After much delay, the government has finally accepted the unanimous recommendation of the Airports Commission and given the green light to a new runway at Heathrow.
This is the right one for industry and the country, as a global freight hub handling over a third of non-EU manufactured exports Heathrow will be a key linchpin in enabling post-Brexit trade.
EEF has been pushing from the outset from this result, driven by our members, who made it clear in our surveys – twice – and through engagement, that Heathrow was their preference.
Today’s decision provides reassurance to UK manufacturers that access to direct, efficient and cost-effective trade routes to the rest of the world will be backed by action and not just words.
What happens next:
What will now follow is a period of consultation on the government’s draft Aviation National Policy Statement (NPS). The NPS route we pushed for to ensure a decision is turned into action quickly. This will set out the planning framework to take today’s decision forward. That is expected to run over the first half of 2017.
What would then follow is a final NPS, and although these are typically subject to the negative procedure (i.e. laid before Parliament, and automatically adopted without debate unless there is an objection from either House), the government has indicated there will be a vote (the affirmative procedure) – perhaps to ensure no U-turns at a later date.
The publication of a draft NPS will however be enough to give certainty to Heathrow to bring forward a planning application. The planning process (which itself can take over a year), can therefore start before the Parliamentary vote with the two overlapping. Heathrow however may decide not to take that option.
What about other airports?
While this debate on airport expansion in recent years has understandably been finely focussed on a decision to allow expansion at either Heathrow or Gatwick, the important role aviation plays more generally in supporting Britain’s global trade status has been side-lined.
This crucial role should not be overlooked and as local areas across the country gear up to take on more powers as part of devolution, improving surface access to regional airports should be an early priority to maximise the regional connectivity benefits from today’s decision.