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17 January 2018

785: Heathrow launches consultation on third runway

Today’s entry reports on a consultation launched by Heathrow Airport Ltd.

Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) has launched a non-statutory consultation on the project to build a third runway at the airport. The consultation runs from today until 28 March. The consultation website is at This is not to be confused with the consultation on the (revised draft) Airports National Policy Statement, which closed on 19 December, and which is on the policy to have a new runway and what impacts any application for it should deal with.

There are actually two consultations starting today: one on the new runway project and one on airspace change. 30 documents have been published (you have to click the ‘show more results’ button four times to see them all at

  • an airport expansion consultation document (72 pages);
  • an airspace principles consultation document (24 pages);
  • the case for Heathrow expansion (9 pages);
  • Our Emerging Plans (222 pages) – this has the most detail on what is proposed;
  • various information and policy papers;
  • four papers for communities around the airport;
  • six ‘our approach to…’ papers on various topics such as noise and air quality;
  • a scheme development report;
  • Heathrow’s strategic brief;
  • Our Plan for Sustainable Growth; and
  • Heathrow Airport Operations Handbook.

There are 40 consultation events planned, between 30 January and 12 March. Details can be found here. I thought I’d go to one headed ‘West End’ until I realised it is a village near Woking.

So what does the project consist of?

  • a runway, of course, in one of three slightly different positions and lengths (two of the options are for a 3,200m rather than 3.500m runway);
  • up to three terminal extensions, to the west and east of the existing terminals 2 and 5, and between the new runway and the existing northern runway;
  • new taxiways in up to three locations, all to the west of the airport;
  • diverting the M25 to the west, lowering it into a tunnel and building the new runway over it. Junction 14 will need to be altered, and junction 14a to terminal 5 will either be altered or closed;
  • diverting a section of the A4 one of three ways, two to the north of the new runway and one to the south;
  • diverting the A3044 in one of four ways in one location and another four ways at another junction;
  • diverting five rivers either around or under the new runway;
  • providing new flood storage areas either at the airport or to the north west;
  • ten possible areas (by my count) for new airport facilities around the airport, two to the south, two to the west and the rest to the north west; and
  • some but not all of 13 possible sites (by my count) for new car parks, one below the runway (it’s getting crowded down there).

The feedback form is a series of open-ended questions like ‘Please tell us what you think about our approach to providing car parking and the potential site options we have identified’. There are 35 questions that must be answered in sequence.

Oddly, I have seen a notice in the Guardian about the consultation that sets out the details of what is proposed but not the consultation events, and a notice in the Metro that only sets out details of the consultation events. No notice in the Times, but an article about how a shorter runway is being proposed.


Although it may not seem like it given the history of the Airports Commission and then the National Policy Statement, this is finally the first consultation exercise that directly relates to one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country. With the information only having been published at 7am this morning the above is just a quick summary and the below is a preliminary view.

Interestingly, the revised draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) says that it applies to ‘schemes at Heathrow Airport that include a runway of at least 3,500m in length’. If one of the two 3,200m runway options goes forward, then the NPS will not apply to the project – in fact it won’t apply to any project.

While construction impacts of most infrastructure projects are often greater than operational impacts, for airports it is certainly the latter that are the greater. Many thousands of people will be affected by air quality and noise, and transport congestion if not enough new capacity is provided.

On surface access, I will be interested to see what HAL is proposing to provide or pay for, or whether it is relying on others’ proposals to provide more capacity (and whether that capacity was supposed to be to deal with Heathrow expansion or not).

On air quality, I would like to see the estimate for how many new vehicles will be on the roads as a result of expansion. There are commitments to improving the proportion of trips by public transport, which is a step in the right direction, but if that still means a significant number of additional vehicles it may not be possible to show that air quality targets will be met as quickly as before.

On noise, the documentation states ‘our committed goal is to expand Heathrow whilst affecting fewer people with noise than today’, but will that be enshrined in the Development Consent Order, and will those people be individually more affected?

The option numbering is a bit confusing – Option 2ai, option AB1, option S5, option 5* feature at various points. It doesn’t matter what their previous internal option numbering was, for the purposes of this consultation it would be easier if it were just options 1a, 1b, for one issue, 2a, 2b for the next and so on.

On land acquisition, there is an indicative compulsory purchase zone containing 760 residential properties and a ‘wider property offer zone’ containing 5,500 residential properties. Owners in either of these zones will be able to sell their properties to Heathrow should the project get development consent (expected by HAL to be in 2021).

As a firm we are available to advise those affected by the project on how to protect their interests, so if you would like to know more, please get in touch at

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