Ministers approve Heathrow expansion over Gatwick - but long consultation awaits

Heathrow’s expansion programme management team will begin gearing up to deliver the airport’s £16bn third runway, after ministers approved its expansion over rival Gatwick today.

The team - comprising Arup, CH2M, Mace and Turner & Townsend - will immediately start work on Heathrow’s bid to secure a development consent order and expects to be 100-strong within a year.

Jason Millett, chief operating officer for major programmes and infrastructure at Mace, said: “We can start mobilising people now. Since our appointment [in March] we have been waiting for this moment.”

The expansion, concept designed by Grimshaw, is estimated to cost between £13bn - £16bn.

Today’s decision by ministers – which is now subject to a year-long public consultation and MPs’ vote next winter – was warmly welcomed by the construction industry.

But it still faces significant hurdles, with major splits in the cabinet and experts and environmentalists warning it could face years of legal battles.

Some ministers – including foreign secretary Boris Johnson and education secretary Justine Greening – will be allowed to speak out against it for a limited period. Fellow local Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith also said he would resign over the “catastrophic” decision, triggering a by-election

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “I am proud that after years of discussion and delay this government is taking decisive action to secure the UK’s place in the global aviation market - securing jobs and business opportunities for the next decade and beyond.

“A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the UK itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities.

“This isn’t just a great deal for business, it’s a great deal for passengers who will also benefit from access to more airlines, destinations and flights.”

Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick, said: “We are disappointed as we do not believe this is the right answer for Britain. Gatwick has put forward a credible financeable and deliverable plan for expansion.

“It is a plan that can guarantee growth and guarantee certainty for Britain. We look forward to studying the full reasons behind the Government decision in detail.

“The challenges facing Heathrow have not changed. Our message today is that Gatwick stands ready to proceed when the time comes.”