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Airport Capacity and Airspace Policy

Volume 620: debated on Thursday 2 February 2017

Today I will be laying before Parliament a draft airports national policy statement and beginning a period of extensive public consultation on the policy proposals it contains. National policy statements were introduced under the Planning Act 2008 and are used to set out Government policy on nationally significant infrastructure projects. This draft airports national policy statement sets out the need for additional airport capacity, as well as the reasons why the Government believe that need is best met by a north-west runway at Heathrow.

The draft airports national policy statement, appraisal of sustainability of the draft airports national policy statement, incorporating a strategic environmental assessment, an assessment of the policy under the habitats and wild birds directive, a health impact analysis, and an equality impact assessment will be made available online.

The airports national policy statement, if designated, will provide the primary basis for making decisions on any development consent application for a new north-west runway at Heathrow Airport.

For a scheme to be compliant with the airports national policy statement, the Secretary of State would expect Heathrow Airport Ltd. to:

demonstrate it has worked constructively with airlines on domestic connectivity—the Government expect Heathrow to add six more domestic routes across the UK by 2030, bringing the total to 14, strengthening existing links to nations and regions, and also developing new connections;

provide compensation to communities who are affected by the expansion including noise insulation for homes and schools, improvements to public facilities and other measures. This includes establishing a community compensation fund and a community engagement board;

honour its commitment of payments for those people whose homes need to be compulsorily purchased to make way for the new runway or for those who take up the voluntary scheme of 25% above the full market value of their home and cover all costs including stamp duty, reasonable moving costs and legal fees;

put in place a number of measures to mitigate the impacts of noise, including legally binding noise targets and periods of predictable respite. The Government also expect a ban of six and a half hours on scheduled night flights;

set specific mode share targets to get more than half of airport users onto public transport, aimed at meeting its pledge of no more airport-related road traffic with expansion compared to today;

implement a package of industry-leading measures to limit carbon and air quality impacts both during construction and operation; and

demonstrate that the scheme can be delivered in compliance with legal requirements on air quality.

I have appointed Sir Jeremy Sullivan, the former Senior President of Tribunals, to provide independent oversight of the draft airports national policy statement consultation process and ensure best practice is upheld.

Consultation on airspace

We need to think about how we manage the rising number of aircraft in an efficient and effective manner. By taking steps now to future-proof this vital infrastructure, we can harness the latest technology to make airspace more efficient as well as making journeys faster and more environmentally friendly.

I am therefore also publishing proposals to modernise the way UK airspace is managed, which will be consulted on in parallel. The policy principles set out in this airspace consultation influence decisions taken later in the planning process for a north-west runway at Heathrow, if the airports national policy statement were to be designated, including how local communities can have their say on airspace matters and how impacts on them are taken into account.

It is an important issue and one that will define the principles for shaping our airspace for years to come. It is therefore sensible to allow members of the public to consider both matters at the same time.

The proposals being published for consultation today include the functions, structure and governance of an Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise, which we will establish. The Commission would build relationships between industry and communities, embed a culture of best practice, and ensure an even fairer process for making changes to airspace.

The proposed new call-in function for a Secretary of State on airspace changes, similar to that used by the Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government for planning applications, create a democratic back-stop in the most significant decisions, much called for by communities.

The consultation on airspace policy, new air navigation guidance and the strategic rationale for upgrading the UK’s airspace will be made available online.

Aviation strategy

The aviation sector is a great British success story, contributing around £20 billion per year and directly supporting approximately 230,000 jobs across the United Kingdom. It also supports an estimated 260,000 jobs across the wider economy.

I want to build on this success. My Department is currently progressing work to develop a new strategy for UK aviation.

This strategy will champion the success story of the UK’s aviation sector. It will put the consumer back at the heart of our thinking. The strategy will also explore how we can maximise the positive role that our world class aviation sector plays in developing global trade links, providing vital connections to both the world’s growing economies and more established trading partners. Connections that will only grow in importance as our trading network expands.

I will come back to the House to update you on our plans for the strategy as they develop over the coming weeks.

Consultation and parliamentary scrutiny

These two consultations will last for 16 weeks and close on 25/05/2017. At the same time, and as required by the Planning Act 2008, a period of parliamentary scrutiny (the “relevant period”) now begins for the airports national policy statement, ending by summer recess 2017.

I will be placing copies of all relevant documents in the Libraries of both Houses. Following consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, and assuming that in the light of these processes the decision is made to proceed, we expect to lay a final airports national policy statement before Parliament for debate and an expected vote in the House of Commons by winter 2017-18.