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Government backs third runway at Heathrow Airport

The UK government has backed construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

The government has estimated that the runway will boost the UK economy by up to £61 billion, create 14 new regional routes and 16 million additional long-haul seats, and deliver up to 77,000 new jobs in the local area by 2040.

Local homes and businesses most affected by the expansion plans will be able to benefit from a share of a community mitigation package worth £2.6bn, to be provided by the government and Heathrow, according to the announcement. This will cover noise mitigation measures for affected homes and businesses as well as a compulsory purchase scheme.

Expansion costs will be paid for by the private sector, and the government expects the industry to deliver a plan for expansion that keeps landing charges close to current levels with minimal impact on the price paid by passengers, according to the announcement.

The independent Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, backed a new runway at Heathrow as part of its final recommendations to the government in June 2015. The commission, which was established to examine the various options for resolving the UK's growing need for greater air capacity, recommended a third runway for Heathrow as its preferred option, subject to certain concessions to address the airport's impact on the environment and local community.

The government has proposed to do this by way of introducing a six-and-a-half hour ban on scheduled night flights at Heathrow for the first time, as a condition of the expansion. The exact timing of this ban will be determined following consultation. It will also propose new legally binding noise targets, better community engagement measures and consider whether there is a role for a new independent body to oversee aviation noise, as recommended by the Airports Commission.

The new runway can be delivered within air quality limits if necessary mitigation limits are put in place according to the government, which has been examining the potential environmental impact of the expansion plans since the Airports Commission published its recommendations. The government also intends to make meeting air quality requirements a condition of granting planning approval for the scheme. The National Air Quality Plan, published in December 2015, requires improved public transport links for Heathrow, as well as the introduction of an ultra-low emissions zone for all airport vehicles by 2025.

The government intends to publish a draft National Policy Statement (NPS) on Heathrow expansion in the new year, which will be open to the public for consultation. The final NPS will be produced by the Department for Transport (DfT) at the end of the consultation period, and will be subject to a vote in the House of Commons. Heathrow will be required to apply for planning permission to the Planning Inspector in the usual way before construction can begin.

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