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Heathrow Airport

UK cabinet backs Heathrow third runway

But splits in the ruling party mean that the government may not win a parliamentary vote.

The UK government has finally given the green light to a long-awaited but controversial plan to build a third runway at London Heathrow, following years of delays and objections.

The announcement is a “historic moment”, transport secretary Chris Grayling claimed. But critics say it will damage the environment and cost taxpayers billions, The Guardian newspaper reports.

The move means that Prime Minister Theresa May and her cabinet of ministers back expansion, yet vocal opponents include Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary and former London mayor, and the international trade minister Greg Hands.

A final decision to boost flagging air capacity at London’s main hub now rests on a vote in the parliament. If the vote for a third runway fails in parliament, there is no plan B, officials say. The vote will be held within the next 21 days that parliament convenes.

Local opposition
Grayling says he recognises the strength of feeling the project generates in local communities, “but this is a decision taken in the national interest and based on detailed evidence”.

He added: “The time for action is now. Heathrow is already full and the evidence shows the remaining London airports won’t be far behind. Despite being the busiest two runways in the world, Heathrow’s capacity constraints mean it is falling behind its global competitors, impacting the UK’s economy and global trading opportunities.”

A third runway, he said, would bring benefits for the whole of the UK, not just London, and improving regional connectivity is part of the plan. Up to 15% of the new slots from the runway would be dedicated to improving domestic connections, he said.

The plan says there will be 6.5 hours at night with no flights, and up to £2.6 billion (€3 billion) will be available for local people in compensation for, among other things, noise insulation.

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