Home / Insights / Blog / MPs Propose Strict Conditions for Heathrow Expansion

MPs Propose Strict Conditions for Heathrow Expansion

MPs Propose Strict Conditions for Heathrow Expansion

Heathrow Expansion Legal Challenge

Parliament’s Transport Select Committee (TSC) has published a report in response to plans to construct a third runway at Heathrow by 2025 outlined in a current draft of the government’s proposed Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS).

The report recommends that the government should only put forward plans for construction of the runway for a Parliamentary vote if a redrafted, final policy includes strict conditions on the development’s costs, noise and air quality effects, in order to avoid “legal challenges” from affected local communities.

Whilst acknowledging that the runway was strategically an interesting proposition, the select committee report raised concerns over the lack of clear detail in the plans regarding projected deadlines, budgets, road link updates and polluting effects of the new runway – which aims to increase air traffic at Heathrow by roughly 50% – as well as how these factors will be managed.

In order to avoid legal liability for irresponsible construction – which would set the project back in terms of both deadlines and costs – the committee recommended that “important safeguards” be instated before any plans were greenlit by the government.

Without safeguards “there will be legal challenges”

Committee chair Lilian Greenwood warned that, if the Government ignored the report’s recommendations and did not instate mechanisms for addressing adverse effects on the local area:

“there will be legal challenges and we think that would add extra cost and potentially time to the process.”

John Stewart, chair of anti-expansion group Hacan, said that the group welcomed the call for stricter conditions, saying: “in particular, we welcome the committee’s recommendation that the night-time ban be extended to seven hours.”

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of British-registered airline carrier trade body Airlines UK, agreed that clearer conditions must be provided in the ANPS’s “wholly inadequate section on cost”.

If the government decides to include these conditions in a finalised National Policy Statement for voting on, it will involve substantial work to assess the detailed potential effects of the development, and propose mechanisms for tackling these issues.

The government has set a deadline for voting on the project before Parliament’s summer recess this year – leaving an extensive redraft tight for time.

To this end, the government may well regard the finalised Airports National Policy Statement which they will put to vote before the summer as merely a document for establishing planning consent on basic issues of design, leaving the further details on the key areas mentioned by the select committee to be addressed in Heathrow’s formal planning application.

If the “safeguards” and conditions urged by the Select Committee are left to this point, the fine details will become a matter for local government, rather than for Parliamentary vote.

Report casts doubt on expansion plans for some

Although the report ultimately urges Parliamentary support for the expansion project, some MPs have seen the select committee’s report and its comments on the lack of significant benefit to the local community as an indication that Parliament should not approve the expansion.

Campaigning to extend an existing runway rather than construct a third, Heathrow Hub director Jock Lowe said that “By putting so many conditions on the third runway… the Transport Select Committee has damned it with faint praise”.

MP for Hammersmith, Andy Slaughter, said that the Transport Select Committee’s report “demonstrates that a third runway at Heathrow is the most expensive and complex scheme, carries the highest financial and planning risks, has the most destructive environmental impact and delivers no economic benefit to the country.”

Mr Slaughter concluded: “It seems counterproductive that government continues to support a scheme that simply will not be delivered.”

TSC chair Greenwood herself underlined, in advocating for clearer conditions for the plans, that: “thousands of people across London could be exposed to worse levels of noise, air quality and traffic congestion”, adding: “There must be sufficient measures to protect or compensate them.”

A spokesman for Heathrow however maintained that the TSC report “couldn’t be clearer – Heathrow is the right answer for the UK and Parliament should greenlight the policy for Heathrow expansion and allow the project to move into the planning phase.”

Contact our construction and engineering lawyers today

For more information construction and engineering dispute resolution, project advice, procurement and standard construction and engineering contracts please contact Paul Brampton or another member of our construction and engineering team via email on construction@ibblaw.co.uk or call 03456 381381. Alternatively please visit https://www.ibblaw.co.uk/service/construction-and-engineering.