Heathrow expansion 'critical part of new prime minister's agenda', says airport boss

MPs have backed a third runway at Heathrow (Picture: PA)

The controversial expansion of Heathrow is going to go ahead, the boss of the airport has insisted.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye described plans for a third runway as “a fait accompli”, despite campaigners being given the go-ahead to mount a further legal challenge earlier this week.

He said the expansion, which was backed in Parliament by MPs last year, will be a “critical part of any new prime minister’s agenda”.

But the issue remains a thorny one for Boris Johnson, who famously campaigned against the third runway while he was mayor of London, even declaring he would lie down in front of bulldozers.

Mr Holland-Kaye refused to reveal when he last discussed the third runway with Mr Johnson, who became notably quiet about the expansion when campaigning to be Tory leader and prime minister.

Asked if he believes Mr Johnson could be persuaded that a third runway should be built, Mr Holland-Kaye said: "It's actually a fait accompli now.

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, says expansion is a "fait accompli" (Picture: PA)
Boris Johnson at a rally against the expansion of Heathrow in 2013 while he was mayor of London (Picture: PA)
Then mayor of London Boris Johnson signs a giant petition at a rally in 2013 against the expansion of Heathrow Airport (Picture: PA)

“The vote in Parliament with nearly a four to one majority means this is now happening.

"The judicial review process was a resounding success for the Department for Transport at the first stage, so this is now a reality and things have moved on.

"We're now making it happen. There are jobs now that we have created up and down the country that would be at risk if anything else was to happen, and hundreds of thousands more that we'll create as we expand.

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"So I don't think any prime minister would not want to see the benefits that come with Heathrow expansion."

On Monday, campaigners trying to block Heathrow expansion were given the go-ahead to challenge a High Court ruling over the controversial plans for a third runway.

A group of councils, residents, environmental charities and mayor of London Sadiq Khan brought four separate judicial reviews of the government's decision to approve the plans.

During a two-week hearing in March, they argued the plans would effectively create a "new airport" with the capacity of Gatwick and have "severe" consequences for Londoners.

An artist's impression of what the third runway at Heathrow would look like (Picture: PA)

Their cases were dismissed by two leading judges in May, but the campaigners were given the go-ahead to challenge that ruling on Monday.

Lord Justice Lindblom granted permission for a four-day hearing at the Court of Appeal in London, which will begin on October 21.

Giving reasons for his decision, which he made based on case documents without a hearing, the judge said: "The importance of the issues raised in these and the related proceedings is obvious."

The High Court case was brought against transport secretary Chris Grayling by local authorities and residents in London affected by the expansion, and charities including Greenpeace, Friends Of The Earth and Plan B.

A plane landing at Heathrow Airport in west London viewed from the village of Longford (Picture: PA)

The campaigners claimed the government's National Policy Statement (NPS) setting out its support for the project failed to properly deal with the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.

Support from Labour MPs helped push through the proposals to expand Europe's busiest airport with an overwhelming majority of 296 in a Commons vote in June last year.

Mr Grayling said at the time that the new runway would set a "clear path to our future as a global nation in the post-Brexit world". Construction could begin in 2021, with the third runway operational by 2026.

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