Senior legal figure to oversee airports consultation

The former senior president of tribunals Sir Jeremy Sullivan has been appointed by the government to oversee the consultation process on the forthcoming national policy statement (NPS) against which the planning decision on Heathrow's third runway will be decided, the transport secretary has announced.

Heathrow: consultation on aviation NPS to begin in the new year (picture by Jez, Flickr)
Heathrow: consultation on aviation NPS to begin in the new year (picture by Jez, Flickr)

Speaking yesterday in Parliament, Chris Grayling said that an NPS published in the new year "will set out in more detail" why the government believes its preferred scheme to build a third runway at Heathrow "is the right one for the UK".

The government confirmed yesterday that a committee of ministers had selected a new runway at Heathrow in west London as its preferred option for airport expansion in the South East.

Grayling told MPs that the NPS "will also set out in more detail the conditions we wish to place on the development". A consultation on the NPS will start in the new year and the government has appointed Sir Jeremy Sullivan to oversee the consultation process, Grayling said.

"This is an independent role, and Sir Jeremy will be responsible for holding the government to account and for ensuring that best practice is upheld," Grayling added.

Grayling told MPs that "only once members have voted on the final NPS and it has been designated" will Heathrow Airport be able to make a planning application.

"That means that Heathrow will be able to submit a planning application safe in the knowledge that the high-level arguments have been settled and will not be reopened," Grayling said.

The government’s announcement that it favoured a third runway at Heathrow prompted the resignation yesterday evening of Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, whose Richmond Park constituency lies under the flightpath.

Goldsmith will stand as an independent in the forthcoming by-election, but the Conservatives have said that they will not contest the seat.

A group of councils, including a district that includes part of Prime Minister Theresa May’s constituency, have signalled that they are prepared to take legal action to halt the third runway.

In a statement, the London Borough of Wandsworth said that solicitors jointly appointed by Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, Windsor and Maidenhead councils and Greenpeace UK are now examining the government’s aviation announcement in detail and a legal strategy will be developed over the coming days.

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