Additional capacity at south east airports

The Davies Commission (Airports Commission) was established in 2012 to make recommendations as to whether the UK's airports capacity needed to be increased and if so, where.

The Davies Commission (Airports Commission) published an Interim Report in 2013 which suggested that there was a clear case for one net additional runway in London and the south east, to come into operation by 2013.

At the end of 2014, the Commission published a consultation on its favoured three short-listed options - a second runway at Gatwick Airport, a third runway at Heathrow Airport and an extended northern runway at Heathrow.

The Council's view on airports expansion was determined in January 2015 and this view was passed to the Airports Commission as follows:

The Council supports the expansion of runway capacity at Gatwick Airport in preference to the options associated with Heathrow Airport. This Council supports:

a) improved connectivity between Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport; and

b) appropriate mitigation measures in any case to limit the detrimental environmental impact of aviation traffic at both Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport.

In July 2015, the Airports commission published their final report, indicating a unanimous recommendation that the additional airport capacity be met by a new third runway at Heathrow.  In addition, it recommended a significant package of measures to address environmental and community impacts.

The government indicated that it would respond to the Commission's recommendation before the end of 2015.

The government set up a new Economic Affairs (Airports) Sub-Committee, with ten members, chaired by the Prime Minister. The sub-committee considers matters relating to airport capacity in the South East of England in the light of the Airports Commission's report.

At the end of November, the government's Environmental Audit Committee published a report on the Airport Commission's final report. It focused on noise, air quality and carbon emissions. The report indicated that before the government made any decision on airport expansion, it needed to set clear and binding responsibilities and milestones to ensure environmental standards are enforced and measures can be implemented, monitored and evaluated in a timely way.

On 10 December, the government issued a press release and this was followed by a statement to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Transport on 14 December.

The statement clarified three issues. Firstly the government has accepted the case for airport expansion in the south east and has also accepted the recommended shortlist of options.

The third matter clarified was that the mechanism for delivering planning consents will be for the government to produce an Airports National Policy Statement (NPS). Following this, the scheme promoter would need to apply for a Development Consent Order.  This has been chosen in preference to introducing a Hybrid Bill into Parliament.  For further information on the DCO process is available from the Planning Inspectorate.

The government has not given any indication of which of the three options it will support. Instead, it indicated that it wanted to undertake a package of further work in relation to air quality, noise, carbon emissions and other impacts on local communities. It confirmed that it expected the airports to put forward 'ambitious solutions' to environmental impacts.

The government expects to conclude this package of work by the summer and has indicated that this means the Airports Commission's timetable for delivering extra runway capacity by 2030 will not alter.

Heathrow Airport Ltd's original timetable suggested the approval of an Airports National Policy Statement (including consultation) in 2017, with the Development Consent Order being submitted in 2018 and gaining approval in 2019.  They wished to commence construction in 2019 with the new runway operational in 2025.

You may also find our page on Aircraft noise of interest.