London Heathrow's Third Runway and Expansion: What You Need To Know


England's London Heathrow Airport (LHR/EGLL) is Great Britain's largest and busiest airport, both in terms of passengers transported and aircraft movements in and out of the airport.


However, with the airport running at 98% capacity for the last couple of years or so, there have been a plethora of limited gate spaces available to smaller airlines and thus, many are moving to London's smaller Gatwick Airport (LGW/EGKK) in search of more space and cheaper airport costs.


The reason for expanding Heathrow is simple: Being the only hub airport in the UK, it is responsible for nearly 75% of the long haul flights in and out of the region, and is also the largest and most valuable trade port for England outside of the European Union and Switzerland. Britain, seeing how their European competitor's airport facilities have continued to grow and expand, attracting foreign investors and the growing tourist markets from China and other parts of Asia has been the main cause for expansion. Since Heathrow has been operating at nearly full capacity, it has not been able to expand to attract the growing tourist markets. By expanding the airport to accommodate a third runway to the facility, it allows for access to new airlines that haven't been able to fly to Heathrow before due to its space constraints. Expansion will help the UK maintain its status as an international hub for aviation, and to support the whole country in the competition to stay at the heart of the global economy.

Expanding will also bring forth a wide range of benefits and new job growth to the greater London area. Some of these include, but are not limited to:

-Expansion will create up to 180,000 jobs across all of the UK, and deliver up to £187 billion in economic benefits.

-Increased access to long haul markets, new domestic air routes and improved surface connections mean that Heathrow expansion will drive growth to every corner of the UK.

-A new runway could mean more daily flights to emerging markets in Asia and South America. (Markets that Britain is in contention with in other countries such as France and Germany)

-Heathrow Expansion will create 5,000 additional apprenticeships, bringing the total to 10,000 by 2030.

In addition, for traveling passengers, an expansion would deliver world-class facilities, connections to new destinations and more frequent flights. This will promote competition and create choice, making flying more accessible to people in every nation and region of the UK.

Within the new Central Terminal Area there would be hotel facilities within minutes of Terminal 2. Photo and text credit: heathrowexpansion.com

Heathrow's Central Terminal Area will undergo a state of the art transformation with new hotels, traffic management and more. Photo and text credit: heathrowexpansion.com

An impression of how part of the Central Terminal Area could look with expansion. Photo and text credit: heathrowexpansion.com

An impression of how the entrance to the new Central Terminal Area would look. Photo and text credit: heathrowexpansion.com
"As we expand, we are building an airport with facilities that respond to passengers’ needs both today and in the future. By considering how the latest technologies will shape the passenger journey of tomorrow, we will deliver an expanded airport that is not just world class by today’s standards, but anticipates the needs of the passengers of 2030 and beyond, all delivered in a sustainable and affordable way." - Heathrow Expansion Executive

So, with all of these proposed ideas and changes in mind, how does the government and the airport work together to bring them to fruition? By careful consultation with the surrounding local businesses along with the residents who would be impacted by the uprooting of some living facilities and public areas to make room for the third northern runway, the two can work together to begin construction of the new facility with careful consideration of the surrounding areas and minimizing the impacts of noise, pollution, and construction. Expansion will be authorized via a Development Consent Order, a special kind of consent for major infrastructure projects in England and Wales. The process will take place in accordance with requirements set out in the Planning Act 2008. The NPS (National Policy Statement) has now been formally designated, meaning Heathrow can apply to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) for what is known as a Development Consent Order (DCO).  This is required for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) like Heathrow. The DCO will contain most of the consents and powers that we need to build and operate the third runway. The DCO process places real importance on engagement with residents and stakeholders and there will continue to be opportunities to influence the proposals through the planning process over the coming months and years.


The preparation of Heathrow’s DCO application involves periods of public consultation and continuous engagement with neighboring communities, local authorities, airlines, statutory bodies and the Heathrow Community Engagement Board (HCEB).


The DCO application will then be submitted to PINS, currently expected in 2020. Construction on the main works (including the third runway) will begin shortly after the DCO has been granted. It is possible that some early works will take place before then. Any early works will be subject to consultation and environmental assessment as required. Expansion is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and permission to build the runway will take granted via a Development Consent Order in accordance with the Planning Act 2008 The Planning Act was introduced specifically for projects of this scale and national importance.

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