Expansion of Heathrow Airport with a third runway has been given the go-ahead, the government has confirmed.

Proposals to expand an existing runway at Heathrow or build a second runway at Gatwick were rejected

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: "The step that Government is taking today is truly momentous.

"I am proud that after years of discussion and delay this government is taking decisive action to secure the UK's place in the global aviation market - securing jobs and business opportunities for the next decade and beyond."

Mr Grayling said expanding the west London hub will improve connectivity in the UK and with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities.

He went on: "This isn't just a great deal for business, it's a great deal for passengers who will also benefit from access to more airlines, destinations and flights."

The transport secretary added that the decision will be "subject to full and fair public consultation", describing it as "hugely important" for those living near the airport.

He said: "We have made clear that expansion will only be allowed to proceed on the basis of a world class package of compensation and mitigation worth up to £2.6 billion, including community support, insulation, and respite from noise - balancing the benefits and the impacts of expansion."

A public consultation will now be held on the impact of a third runway before the final decision is put to MPs for a vote in the winter of 2017/18.

The government has proposed a six-and-a-half-hour ban on scheduled night flights will be introduced for the first time, as well as more stringent night noise restrictions.

The timing of the ban will be determined through a consultation.

It is unlikely any new runway capacity would be operational before 2025.

A number of groups have come out in support of Heathrow, including devolved governments, many business leaders and politicians.

But Gatwick insists it is the only project that can be delivered, citing concern about the noise and environmental impact of Heathrow expansion.

Some 783 homes will have to be demolished for the third runway, according to the Airports Commission.

This includes the entire community of Longford and much of Harmondsworth.

The Prime Minister has moved to head off possible Cabinet resignations by giving ministers freedom to speak out against the government's decision, with the possibility of Heathrow expansion fiercely opposed by foreign secretary Boris Johnson and education secretary Justine Greening.

Downing Street said any ministers wanting to voice their opposition to the plans would have to seek permission from the Prime Minister in advance.


Tory MP Zac Goldsmith immediately condemned the Heathrow third runway decision.

Mr Goldsmith wrote on his Twitter feed: "Following the government's catastrophic Heathrow announcement, I will be meeting my constituents later today before making a statement."

The MP, whose Richmond Park and Kingston North Conservative Association has said he will "honour his pledge" to resign and force a by-election following the decision, later said in a statement: "The government has chosen a course that is not only wrong, it's doomed.

"It's wrong because of the million people who'll directly suffer on the back of the environmental harms this project unavoidably produces, and doomed because of the complexities, the cost, the legal complications that mean that this project is almost certainly not going to be delivered.

"I believe this will be a millstone around this government's neck for many, many years to come - a constant source of delay, constant source of anger and betrayal among those people who will be directly affected."

Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, said: "This is deeply distressing news for the communities around this airport but this fight is far from over. Ultimately it will be for the courts to decide if this project goes ahead and the law is on our side.

“The airport boasts illegal levels of air pollution, woefully inadequate transport capacity and has Europe’s worst noise footprint, and that’s with just two runways.

"Expansion will make all of these severely damaging issues worse. It’s wrong on every level, legally undeliverable and will end in failure after years of wasted effort.

“The chaotic and repeatedly fudged process leading up to the Government’s announcement is also wide open to challenge on multiple grounds. There has been no meaningful consultation and key information like the location of new flightpaths remain a secret even now."

He added: "It looks like we’re heading back to the courts just as we did in 2010 after the Brown government backed Heathrow’s third runway.

"We overturned that decision in the High Court and nothing has changed since then to make expanding this airport any less damaging.”

Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, committed the council to continue to fight any expansion of the airport.

He said: “This is a dark and dismal day. It is dismaying news for all those who daily make their contribution to the national interest, by living with the impact of Heathrow.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has criticised the government for "running roughshod" over the concerns of the capital's residents.

Mr Khan said: "This is the wrong decision for London and the whole of Britain.

"Just five months ago I was elected as Mayor on a clear platform of opposing a new runway at Heathrow, a position that was shared by the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Green and Ukip candidates in that election.

"A new runway at Heathrow will be devastating for air quality across London - air pollution around the airport is already above legal levels of NO2.

"Heathrow already exposes more people to aircraft noise than Paris CDG, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich and Madrid combined. A third runway would mean an extra 200,000 people impacted, exposing 124 more schools and 43,200 more schoolchildren to an unacceptable level of noise.

"An expanded Gatwick would have boosted our economy without causing these huge air and noise pollution problems and it could be built quicker and cheaper.

"I will continue to challenge this decision and I am exploring how I can best be involved in any legal process over the coming months.

"Most urgently, the Government must set out how it's possible for Londoners not to suffer from the additional air and noise pollution that we know will be created by an additional runway at Heathrow.

"They also need to guarantee that they will fully fund the billions of pounds needed to improve road and rail connections to Heathrow - Londoners cannot be expected to pick up the bill for this."

John Stewart, chair of anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said: "Countless residents will be dismayed and distraught by this decision.

"Some will lose their homes. Some face the daunting prospect of living under a noisy flight path for the first time. And many others will get yet more planes over their heads.

"But real doubts must remain whether this new runway will ever see the light of day. The hurdles it faces remain: costs, noise, air pollution and widespread opposition including an expected legal challenge from the local authorities."

Tony Arbour, who chairs the London Assembly, said: "We are appalled that the government has decided to give the green light to expansion at Heathrow, despite the vast body of evidence to indicate this will expose Londoners to higher levels of deadly air pollution, intolerable noise and overwhelming congestion.

"The need for investment in public transport access for passengers and staff will be substantial in order to keep London's transport network working."

Justine Greening, education secretary and MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, has said she is "extremely disappointed" with the government's decision.

She said: "Along with many people in my local community, I am extremely disappointed with the decision to push ahead with a third runway at Heathrow.

"My views against expanding Heathrow, particularly on the impact of noise and air pollution on local residents and the weak economic case, are long-held and well-known.

"I will continue to represent the views of my constituents, not least during the forthcoming public consultation on the draft national policy statement announced by the Secretary of State for Transport today."

Jackie Clark, chairwoman of the Stop Heathrow Expansion Campaign, said: “Obviously it’s not the news we wanted to hear but it’s not come as a huge shock to us.

“But this is just another little hiccup in our long running campaign that we’ve been winning for many years.

“We’ve got legal plans in place so hopefully we will get this decision overturned as well.

“It’s a very unsettling time.

“I’m quite saddened by the fact that Zac has resigned because he was a very ardent supporter of ours.

“I had hoped he would have stayed, the Conservative Party need members like him, who have environmental issues at the top of their agenda.”

Peter Willian, chairmn of the Richmond Heathrow Campaign, said: “We don’t see this by any means as the end of the road on our opposition to the expansion and we don’t think that it will happen.

“We will be maintaining our opposition in all ways possible.

“We’re naturally very disappointed as we have done a lot of work on the economics as well as the environmental issues such as air quality.

“We just don’t see how, based on all the evidence, how it can go ahead. It was a political decision, it has to be.”