764: Airports NPS delayed as Transport Committee chair announced
Today’s entry reports on the latest news on the Airports National Policy Statement.
A draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) was published for consultation on 2 February 2017 and the consultation duly ended on 25 May. According to the consultation document (pp40-41), a finalised NPS was to be laid before Parliament in ‘Summer 2017 – winter 2017 / 2018’.
Today, Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling MP issued a written ministerial statement entitled ‘Aviation update’. This reveals a few new pieces of information.
First, the finalised NPS will not be laid before Parliament until ‘the first half of 2018’, for which I would read ‘on or shortly before 30 June 2018’. This is effectively a six month delay to the NPS, with a likely knock-on effect on the Heathrow North West runway project, caused mainly by the general election.
Secondly, there were over 70,000 responses to the consultation, which are now being analysed. I think that’s the largest ever number of responses on an infrastructure project (albeit technically only on the policy for an infrastructure project), more than the consultation on HS2 (54,909) and the Lower Thames Crossing (47,034). I predict that figure will be beaten by the statutory consultation on the Heathrow DCO itself.
Thirdly, new rules on night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted have been published. There are limits on the number of flights at night per half year, and on the total ‘noise quota count’ of each aircraft (where noisier aircraft make a higher contribution). In just over a year’s time, fairly quiet aircraft that used to be exempt will start counting towards the quota count. Simultaneously, the quota count limits at Heathrow and Gatwick are being cut significantly, although the count at Stansted will stay the same.
Meanwhile, elections have taken place for chairs of Commons Select Committees and the results were announced yesterday. The chair of the Transport Committee, which will conduct the Parliamentary scrutiny of the Airports NPS, is to be Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South and a former shadow Secretary of State for Transport.
The scrutiny of the NPS will re-start, and I understand that there will be no new call for evidence, the previous 75 responses being reused, although any hearings with witnesses are unlikely to take place before October.