Heathrow Third Runway Approved

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The Government have officially announced that the third runway at Heathrow is to be built.

It is expected that new limits on emissions will be announced and only newer, more environmentally friendly aircraft will be allowed to use the runway.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon announced increased investment in public transport, including a new high-speed rail link from the airport to central London.

BAA's Chief Executive, Colin Matthews, has welcomed the news. He said, "This decision opens the door to Heathrow becoming a truly world class hub airport, and to the UK maintaining the direct connections to the rest of the world on which our prosperity depends."

He promised to work with the local community as much as possible during the planning process.

John Stewart of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN) says that as the new runway will be to the north of existing runways, parts of Shepherd's Bush would be directly affected: "The new flight path will be to the north of the existing northern flight path which runs just south of King Street in Hammersmith. The new flight path is likely to be between Hammersmith town centre and Shepherd's Bush. There will be a plane using it every 90 seconds throughout the day. There is also likely to be a new take-off route over the Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush areas," he said.

The Conservatives have pledged to reverse the decision if they win the next election. Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said Gordon Brown was "deaf to the concerns of his own party and millions of people living under the flight path". The Prime Minister has refused to guarantee that MPs will get to vote on the decision.

There have been predictions that west London Labour MPs, including Shepherd's Bush MP Andy Slaughter, might lose their seats in the next general election over this issue. "At the heart of this, the third runway will increase the capacity of Heathrow more than the size of any other airport in the UK, except Heathrow or Gatwick. It's like putting a new airport there, and this is the wrong place for an airport - that's the basic premise," Slaughter told the BBC.

Local Liberal Democrats say they will use "every weapon in the armoury, including taking the Government to court" to try and prevent expansion at Heathrow. "LibDems in the European Parliament are taking the fight against the third runway to Brussels. The Government must not defy EU air and noise pollution limits which protect our quality of life," said west London's European spokeswoman for the LibDems, Dinti Batstone.

About 700 homes will have to be demolished to make way for the runway, which will increase the number of flights using Heathrow from about 480,000 a year now to 702,000 by 2030.

Earlier this week an alliance of celebrities, politicians, scientists and Greenpeace bought a plot of land earmarked for the third runway in the hope of stalling the Government's expansion plans.

West London resident and one of the land's high profile owners Alistair McGowan said, "Now that we own it, we'll never sell it to them [BAA] and we're confident that we'll be joined by people from all over the world who will help us defend it."

January 15, 2009