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Now that the Government has announced that Heathrow is its preferred option for expansion of airport capacity in the South East, the focus shifts to taking the project through the planning process. The planning process for major infrastructure sets out a number of phases and steps that Heathrow needs to go through to obtain development consent for the project.

​Estimated timeline of the next steps for Heathrow expansion


​The formal planning process now begins:

1.            National Policy Statement. The first phase is development of a document called a National Policy Statement (NPS), which Parliament debates and approves after a period of public consultation. The debate and vote is likely to take place in Winter 2017/18. This document is prepared by the Government and the consultation will be run independently of Heathrow by the DfT.

2.            Development Consent Order. As this takes place, we will develop our application for our Development Consent order (DCO). This will include two public consultations before submission of the application in 2019.

3.            Public Consultation. The application is then publicly examined by the Planning Inspectorate over a period of 6 months.

4.            Planning Inspectorate recommendation. The Planning Inspectorate then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for approval or rejection of the DCO.

5.            Constructions begins. Once the DCO is granted in around 2020/2021, construction can begin.

What is a National Policy Statement?

The Planning Act 2008 was introduced to streamline the consenting process for major infrastructure following the planning inquiry for Terminal 5, which was one of the longest in the UK’s history. National Policy Statements (NPSs) are part of that process. NPSs set out the Government’s objectives for the development of nationally significant infrastructure projects and the airports NPS is expected to outline things including:

•             The need for the third runway at Heathrow

•             How the third runway will contribute to sustainable development

•             How the NPS has been integrated with other Government policies

•             Circumstances where it would be particularly important to address the adverse impacts of the third runway development

The National Policy Statement will provide the framework against which Heathrow’s application for development consent will be decided and it will be approved by Parliament and designated by the Secretary of State before we can submit our final development consent application. 

What is a public consultation and how will it work?

National Policy Statements must undergo a process of public consultation before being voted on and approved by Parliament. This consultation will be run by the Department for Transport. We expect the draft NPS to undergo public consultation between January-April 2017, although this may change. 

Interested organisations and members of the public can comment on the draft version of the NPS. This is likely to be a key point for campaigners to try and influence the development of policy. 

The NPS is then laid before parliament, and is subject to a process of parliamentary scrutiny. This takes 4-8 weeks, and overlaps with the final weeks of the public consultation so that any comments received are allowed to inform a Parliamentary vote. The vote is expected to take place in winter 2017/18.