Transport secretary Chris Grayling has announced that the government will publish a consultation document outlining the benefits of Heathrow expansion in the new year, to be followed up by a parliamentary vote, before triggering the formal planning process. The third runway could possibly be seeing airplanes land by 2030.
Friends of the Earth head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton was not particularly impressed. He said: “Expanding Heathrow will create more than a quarter of a million extra flights per year, vastly increase emissions, rip up whole villages, cause massive disruption for a decade – and for what? To fulfil the airport’s vision of itself as a kind of globalised shopping mall with people flying from far-flung destinations to buy perfume before transferring to an EU flight. The people it will benefit the most will be Heathrow’s owners and shareholders.”
However, most of the emails arriving at The Construction Index took a very different perspective.
Richard Robinson, regional chief executive of Aecom, appeared to talk for most of the construction industry when he said: “This is the right decision, not a moment too soon. As the UK prepares for post-Brexit scenarios, decisive action to increase aviation capacity where it is most needed is all the more critical. Giving Heathrow the green light for a third runway will enable the UK to be more outward-facing and better positioned to compete on the global stage.
“This is a welcome fillip for the UK’s infrastructure sector and the businesses that rely on it. The collective sigh of relief following today’s long-awaited decision is almost audible.
“The focus now must be on accelerating delivery. Quickly securing the right legal mandate via the necessary environmental and planning approvals is vital.”
Steve Radley, director of policy at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), said: “Today’s Heathrow announcement, if given the final go ahead, could offer a major boost to the construction industry in these uncertain economic conditions. Major projects like this help build a strong pipeline of work, which enables construction firms to plan for the future and offer thousands of jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities.”
Keith Cannin, managing director of aviation at construction and infrastructure group Morgan Sindall, said: “We are delighted that the government has made the decision for airport expansion in the southeast and rubber-stamped the Heathrow proposal. Morgan Sindall looks forward to continuing its support for Heathrow Airport Limited in the coming year or so when Parliament makes its crucial vote.”
Some dared to suggest that maybe it didn’t need quite so long to get to where we are now.
Civil Engineering Contractors Association head of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: “CECA welcomes today’s long overdue decision to expand airport capacity at Heathrow. International connectivity is extremely important for the UK economy and it is good news that the Government has now finally committed to the third runway.
“Government must now undertake a consultation process on the effects of Heathrow’s expansion before a final decision is made which will then be put to a vote by MPs.
“CECA offers its support to government in making the case for airport expansion at Heathrow, which is desperately needed, and we hope that the final decision which is of substantial national importance will be swift. Any further delay is unacceptable to the public and UK plc.”
Nelson Ogunshakin, chief executive of the Association of Consulting & Engineering, was somewhat blunter: “That we have taken this long to arrive at the same decision taken by previous politicians over the past decade and a half is disappointing,” he said. “It indicates a continued issue of uncertainty in the political process around large-scale infrastructure projects. The delay we have seen over this issue has cost the UK economy billions of pounds in inward investment."
Interim chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Lord Adonis, said: “This decision is a long overdue step in the right direction. It has been clear for decades that the UK needs additional airport capacity in the southeast to remain open and competitive on the world stage, yet for far too long political indecision has prevented this.
“Meanwhile our competitors have surged ahead. In the time the UK has been considering a third runway all of our major European competitors have delivered increased capacity and are today benefiting from the new routes to emerging markets that come with it.
“If the UK is to deliver world leading infrastructure this culture of dither and delay must come to an end. We must replace years of political deadlock with clear eyed analysis, long-term planning and strategic decision making. This decision rightly follows the evidence, and Sir Howard Davies’ expert advice – now it must be taken forward as quickly as possible.”
Chris Selway, head of the national infrastructure and compulsory purchase team at BNP Paribas Real Estate, said: ‘At long last we have a decision on airport expansion and the government is to be congratulated on getting the timing back on track for delivery by 2030. With a scheme of this magnitude the local impact is going to be immense and extremely sensitive – up there with HS2.
“In providing the necessary infrastructure and facilities to cope with the development there is much to be done in terms of further consultation and provision of mitigating works and compensation packages commensurate with the years of disruption local communities will endure for the greater good. Forward funding of land acquisition and provisions for hardship cases are major priorities.
“The Airports Commission covered many concerns including noise, air quality, safety, security and accident planning but from my specialist viewpoint this is a case where the Airport must demonstrate commitment to all of those things and a speedy enhanced compensation regime to win the trust and support of local communities.
“The Cost and Commercial Viability: Funding and Financing update published in 2015 will clearly need a further update post Brexit!”
Confederation of British Industry president Paul Drechsler said: “The prime minister’s green light to expand the UK’s aviation capacity comes as an enormous relief to firms in every corner of the country. A new runway at Heathrow is really fantastic news, especially as the country has waited nearly 50 years for this decision. It will create the air links that will do so much to drive jobs and unlock growth across the UK, allowing even more of our innovative, ambitious and internationally focussed firms, from Bristol to Belfast, to take off and break into new markets.
“With contracts to tender for, apprentices to recruit and supply chains to build, this decision must be taken forward swiftly, giving businesses the confidence to invest. Our aviation capacity is set to run out as early as 2025, so it’s crucial we get spades in the ground as soon as possible to reap the benefits for jobs and growth, precisely when the country needs them most.
“This project should form part of a long-term framework for aviation capacity for the whole of the UK. Pressing ahead with key infrastructure projects like this will provide not only a welcome economic stimulus, but will show the world that we are well and truly open for business as we negotiate our exit from the EU.”
Some, though, think it is no longer a case of choosing between a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick but deciding instead to do both.
Jason Brooks, UK head of aviation at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, said: “This is a landmark moment for UK aviation that we are rightly celebrating. As with Hinkley, the biggest boost this provides to the construction industry is our confidence. Our business plans and recruitment drive can continue with conviction. However, this should be seen as just the first step to increasing airport capacity in the southeast. The strategic importance and growth potential of London Gatwick remains critical, we also need a new runway there too in due course, for the UK to be able to maintain its position as a leading global aviation player and economic powerhouse.”