The Government will tomorrow make a decision on where a new runway for the south should be built and Heathrow is expected to be the winner.
But it is expected that Gatwick could also be allowed to expand at a later date. The decision will then be subject to consultation ahead of a vote by MP’s in early 2018.
The decision will bring to an end a debate going back fifty years and with it new rows. Whichever airport is selected is likely to lead to campaigners going to court to try to stop the plan.
At both airports views are divided. Those who support the plans say they will create tens of thousands of jobs and boost the economy, particularly post-Brexit, when we need to be connected to all parts of the world. Campaigners against say there will be hundreds of thousands more flights with extra noise and emissions.
Airlines will welcome the news but say it should not be at the cost of increased airport fees to pay for it. IAG, the owner of British Airways, say an extra £40 could be added to a return fare by the expansion at Heathrow, which will cost £17.6 billion.
The decision is the start of the planning process and not the beginning of the diggers. Consultation, planning inquiries and court reviews mean the earliest the new runway could open is 2025.
And the plan at Heathrow means putting the M25 in a tunnel so the new runway can run over it. That will be a challenge. At Gatwick 200 properties will need to be demolished. At Heathrow it is nearer 800. A property compensation scheme will give those affected the opportunity to sell at above the market rate.
With airport capacity fast running out a decision is at last being made. But history has shown it has been difficult. In 2009 a third Heathrow runway was approved by the Labour Government. The Conservatives who won the next election set up the Airports Commision to review it.
They came up with two options at Heathrow – a new runway and extending an existing one – or a new runway at Gatwick.
Tomorrow will see the latest twist in the debate and the start of a major new battle.