After years of ferocious campaigning by both Heathrow and Gatwick to be the site of a new airport runway, Heathrow has triumphed. The government has accepted the recommendations of the Airports Commission and backed a third runway at Heathrow.
Confirming the decision, the Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “The decisions taken earlier today are long overdue but will serve this country for generations to come.”
So what happens now? Here is what we learnt:
1. It’ll be a while
Grayling said the draft policy statement will be published early in 2017. There will then be a full public consultation, before MPs get a chance to debate the details and vote on the proposals.
Only after that, will Heathrow be allowed to submit a planning application for the third runway.
2. Affected homeowners get a bung
Building a third runway will require the destruction of local homes, and Grayling said these homeowners can expect to be paid 25 per cent above the market rate. All associated costs, like stamp duty and legal fees, will be covered.
3. So will the local communities
The government is promising £700m for insulating homes against noise, and it is floating the idea of a Community Compensation Fund that would make a further £750m available to local communities, although the details will be confirmed through the planning process.
4. No flying at night
The government is demanding that flights are banned for six and a half hours a night to give locals some peace. Heathrow will also be expected to continue to give local residents a timetable of aircraft noise.
5. Air quality matters
Heathrow’s successful proposal included an ultra-low emissions zone for all airport vehicles by 2025. The airport can only get planning approval if it can meet air quality legal requirements.
6. There will be a by-election
Zac Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond Park, is to resign in protest at the decision, and is expected to run again as an independent candidate. Speaking in the Commons, he warned that the decision to choose Heathrow was full of legal complexity and “will be a millstone around the government’s neck”.