Since the launch of the Government’s consultation “Adding capacity at Heathrow Airport” in November 2007, controversy has been rife. Widespread concerns over both environmental and social impacts of the proposal have dominated headlines but the Government and BAA argue that a new runway is necessary for the survival of the airport which operates at close to maximum capacity.
In response to the Government’s Amber Light to the third runway protesters have become more ingenious in their plans to thwart BAA. Comedian Alistair McGowan, actress Emma Thompson, Tory environmental advisor Zac Goldsmith and Greenpeace jointly purchased a plot of land earmarked for the third runway and are encouraging others to do likewise. Although the Government can use its powers of compulsory purchase, the existence of hostile landowners will delay progress and increase costs.
The third runway will require Planning Permission and could be handled by the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). The Government stressed that its backing for the third runway comes with a clutch of conditions including: limits on the initial use to 125,000 flights a year. Any capacity increases will require the approval of the ‘2020 Climate Change Committee’, and even then only if strict air quality and noise conditions are met. The decision has been met with vocal criticism from environmentalists. The IPC may disregard any representations thought vexatious or frivolous thus potentially severely limiting the weight of objections made from those not within proximity of the airport.