In a debate that went on late into the night, MPs yesterday backed controversial plans to build a third runway at London's Heathrow Airport, potentially ending decades of indecision over the future development of the UK hub.
The government won a key vote in the Commons by 415 votes to 119 Ц a majority of 296 to seemingly pave the way for the gatewayТs expansion.
But to think that it is all over may be premature as a cross-party group of London councils and the city's mayor, Sadiq Khan, have already indicated that they are ready to mount a legal challenge against the third runway.
Indeed, Matthew Riley, the UK managing director of engineering and design consultancy, Ramboll, cautioned: " УWhilst this is good news for the economy and our industry, the reality is that is has taken successive governments 20 year to make a decision, and we still have the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn saying he may reverse this decision if Labour form the next government.
"This whole process serves to demonstrate why politics alone cannot be allowed to dictate the fundamental needs of critical infrastructure in the UK.
T-shirts, caps, cups with original print --->>>
"The National Infrastructure Commission need to be given more power to influence long-term plans, as the current approach provides little reassurance to investors, who we will rely on to finance these investments. Going forward, it is essential that the government now provide full and consistent backing for this important addition to UK infrastructure.Ф
There was support for the decision from many quarters, including from the business group the CBI, which called it a "a truly historic decision that will open the doors to a new era in the UK's global trading relationships".
While Luton AirportТs CEO, Nick Barton, said: УThe House of CommonsТ approval of the Heathrow third runway is a welcome sign of the governmentТs commitment to providing much needed aviation capacity in the South East.
УThis is an important step forward which now needs to be backed up with swift and decisive action. This means ensuring all of LondonТs airports can make the best use of their existing capacity by improving links between rail and air and by modernising the UKТs airspace.Ф
And responding to approval of the Airports National Policy Statement, Karen Dee, chief executive of the UKТs Airport Operators Association (AOA), said: УA global Britain requires connectivity to both established and emerging markets right across the country and thus needs both world-class hub and point-to-point capacity.
УParliament has today recognised the importance of aviation connectivity and its approval of the Airports NPS for a north-west runway at Heathrow is an important step towards delivering that connectivity.
УIt is now vital that the government delivers an Aviation Strategy which sets out a clear and positive framework for aviation growth across the UK.
УAlongside the recently announced government support for all airports in their efforts to make best use of their existing runways, an ambitious Strategy is urgently needed to ensure that all airports have the capacity and the surface transport links necessary to connect communities and businesses with domestic and international markets.
УBetter connectivity will drive inward investment, develop new trading opportunities, bring tourists to the UK and create jobs and economic growth in all parts of the UK as a result.Ф
Not surprisingly, Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, welcomed the news, calling it a landmark decision that will unlock jobs and growth.
Heathrow said that it will now prepare an application for development consent which will see construction begin in 2021.
Holland-Kaye said: УParliament has ended 50 years of debate by deciding that Heathrow expansion will go ahead. This vote will see us deliver more jobs, create a lasting legacy of skills for future generations and guarantee expansion is delivered responsibly.
"We are grateful that MPs have made the right choice for Britain and today we start work to create the best connected hub airport in the world.Ф
Over the coming days, the Secretary of State for Transport is expected to designate the final Airports National Policy Statement approved by Parliament. This will set the policy framework for HeathrowТs northwest runway development consent application.
Heathrow is currently preparing to hold a second public consultation on its plans before submitting a development consent order application to the Planning Inspectorate, kick-starting an approval process expected to take 18 months.
In addition to HeathrowТs consultation, the development consent process will provide further opportunities for residents and stakeholders to influence HeathrowТs proposal.
If Heathrow is granted development consent, construction would begin in 2021 ahead of the new runway opening in 2026.