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UK starts 16-week consultation on proposed third Heathrow runway

Public consultation on the proposed third runway at London Heathrow airport begins today and will last for 16 weeks.

The UK government has published its Draft Airports National Policy Statement, which in the words of the Department for Transport "sets out the need for additional airport capacity in the southeast and the reasons why a northwest runway at Heathrow is the government's preferred scheme". The statement also details the planning policy framework with which Heathrow must to comply in order to get development consent.

A series of "local information events" will be held as part of the consultation. "Around the airport, there will be 20 one-day events for members of the public," says the department. "There will be a further 13 events taking place in the nations and regions across the UK for business, industry and other interested parties."

The consultation will be overseen by retired judge Jeremy Sullivan.

In keeping with the 2008 planning act, the draft policy statement will in parallel be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny. Once the consultation and parliamentary scrutiny are concluded, a final version of the statement is to be laid before parliament for debate and a vote in "winter 2017-18", says the department.

In order to meet the draft statement's preconditions for development consent, Heathrow must ensure regional connectivity by increasing its number of domestic routes by six to 14 by 2030. This will involve adding services to Belfast, Durham Tees Valley, Humberside, Liverpool, Newquay and Prestwick.

Additionally, the airport must provide "a world-class package of support for communities affected by expansion including noise insulation for homes and schools and improvements to public facilities".

Required noise-mitigation measures span legally binding targets as well as "periods of predictable respite" and a 6.5h night-flight ban. Heathrow must also ensure "no increase in airport-related road traffic" and that more than half of passengers use public transport to access the hub. Homeowners involved in compulsory purchases, meanwhile, must be paid 25% above market value, plus costs.

In welcoming the launch of consultation, IAG chief executive Willie Walsh focuses on the need for the scheme to be cost efficient, stating: "Heathrow is the world's most expensive hub airport so keeping costs flat is critical; otherwise, it will price itself out of the market. It is vital that new infrastructure is affordable.

"The third runway will be funded by airlines and their passengers, not by public money. Therefore, customer charges must not increase from today's level if the airport is to have a future."

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