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Heathrow (Fourth Terminal)

Volume 932: debated on Wednesday 18 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will cause a public inquiry to be held into the proposal of the British Airports Authority to establish a fourth terminal at Heathrow Airport.

In the light of the views being received from the local authorities which have been consulted, my right hon. Friend is urgently considering whether it would be expedient for him to make or approve a direction to make the BAA's present proposal the subject of normal planning control. This would be an essential first step towards any statutory public planning inquiry.

But an Article 4 direction does not necessarily produce a planning inquiry, does it? It is not the necessary preliminary to a planning inquiry, is it? Therefore, will the Minister use his inherent authority to order a public inquiry, or will he employ his statutory authority, following an Article 4 direction, to ensure that there is a public inquiry into a development of this magnitude, which has aroused such strong reservations in all the surrounding areas?

I beg to differ with the hon. and learned Gentleman. The possibility of building a fourth terminal lies within the general development area of the British Airports Authority, but it is open to any of the local authorities—of which there are a number involved—to make an Article 4 direction, or it is open to my right hon. Friend to do so. But before my right hon. Friend determines whether to make an Article 4 direction, we must see that each local authority concerned is properly consulted. We are expecting to take in those views shortly. On that basis, and on that basis alone can the question of a public inquiry arise. At that stage, it becomes part of the normal planning process.

The Minister talks of local authorities having to be properly consulted. Is he aware that there is grave concern about the fourth terminal in Outer London, and that no consultation whatever has taken place with the London borough of Richmond upon Thames? Will he explain why that has not occurred?

There are a number of local authorities whose planning powers are directly involved. Those are the planning authorities which have been consulted. I wish to make clear that two of those authorities are the Greater London Council and Surrey.

Further to the supplementary question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle), is the Minister aware that the London borough of Richmond upon Thames, which includes Twickenham, is very near to Heathrow but does not touch it? If the purpose of planning consultation is to ascertain whether people will be adversely affected by any development, it must be right that people who will be heavily overflown by additional aircraft that might result from the fourth terminal should be consulted through their local authority? Will he bear that in mind in deciding whether to hold a public inquiry?

The hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that we are talking of an Article 4 direction. It is open to certain authorities to make such a direction. That is the reason why, pre-eminently, they are being consulted. The boroughs to which reference has been made obviously can make their views known through the GLC.

Will the Minister assure the House that the Secretary of State will reach his decision on this matter by the end of June?

I am not my right hon. Friend, but I am sure that he will make his decision as expeditiously as he can.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, Mr. Speaker, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.