Building a third runway at Heathrow will allow more connecting flights with other UK airports, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said. He told the Commons that six regional airports could be added to the Heathrow hub network, bringing the total to 14. The new airports are thought to be Belfast, Liverpool, Newquay, Prestwick Humberside, and Durham Tees Valley. His comments came as he launched a public consultation on a new runway, unlikely to be operational until 2025. Last October, after years of delay, the government said that building a third runway at Heathrow was its preferred option for expanding airport capacity.
The decision to go ahead with the third runway at Heathrow was taken two years ago; Chris Grayling's confirmation yesterday marked the point when it seemed to its promoters that enough of the opposition on the ground had been defeated, so it was safe to proceed with a final vote in three weeks' time. If that is won, and all goes according to plan, the bulldozers will go in around 2021, when the inevitable cycle of cost overruns and slipping deadlines can begin, 31 years after the project was first mooted. By then the UK may be two years into a lengthy "transitional" post-Brexit period, and the bright economic forecasts which are used to justify the plan may be no more use than hot air balloons. There is a case that air travel has made life better for many people and that more of it would continue to do so. Nearly two-thirds of Heathrow's present traffic is leisure flying.
Plans to expand Heathrow Airport are set to breach the government's climate change laws, advisers have warned. The Committee on Climate Change says the business plan for Heathrow projects a 15% increase in aviation emissions by 2050. If that increase is allowed, members say, ministers will have to squeeze even deeper emissions cuts from other sectors of the economy. The government said it was determined to keep to its climate change targets. The Committee on Climate Change is a statutory body set up to advise the UK government on emissions targets.
Heathrow expansion can only be justified if the government proves it will not breach laws on climate change and pollution, MPs say. Ministers say a third runway will not exceed environment limits. However, the Commons Environmental Audit Committee has accused the government of "magical thinking" - wishing the problem away without a proper solution. They say ministers must show the expansion will not fuel climate change. Committee chair Mary Creagh told BBC News: "There's plenty of talk about how the government wants to solve environmental problems at Heathrow, but a total absence of any policy guarantees.
Environmental campaigners and clean air groups have warned that the government's green credentials are in tatters after a flurry of "disastrous decisions" that they say will be condemned by future generations. The government's plan to expand Heathrow won overwhelming backing in the Commons on Monday – with more than 100 Labour MPs joining the majority of Tory politicians to back the plan – despite grave concerns about its impact on air pollution and the UK's carbon emissions. On the same day, the government rejected plans for a £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay, dashing industry hopes of Britain leading development of a new source of renewable energy. Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green party said it had been a day "of government-induced environmental disaster". "First they plough ahead with Heathrow expansion, and now they put a nail in the coffin of the tidal lagoon.