UK prime minister Theresa May insists a decision on airport expansion in London will be taken by the end of October.

May stated during a question session in Parliament on 19 October that the government will “take a decision this month” on the preferred location.

She was responding to a question from Theresa Villiers, of the Conservative party, who queried the need to consider a runway at Heathrow when expansion at Gatwick could be delivered at “half the time for half the cost”.

May replied that the Airports Commission had identified three “credible” and “deliverable” sites, but that the government had not yet reached a decision.

Once the UK government selects a preferred site, either London Heathrow or Gatwick, for runway development, the decision process will still have to run for months.

Airport expansion is being considered under a national policy statement mechanism, which is used for decision-making relating to nationally-significant infrastructure programmes.

Such statements undergo public consultation and scrutiny by Parliament before being formally published.

The government’s preferred location for a new runway will follow a recommendation from the UK cabinet’s sub-committee for economic affairs.

This will then result in a draft national policy statement being published at least a month later, which will be subjected to a public consultation – a process which will take up to 16 weeks.

Parliamentary scrutiny will follow, with the draft being examined by a “full-blown inquiry” covering the 12 weeks immediately after the public consultation, according to a timetable laid down earlier this year by former transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

Once the final national policy statement is laid out, a vote in the House of Commons, the lower house of the UK Parliament, takes place to approve it.

Upon approval of the statement – which may require revisions before a vote in favour is obtained – a development consent order is submitted by the project’s promoter to the planning inspectorate.

This triggers a six-month planning inquiry. The planning inspector presents a report to the UK transport secretary – currently Chris Grayling – within three months, who then announces a decision within three months.

After the transport secretary has disclosed the decision, a six-week window opens for possible judicial review.

The government has reiterated the planned schedule following the continuing delays to a formal announcement on the preferred location.

UK pilot union BALPA says it is “disappointed” that the decision has not become clear, accusing prime minister Theresa May of “more delay and prevarication”.

Expansion at London Heathrow had been the recommended option by the Airports Commission, but London Gatwick’s operator is continuing fiercely to promote its own alternative development proposal. The Commission’s chair, Howard Davies, believes the expansion could be in place by around 2025-26 if a decision is made quickly.

Source: Cirium Dashboard