Supporting Heathrow Expansion

Today I spoke in support of developing an additional runway at Heathrow Airport. View my speech here: https://goo.gl/LQD1oS and read it below:

Behind the inquiry and report of the Transport Committee on the national policy statement on airports was our genuine desire to assist MPs when reaching their decision tonight. I have always been struck by the similarity of the NPS designation to the manner in which a local planning authority makes a local plan before developers promote site-specific applications for planning permission. Even if the NPS gains support this evening, Heathrow Airport Ltd will have to submit a development consent order for approval.

The Committee’s report included several recommendations that, in hindsight, would have been better addressed through the design process rather than the NPS. The Committee drew the following conclusions. We recommended that both Houses of Parliament allow the planning process to move to the next stage by approving the final NPS, provided that the concerns that we identified were addressed by the Government in the final NPS that it laid before Parliament. The issue is whether the 25 recommendations that the Committee made have been addressed. The Government maintained in their response to our report that they have largely done so, stating:

“The Government has welcomed and acted upon 24 of those recommendations, disagreeing with only one.”

Reviewing the Government response, the Committee Clerk found that the 24 recommendations were not to be found in the final NPS. I believe that the Government have taken note of our 24 recommendations, and taken action, but not necessarily within the NPS. In many cases, the Government do not believe that the outline planning NPS process is the right avenue for design-specific recommendations. They believe that the right place is in the development consent order or at a later juncture. As a result, the Government maintain that they have fully implemented or exceeded the action that we proposed; partially implemented the recommendation by updating the NPS or by publishing additional information; confirmed that proposals would be addressed later in the planning process; confirmed that action will be taken through other mechanisms or regulators; or agreed with the issue raised but disagreed that the NPS was the correct mechanism, believing that to be the development consent order process.

The Transport Committee has, in the last three parliamentary terms, been a supporter of Heathrow expansion rather than the alternatives. Our report supported expansion, provided that our concerns were addressed, and I believe that the Government have done so. This procedural difference in opinion is not going to stop me voting for Heathrow expansion this evening. Britain’s airport capacity is scheduled to run out by 2030. It was clear from our evidence sessions with neutral airlines that support all airports that we had to proceed, and that Heathrow was the only option on the table.