legal challenge against Heathrow expansion was officially launched on 7th April by the 2M group of 23 local councils & supporterd by Greenpeace, the WWF, the CPRE & the Mayor of London. They argue that the government held an unlawful consultation & that the decision was irrational. If a judicial review is granted it is unlikely that any hearings would take place until early next year.
On October 11th, the Sunday Times advised that : "The airport operator BAA has bowed to opposition to a third runway at Heathrow airport. It will not submit a planning application before the general election and will not sign large contracts to “bounce” a future Conservative government into accepting it. Senior BAA figures have also told the Tories the company will cease to fight for the third runway if they form the next government". Hooray...................