The planning process for Heathrow expansion is underway, with the airport today launching what is set to be one of the largest public consultations in the country’s history.
According to the airport, the consultation process is a major milestone in delivering an expanded airport.
It claims that Heathrow's upgrade would be Europe’s largest privately funded infrastructure project, and the "best way to keep the UK connected to global growth".
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For the next ten weeks, Heathrow will seek views on how to shape its plans so it can deliver the huge opportunities of expansion while keeping to the promises it has made to local communities and meeting strict environmental tests.
Over the past year, Heathrow has been working alongside local stakeholders and airline partners to evolve the plans it submitted to the Airports Commission.
This engagement, it says, has identified options to deliver an expanded hub airport for £2.5 billion less than previous plans – savings that it promises will help ensure that the airport's charges stay close to today’s levels.
The consultation launched today will prvide the public with an opportunity to view Heathrow’s emerging proposals and options in detail and provide feedback on them.
It will be composed of two parts – the first relates to the physical changes to the ground needed to build a new north-west runway and operate an expanded airport.
Feedback is being sought on potential infrastructure options including:
- Three shortlisted options for the new north-west runway with length varying from between 3,200 and 3,500 metres
- Potential locations to expand terminal infrastructure: east of Terminal 2, west of Terminal 5 or a new satellite terminal by the new runway
- Proposed alignment of the M25: repositioning it approximately 150 metres to the west, and lowering it by 7 metres in a tunnel and raising the runway height so it passes over the M25
- Options for changes to local roads and possible changes to two junctions leading to the M25
The airport is also asking for the public to review its plans to manage the effects of expansion on local communities and the environment.
The second part of the consultation relates to potential principles, or ‘rules’, that could apply when designing the new airspace required for an expanded airport.
Airspace across the country is being modernised as it has changed little since the 1960s.
The airport claims that "changes to airspace'will ultimately "improve resilience and punctuality for passengers while reducing noise, emissions and the number of late-running flights for local communities".
Responses can be submitted until the 28thof March at any of the 40 consultation events held across communities surrounding the airport and also online, via email or post.
Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s executive director expansion, said: “When the government announced its support for Heathrow expansion it made a clear commitment to keeping Britain open for business.
"We want an expanded Heathrow to be the world’s best airport, ensuring that our country and its future generations have the infrastructure they need to thrive.
“We need feedback to help deliver this opportunity responsibly and to create a long-term legacy both at a local and national level.
Heathrow is consulting to ensure that we deliver benefits for our passengers, businesses across the country but also, importantly, for those neighbours closest to us.”
• The airport's plans for the third runway were immediately slammed by groups supporting expansion by means of extending Heathrow's existing North Runway.
One such group, Heathrow Hub, blasted: “It is unbelievable that nearly six years into this process, Heathrow are still producing new ideas.
"This time, the airport claims it wants to move the M25 150 metres to the west, dig the motorway into the ground, cut the runway length and put it on a ramp. But there is precious little detail on how this will be done in practice, or what the implications will be of closing or restricting the M25.
"There are no detailed breakdown of costs and how these will be passed on to passengers and airlines. It is a Heath Robinson Plan.
“Both Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary and Theresa May, the Prime Minister, are yet again being taken for fools by a major infrastructure provider.
"They need to demand proper detail from Heathrow and ensure the Department for Transport understand it, rather than letting Heathrow get away with issuing yet more pictures.”