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Government announces runway approval

January 15, 2009

The much-maligned expansion proposals of Heathrow Airport have been given the green light by the Government, after Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon announced to the Commons that plans to build the third runways will get underway in 2015.

Following months of protests and dissent among MPs - a period which has seen the announcement of the decision be deferred on more than one occasion - the news will come as a blow to protesters and residents of the surrounding areas. The construction of a third runway and sixth terminal is will sound the death knell for the village of Sipson, whose 2,000 homes will be demolished to make way for the site.

In addition to the major expansion of the airport, the proposals have also been devised to improve public transport facilities, including a high-speed rail link between London and the north with a link from St Pancras in Central London to Heathrow.

In his announcement to the Commons, Hoon outlined plans for limiting noise and emissions - with "only the cleanest planes being allowed to use the new slots that will be made available" - and emphasised that inaction to expanding Heathrow would be damaging to the UK economy.

Despite the proposals being set to proceed, it is anticipated that there will be a protracted legal battle with campaigners, while environmentalists concerned with the effects of the third runway will keenly anticipate details of the new safeguards that will limit emissions. Many protesters have already voiced opinions that the runway will go against Government plans to cut emissions by 80% by 2050, while concerns are also in place that the expansion breaches the European limit on air quality that comes into force in 2015.

In response to the news, BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: "This decision opens the door to Heathrow becoming a truly world class hub airport, and to the UK maintaining the direct connections to the rest of the world on which our prosperity depends.

"Meeting the environmental targets will be demanding but, whilst we have to study the detail in today's announcement, we are determined to work with the rest of the aviation industry to achieve them.

"We are also fully aware that today's decision will be a difficult one for many, particularly those residents who will be directly affected by it. We intend to work with the local community as much as possible as we go through the planning process."

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