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It is a sign of the British political world’s current priorities that Theresa May has finally made the decision to opt for a third runway at Heathrow. She promised it was a decision for “jobs and growth”, both of which may be scarcer in the post-Brexit era in which the new runway will come into service. Pumping hope into the economy is now considered worth alienating every Conservative council and MP whose voters live under the flightpath of planes using the new runway, including Mrs May’s own Maidenhead constituents. It is worth at least one backbench resignation (and maybe a lost byelection) and a novel reinterpretation of the convention about cabinet responsibility in order to accommodate public dissent from at least two ministers. It is worth what will probably be millions of pounds fighting legal challenges over air and noise pollution. Most of all, the decision puts old-fashioned economics firmly ahead of tackling climate change, which turned out not to be worth a single mention in transport secretary Chris Grayling’s opening statement to MPs.
The decision, which has now to be incorporated into a national policy statement on aviation that MPs will vote on some time in the next 18 months, comes heavily gilded with incentives to local residents to take the money and keep quiet. About 750 homes will be subject to compulsory purchase: £1.5bn has been set aside to pay compensation at the market rate for the unblighted value of each home and for the resettlement costs of the residents. At least another £1bn will be paid out for noise insulation in schools and improvements in public facilities. There will be a new community resource fund. Mr Grayling promised MPs that there would be a 50% increase in travellers arriving at Heathrow by public transport, and the cost of improving road access would fall not to the taxpayer but to the developers. The £17bn bill for development is to be picked up by the developers and not passed on to air passengers. A senior retired judge has been appointed to oversee the consultation period. “This is not expansion at any cost, but the right scheme at the right price,” Mr Grayling declared.
Summer has arrived! Click the link below for information and our guide on how to host a green BBQ.