Charting the journey of the third runway from Margaret Thatcher to High Court via protests

Heathrow runway shutterstock_1479545393

Source: Shutterstock

Edward Heath shutterstock_96471287

Edward Heath


Harold Wilson’s Roskill Commission recommends Cublington in Buckinghamshire as the site for a new airport.


Edward Heath’s government opts for Maplin Sands on the Thames Estuary.


Margaret Thatcher decides against building an international airport in favour of expanding existing regional airports.


Margaret Thatcher


The Runway Capacity in the South East study concludes that Heathrow expansion is the only way to meet demand, but proposals for new runways at Heathrow and Gatwick are rejected two years later.


Future of Air Transport white paper recommends a third runway for Heathrow and more runways at Stansted, but there is little progress.


London mayor Boris Johnson proposes an airport in the Thames Estuary. The next year, Gordon Brown backs a third runway for Heathrow but, in opposition, David Cameron pledges to stop Heathrow’s plans.


Coalition rules out new runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick


Cameron sets up Airports Commission, under Howard Davies, to report after the 2015 general election in response to increasing pressure on the issue.


Davies backs Heathrow expansion. Cameron promises a decision by the end of the year but changes his mind due to concerns about the impact on the London mayoral election.


Howard Davies

25 October 2016

Theresa May’s government approves a third runway for Heathrow but the decision is subject to a long public consultation period followed by a vote in parliament towards the end of 2017.


Heathrow announces consultant team and starts work on planning application for new runway.

February 2017

The government lays out the conditions Heathrow must meet to get going with its expansion as part of a new public consultation.


Transport secretary Chris Grayling launches another consultation on the revised draft of the Airports National Policy Statement


Heathrow reveals plans to save £2.5bn on the cost of a third runway by dropping its dedicated new terminal. The new cost is estimated at £14bn.

January 2018

Heathrow opens a 10-week public consultation on its own expansion plans.


MPs on the transport select committee raise concerns about plans to expand Heathrow.

25 June

MPs give plans for a third runway the go-ahead, with the motion passing by 415 votes to 119.


Friends of the Earth launches legal action against the expansion.


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John McDonnell

May 2019

High Court dismisses legal challenges against Heathrow expansion. This is appealed by environmental groups including Greenpeace, and the mayor of London.


Heathrow says expansion has been delayed by up to three years after the aviation regulator rejected its plans to up spending before it gets approval.

February 2020

Third runway plans are ruled illegal over climate change concerns. Heathrow has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court.