Adding capacity at Heathrow airport
66. In 2003, our predecessor committee concluded
that the future of airport development in the United Kingdom would
be centred on targeted expansion of existing sites,
a third runway at Heathrow would mean the destruction
and relocation of a number of existing communities. Such a decision
cannot be taken lightly.
67. The need for a third runway at Heathrow was identified
in the Government's 2003 White Paper, The Future of
Air Transport. Proposals for a second runway at Stansted were
also backed by the White Paper. A second runway at Gatwickwhile
supported in principlewas ruled out before 2019, in accordance
with the 1979 planning agreement between the then British Airports
Authority and West Sussex County Council.
68. On 22 November 2007, the Department for Transport
published Adding capacity at Heathrow airport, a consultation
document on its proposals for a third runway and sixth terminal
to the north of the present site.
The Future of Air Transport was a policy document, as although
central government has no role in authorising development at airports,
in practice development relating to large areas of national infrastructure
does not take place without support from Government.
69. The current consultation document sets out three
scenarios for development at Heathrow and invites members of the
public to 'register their views', not on whether expansion should
or should not go ahead, but rather on the three critical tests
that expansion must pass:
- A noise limit - no increase
in the size of the area significantly affected by aircraft noise
(as measured by the 57dBA noise contour in 2002);
- Air quality limits - being confident of meeting
European air quality limits around the airport, in particular
for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which is the critical pollutant around
- Improving public transport access to the airport.
70. We asked Mr Nelson why BAA had only recently
advocated the development of a third runway. He told us that "up
to  there had been no government policy governing a runway
expansion, no runway built in the last 50 years, and to that degree
we have become very firm supporters of the policy."
BAA submitted a further memorandum, which gives a detailed history
of their policy towards expansion.
71. We questioned the Minister on the Government's
consultation on expansion.
The Minister told us he was "very confident [
we can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the severest public
scrutiny that those environmental standards can be demonstrated."
When the Minister was asked what would happen if the conditions
set out in the consultation document were not met, he told us
that "We are satisfied now. We said that we would not go
forward with support for the third runway unless we could satisfy
ourselves that we could meet the criteria on noise and air quality."
Implications of the Planning Bill
72. The length of the planning process for T5 was
formative in the Government's decision to change planning law.
The Planning White Paper mentioned the length of time it took
to get planning permission for T5:
The process for dealing with major infrastructure
projects, from submission of the proposal to decision in particular,
is too slow and complicated. It took seven years to get to a decision
on Heathrow Terminal 5.
73. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local
Government (Hazel Blears) presented a Planning Bill to the House
on 27 November 2007.
The Bill proposes "introducing a single consents regime for
major infrastructure projects, establishing an Independent Infrastructure
Planning Commission, and further measures to improve the Town
and Country Planning System".
The Bill removes the need for planning permission in the case
of nationally significant infrastructure projects.
The definition of "nationally significant infrastructure
projects" includes "the construction or extension of
It is almost certain, therefore, that any new runway or terminal
at Heathrow would be subject to the new planning regime envisaged
by the Bill, rather than the current system.
Parliamentary scrutiny of National Policy Statements
74. In the debate on 10 December 2007, the Secretary
of State for Communities and Local Government indicated that there
would be Parliamentary scrutiny of National Policy Statements.
The form that such scrutiny will take has yet to be decided but
we anticipate that this Committee will have a role to play in