The Department for Transport (DfT) yesterday published Aviation 2050: The future of UK aviation for consultation.
The document is intended to guide the growth of the aviation sector up to 2050 and, once finalised, would be government policy.
The draft strategy says the government is to ask the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) "to include airport capacity in future national infrastructure assessments (NIA) to determine whether there is a needs case for further runways".
NIAs are intended to analyse the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs, outline a strategic vision and set out recommendations for how the identified needs should be met. The first NIA was published in July but did not examine airports expansion.
The draft aviation strategy says that if a need for further runways is identified, plans could be brought forward "through a NIC sector study; an independent commission (like the Airports Commission); or an aviation national policy statement to either set out the criteria any development consent application would need to meet, or by naming airport(s)".
It says that, at this stage "the government’s preferred approach is an NPS to set out the criteria but not name specific airports, so leaving it to industry to determine whether and when to bring forward applications".
An NPS to guide the proposed expansion of Heathrow airport was approved by MPs in June.
Elsewhere, the document proposes "routinely setting noise caps as part of planning approvals" for increase in the numbers of passengers or flights at airports.
"The aim is to balance noise and growth and to provide future certainty over noise levels to communities. It is important that caps are subject to periodic review to ensure they remain relevant and continue to strike a fair balance by taking account of actual growth and the introduction of new aircraft technology", it says.
The consultation runs until 11 April 2019. The document says the government’s intention is that the final strategy – in the form of a white paper – will be published by "the middle" of 2019.