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  1. ITV Report

Cabinet approves controversial Heathrow third runway

Critics say the plan is bad for the environment. Photo: PA Wire

The Government has given the go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow - to the dismay of campaigners.

The divisive issue was placed on the agenda when the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of ministers on the Cabinet’s economic sub-committee on Tuesday morning.

The committee signed off the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) before putting it before the full Cabinet for approval.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling confirmed the decision to MPs, who are expected to be given a vote on the NPS in the coming weeks.

Labour are demanding environmental tests are met before they consent to the expansion.

What measures are the government taking to limit damage?

The proposed new boundary of Heathrow. Credit: PA

He said the scheme – including £700 million for noise insulation for homes and £40 million to insulate schools and community buildings – was comparable “with some of the most generous in the world”.

He said that he also expected to see for the first time a six-and-a-half hour ban on scheduled night flights, and would be encouraging Heathrow and airlines to work with local communities to propose longer periods of respite during a further consultation on night flight restrictions.

What did Mr Grayling say to those opposed to the expansion?

Airport expansion in the South East faced strong opposition.

Mr Grayling acknowledged the concerns of people living around the airport, but said there was a £2.6 billion package for local communities towards the costs of compensation, noise insulation and improvements to public amenities.

He added: “My department has met with local residents and fully understands their strength of feeling but this is a decision taken in the national interest and based on detailed evidence.”

How has the government justified approval?

Proponents of building a third runway at the major hub say it is the best option to increase capacity and boost the national economy while being cost-effective.

“Expansion at Heathrow will bring real benefits across the country including a boost of up to £74 billion to passengers and the wider economy," Mr Grayling said. "This is a project with benefits which reach far beyond London.”

Mr Grayling said the final proposal "signals our commitment to securing global connectivity, creating tens of thousands of local jobs and apprenticeships, and boosting our economy for future generations by expanding Heathrow Airport".

Speaking to ITV News, he insisted that Heathrow was the right place to expand.

""The key to Heathrow is its position as our central hub airport.

"The reason that matters is it can deliver the roots to new markets around the world that no other airport really can."

However critics warn the plan is “expensive and complex” and bad for the environment, while one group hinted legal action may be taken against the Department for Transport (DfT) over its “dodgy” handling of the process.

Alternative schemes include expanding Gatwick Airport in West Sussex.

Why are MPs so divided on the plans?

The government announcement made gloomy news for MPs from across the divide whose constituencies are already affected by Heathrow air traffic.

According to reports, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the MP for Henley, could be forced to vote against the Prime Minister, while former transport secretary Justine Greening, who represents Putney, has also been a vocal critic.

On Monday, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, whose Twickenham seat stands to be affected by expansion, branded the scheme “ill-conceived”.

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Meanwhile Extend the Runway, a group advocating increasing capacity by lengthening the airport’s northern runway, said the DfT “lacks both expertise and attention to detail” and had not listened to its proposal.

“People should have zero confidence that the DfT ave run a rigorous process on Heathrow’s expensive and complex plan,” the group said on Twitter.

The No Third Runway Coalition, which counts Sir Vince and Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell among its members, said the DfT’s process had been “dodgy and has favoured Heathrow Airport Ltd from the start”.

“That will be proven in court, if it comes to it,” they added.

The Aviation Environment Federation said it is “extremely unlikely that the Government will have been able to find solutions to key challenges related to the environmental impacts of expansion”.

The group said: “The Aviation Strategy, which is being taken forward under a separate process to the Heathrow NPS, will set out how the environmental impacts of aviation nationally should be tackled, but will not be consulted upon until later this year with publication of the final strategy not expected until the middle of next year.

“The decision on Heathrow is set to be taken, therefore, in the absence of any policy on how to tackle aviation’s carbon emissions, so with no clarity on whether limits on aviation growth will be needed in order to meet climate change obligations.”

The GMB union’s Scotland senior organiser, Louise Gilmour, said: “Heathrow’s expansion is about far more than the status of the airport as Britain’s global hub. The bigger prize is the significant multiplier effect of this expansion which should mean jobs and growth for Scotland.

“The increased capacity of a third runway should mean more domestic flights, greater connectivity and significant opportunities for our civil aviation sector and the supply chains to develop on their existing operations and compete for new infrastructure contracts.

“For staff directly employed in the sector, Heathrow expansion should mean sustaining and growing jobs in services like ground and cargo handling and aircraft maintenance and repair; defending jobs, wages and communities from Renfrewshire to the Highlands.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to boost our economy and we cannot afford to waste it. We need everyone to pull together across industry, politics and the trade unions to take advantage of the benefits.”