House of Commons Library

Heathrow Airport

Published Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This paper provides information on Heathrow Airport, including who owns it, how it is regulated, how it deals with noise and uses its runways and its plans to expand capacity with a third runway. It also sets out Government and regulatory policy in regard to the above and explains how the Parliamentary processes for approving a National Policy Statement and the planning processes for a Development Consent Order may proceed.

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Heathrow is the UK’s only hub airport. It is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority under an economic licence. The CAA is currently working on developing the regulatory framework for Heathrow to 2020 and beyond. Heathrow has measures in place to monitor and deal with noise and to compensate those affected; the Government expects it to extend these if its expansion plans are given the go ahead. It has also experimented in recent years with operational freedoms and changing departure routes. These too will have to be reassessed in light of a new airspace strategy and expansion plans.

In October 2016 the Conservative Government announced that it would support a planning application by Heathrow for a third runway to the north west of the existing site. This was in line with the recommendation of the Airports Commission, which reported in July 2015. Consequently, the Government published for consultation in February 2017 a draft National Policy Statement (NPS); a new draft NPS was published in October 2017 following the intervening June election. The NPS provides the framework and criteria against which a development consent application will be judged.

The draft NPS was scrutinised by the Transport Select Committee and they published a report in March 2018. The report contains detailed analysis of the case for a new North West Runway at Heathrow, including the strategic and economic case, the impact on the regions and domestic routes, costs, deliverability, community impacts, air quality, noise, carbon, and surface access.

On 5 June 2018 the Government published its response to the Committee’s report indicating those recommendations it accepted, partially accepted and rejected, and laid the final NPS before Parliament. It requires approval via a vote within 21 sitting days – a vote in the House of Commons is expected on 25 June.

The scheme is controversial, particularly amongst local communities. The Labour Party has just announced that the NPS does not meet the party’s four tests for approving Heathrow expansion. There are indications of multiple judicial review applications of the NPS if it is designated following the Parliamentary votes. Heathrow may proceed with a planning application, in the form of a Development Consent Order (DCO), once the NPS is designated.

Briefing papers on other airports and aviation policy issues such as noise and airspace can be found on the Aviation Briefings Page of the Parliament website.

Commons Briefing papers SN01136

Authors: Louise Butcher; Louise Smith; Elena Ares; Henry Midgley

Topic: Aviation

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