As we begin the New Year, support for Heathrow expansion continues to grow, notably at the local level but also amongst politicians across the UK. A recent poll of 130 MPs by ComRes found that 74 per cent of MPs now back building a third runway, up by seven percentage points since the summer. The proportion of Conservative MPs in favour has risen from 71 to 80 per cent over the same period.
The next twelve months will be very busy with various events, consultations and analysis taking place, all relating to Heathrow expansion. The first stage, expected within weeks, will be for the government to bring forward a draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) for consultation. An NPS sets out the planning policy which Heathrow must comply with in order to get planning consent for a new runway.
There will then be a major public consultation on the draft NPS expected to last until the spring when anyone can have their say. This 16-week process is extremely important because it is vital pro-expansion supporters demonstrate the enormous backing the project has within local communities.
After the public has had a chance to comment on the draft NPS, it will be the turn of MPs in Parliament. This will initially be done by members of a select committee where they will examine the fine print of the draft NPS and question key stakeholders on details of the proposal.
In the summer and autumn of 2017 the government will have time to take stock of all the analysis, scrutiny, comments and recommendations made during the public consultation. The government will also consider a final report by the select committee and the draft NPS will then be revised accordingly. This will be followed by a key vote in the House of Commons in approximately one year’s time when we will hopefully be another step closer to building Heathrow’s new runway.
The polling suggests that a huge majority of MPs will carry the vote in favour of Heathrow. But there’s 12 months to go before then…it should be an interesting 2017!