Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister whose Conservative Party won an impressive majority in the recent UK General Election, once said he ‘would lie down in front of the bulldozers’ to stop a third runway at Heathrow. He has always been against it. When he was Mayor of London he wanted a new airport to be build offshore in the Thames Estuary to eventually replace Heathrow. During the recent election campaign he was careful to keep his options open on the Third Runway.
What will he do now that he has been returned as Prime Minister with a big majority? There will be a lot of pressure on him from both supporters and opponents of a new runway. Heathrow Airport, together with many in the business community and some trade unions, argue that it is essential for UK business, particularly in a post-Brexit world. Environmentalists and many in the local community say that the cost of building the new runway is too high in environmental terms.
Planning for the runway is well advanced. In June 2018 members of Parliament voted in favour of a third runway by a large majority. That vote allowed Heathrow to start drawing up detailed plans for the runway. It has consulted on these plans and will present them to a Public Inquiry later this year. That inquiry will make a recommendation to the Government in 2021 about whether or not the runway should go ahead. The final decision will be made by the Government. That would be Boris Johnson’s opportunity to drop the runway.
At this stage nobody knows what he will do. He may not even know himself! One of the key factors which will influence his decision will be the views within the Conservative Party. Most Conservative members of Parliament back it but some of his closest allies at both a national and local level are opposed to it. Most prime ministers would go with the majority of MPs but Boris is not a typical Prime Minister. Watch this space…