The U.K. government has formally announced that the crucial vote on the country’s National Policy Statement (NPS), which pertains specifically to London Heathrow Airport, will be postponed until the first half of 2018. The vote was originally supposed to take place later this year to approve the expansion of the airport. In its original proposal, the NPS highlighted the need for a new runway at the airport to support both current and future demand.
Transport Secretary of the U.K. Government, Chris Grayling, commented on this saying: “The timing of the election, in particular, the need to restart a select committee inquiry into the draft Airports NPS, means we now expect to lay any final NPS in Parliament in the first half of 2018, for a vote in the House of Commons.”
Grayling’s statement highlights the significant changes given the 2017 snap election, which has greatly changed the course of the Heathrow expansion.
A spokesperson on behalf of the airport stated that this vote will not delay the addition of the runway, as the group was expecting delays to occur either within the consultation process or during the confirmation votes made by the U.K. government. The consultation on the expansion, which closed in May 2017, received over 70,000 responses. Grayling has estimated that a response to those affected will be given when members of parliament come back from the summer holiday in September of this year.
This delay would also nerve up airlines, pilot unions and other areas of interest as the airport is already operating at around 99% capacity, meaning that new routes cannot be easily implemented, which is, therefore, blocking economic incentives for the airport and the surrounding areas of the country. It is expected that the various commercial interests will be applying pressure to the government to get the vote confirmed and approved so then the process can then physically begin.
British Airline Pilots’ Association General Secretary Brian Strutton commented on the delays as well, stating “Pilots and the travelling public are frustrated that this vital step towards expansion has once again been delayed. Aviation brings £52 billion ($68 billion) a year to the UK economy and we can’t afford these incessant delays to see the extra capacity become a reality.”
Overall, this delay shows to be even more of a hindrance to those affected. For homeowners that are still to find out the fate of their living arrangements, as well as to the airlines that have an interest in operations out of Heathrow. The longer the issue is caught up in government bureaucracy, the more the delays in the runway will harm both local and international stakeholders.
One major fear among those who represent U.K. aviation is that competition could dry away to other areas of the world. While Heathrow has been slow to make its decision on an additional runway, other airports in Europe such as Amsterdam Airport Schiphol have continued growing. This could eventually make Britain one step behind everyone else in the aviation industry, especially with the presence of BREXIT becoming much larger over the course of the next few years.
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