UK government backs third runway for Heathrow Airport | News | DW | 25.10.2016
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UK government backs third runway for Heathrow Airport

Britain's government has given the green light to plans for a new runway at London's Heathrow Airport. The decision comes despite opposition from senior cabinet members and criticism from environmental activists.

The UK government backed plans on Tuesday to build a new $22 billion (20.2 billion euro) runway at Heathrow Airport, ending 25 years of indecision.

"This decision demonstrates that as we leave the EU we can make a success of Brexit and Britain can be that open, global, successful country we all want it to be," Prime Minister Theresa May told the "Evening Standard" following the government's announcement.

Likewise Transportation Secretary Chris Grayling told reporters that the decision shows the "country is very clearly open for business" after the nation's vote to leave the European Union.

The government said in a statement that the airport will create 77,000 additional local jobs over the next 14 years while the airport has committed to creating 5,000 new apprenticeships. They also proposed legally binding noise targets to provide relief for local residents.

Ministers also rejected a rival bid for a second runway at London's southern Gatwick airport, as well as other options to expand Heathrow's capacity.

Strong opposition

Tuesday's decision was met with fierce opposition from politicians, environmental activists and local residents. London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted on Tuesday that there is "cross-party opposition" to Heathrow's expansion, while a proposal for expanding London's Gatwick airport has "cross-party support."

"This is the wrong decision for London and the whole of Britain," Khan said in a statement, adding that the new runway will further expose people to increased levels of air and noise pollution.

Some senior members of May's cabinet also oppose the Heathrow expansion, including Foreign Secretary and former London Mayor Boris Johnson as well as Education Secretary Justine Greening.

May's spokeswoman, however, said the decision was unanimously reached by a committee of senior ministers.

Communities razed

The proposed new runway will see entire communities leveled, with compensation and mitigation estimated to cost $3.2 billion (2.9 billion euros). Residents argued they had been betrayed by politicians who said they would block an expansion before being elected into office - only to change their minds later.

Heathrow Airport is set to lose its ranking as Europe's largest hub to Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport by 2020, with Heathrow's two runways limiting the airports total number of flights per year. London and southeastern England need more airport capacity to meet growing demands of tourists and business travelers.

Tuesday's decision will be studied further and the British Parliament will vote on the plans in about a year.

rs/rc    (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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