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A timeline of the Heathrow expansion: What happens next?

The expansion plan for Heathrow Airport involves building a third runway to the northwest of the existing two runways (PA Archive)
The expansion plan for Heathrow Airport involves building a third runway to the northwest of the existing two runways (PA Archive)

Heathrow Airport’s long-standing Chief Executive Officer, John Holland-Kaye recently revealed that he will be leaving his role in the coming months after nine years.

Over the selection and handover periods, Holland-Kaye will remain as CEO to make sure the transition is smooth, but he has made it clear that his successor will likely focus on delivering the expansion project.

He told The Independent: “We are still committed to expansion. We’ve already started some of the preliminary work on expansion, now that we have started to have the bandwidth to do that. We’ll be saying more about our plans with that later this year.”

Plans to expand Heathrow Airport had been put on ice after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But, the outgoing CEO believes that the pandemic showed “just how important it is” for a third runway to be built to increase the facility’s capacity and strength.

If you’ve been wondering what the expansion project is all about and what the biggest issues with it are, here is everything we know.

What is the Heathrow expansion?

Back in 2015, an Airports Commission that studied London’s airport capacity problems suggested that Heathrow was given a new runway. The suggestion was approved under Theresa May’s leadership.

In 2020, the Court of Appeal ruled that the decision to allow the expansion to go ahead was unlawful because it didn’t take into account the country’s climate commitments. But the Supreme Court concluded that the strategy was based on the climate targets at the time, which were less stringent.

The expansion plan for Heathrow Airport involves building a third runway to the northwest of the existing two runways, which Heathrow says will create “tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic benefits to the UK”.

It would also allow for an additional 260,000 flights per year to be created.

The plan would also see several new facilities get constructed both on and off the airfield. For instance, a new terminal to the west of Terminal 5 would be built.

The expansion proposal is currently paused but before that, Heathrow was consulting with the Government, investors, airline customers and regulators to decide on the next steps.

What are the aims of the Heathrow expansion?

The main goal of the expansion is to increase the number of flights the airport can facilitate. This, in turn, would create new jobs and boost the British economy.

Heathrow also says that the expansion will “allow Britain as a sovereign nation to compete more effectively” by helping the “Government’s ambitions for Global Britain to become reality”.

What are the biggest issues?

The biggest complaints about the Heathrow Airport expansion proposals have been from environmental and local groups.

Environmental groups have shared that the new runway will bring about immense air pollution and add to the UK’s carbon emissions by introducing hundreds of new flights per year.

Talking to the BBC, Green MP Caroline Lucas has previously said the proposal made “a mockery” out of the government’s 2050 carbon-neutral strategy, while Labour MP Rupa Huq pointed out that “Heathrow is the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in Europe”.

Locals are also against the plans. They have shared that they don’t want the noise pollution to increase and are concerned about what the expansion will do to their neighbourhoods. The proposal would see hundreds of homes being demolished to make space for the new runway and facilities.

Heathrow has committed to paying the full market value plus 25 per cent for the properties in its compulsory purchase zone, but not everyone is on board with the plan.