MPs to scrutinise Heathrow expansion plans as Gatwick waits in the wings

Rebecca Smith
Heathrow says expansion will prove Britain is open for business
Heathrow thinks expansion will prove Britain is open for business (Source: Heathrow)

The Transport Select Committee today said it will scrutinise the proposals for airport expansion in the south east with the launch of a new inquiry, as Gatwick continues to press for its alternative to Heathrow's third runway.

MPs on the committee are carrying out a review of the revised proposal for an airports national policy statement, tabled by the government last month.

The General Election postponed progress, while a new consultation was required on revised aviation demand forecasts and air quality data.

Read more: Heathrow expansion on track for MPs' backing in Commons vote

Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood, said:

Our inquiry will examine, in detail, the government’s plans for delivering the new runway, including the economic benefits, mitigating the environmental impact and the action proposed to support affected communities.

The Committee will report back with findings, making sure that the evidence base and supporting measures are sufficient for the third runway at Heathrow to gain parliamentary approval.

The government expects to put the final airports national policy statement before MPs for a vote in the first half of next year. Earlier this week, both transport secretary Chris Grayling, and his Labour counterpart Andy McDonald, said they felt Heathrow expansion had sufficient support among MPs to progress without hitting a snag in the House of Commons.

The Committee wants submissions on whether the revised passenger demand forecasts and air quality assessments have been "satisfactorily completed" and represented accurately, by the end of the month.

That could prove a contentious point for Gatwick, after the airport's chief executive Stewart Wingate said this week that the updated forecasts "effectively turns the Airports Commission work on its head".

"They completely undermine the basis of the case for expanding Heathrow," Wingate said at the Airports Operators Association annual conference on Monday.

This new consultation now acknowledges in black and white that expanding Gatwick is better for both the economy and the environment.

At the same time the updated forecasts for Gatwick are already out of date as they predict that Gatwick will be at 45m passengers in 2030 when we actually reached that milestone earlier this year.

Heathrow however, has said "now is not the time for reopening the debate into where a new runway should be located".

A spokesperson added: "This issue has been settled and we should all be focused on delivering a Heathrow expansion that will deliver economic benefits and jobs across the whole of the UK, helping the country make a success of Brexit."

Read more: London airports will be completely full by the 2030s

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