PM gives timescale for new runway
A timescale for the airport expansion process has been revealed today in a letter from the Prime Minister Theresa May to Cabinet colleagues.
The letter gives an indication of the difficulty of reaching a decision considering the strong feelings against Heathrow expansion held by some members of the Cabinet and Theresa May herself.
Whatever the views and personal knowledge of the Cabinet members, they have been backed into a corner by the Airports Commission. It reduced 50 possible options down to three - two of which were at the same airport, Heathrow, where every attempt to build a third runway over the past 70 years has ended in failure.
The other option is Gatwick but, having let Sir Howard Davies spend three years and at least £15m of taxpayers' money on his report, it would be difficult to be seen to totally disregard the Airports Commission's recommendation to expand Heathrow.
Next week we will discover how the dilemma was resolved when the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, announces the "preferred scheme".
In an unprecedented move, Theresa May will allow Ministers who have already spoken out against the preferred scheme or have a directly-affected constituency to make their feelings and those of their constituents known following the announcement. However, they will not be allowed to criticise the government in the Commons nor to actively campaign against the government.
The next part of the process is a consultation period when views will be sought on air space (but not specific flight paths), night flights and local impacts.
Consultations should be complete by summer 2017. A final decision in the form of a National Policy Statement will then be put to Parliament in the winter of 2017/18.
Well that is Theresa May's planned timetable. If the "preferred scheme" is Heathrow, the PM is facing a very difficult year or two ahead.