UK to study ‘updated evidence’ on runway battle

The government maintains it does not anticipate further delays to the lengthy approval process.

The UK government will consider “updated evidence” as it continues to consult on an additional runway in the south-east of the country.

While the government announced its support for Heathrow’s approximately £16.5 billion ($20.1 billion; €18.5 billion) proposal for a third runway 10 months ago, it had been consulting with stakeholders during the first half of this year on a draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS).

However, Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, has said further work is needed “to update the evidence base, including revised aviation demand forecasts and the government’s final air quality plan”.

The two factors were particular targets for Gatwick Airport in the latest consultation. Gatwick’s response to the government branded previous traffic forecasts as “outdated”, while it said the air-quality impacts were based on “flawed” legal interpretation. The Global Infrastructure Partners-owned site has maintained a desire to deliver an extra runway, with or without the addition at Heathrow.

Heathrow welcomed Grayling’s announcement and said an expansion of the site is needed as Britain prepares for Brexit.

“The consultation announced today is another delivery milestone which strengthens the policy framework for expanding Heathrow – it will not impact our timetable to open Britain’s new runway in 2025 and we look forward to Parliament showing its support for Heathrow expansion through a vote next year,” it stated.

Gatwick had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Grayling added that the additional work was supposed to occur during the original consultation period but was delayed by the general election. The government is confident the legislative process of a new runway will not be disrupted.

“This government remains committed to realising the benefits that airport expansion could bring, and I can confirm that we do not expect this additional period of consultation to impact on the timetable for parliamentary scrutiny of the NPS,” he said.