Britain on Tuesday gave Heathrow Airport the green light to build a new $22 billion runway, ending 25 years of indecision with a plan to boost the country’s global trade ambitions following the vote to leave the EU.
Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, had been battling with its smaller rival Gatwick for the right to expand, after successive governments failed to make a decision on a new runway due to environmental and political protests.
The government said in its statement on Tuesday that it was proposing legally binding noise targets to provide respite for local residents, many of whom oppose expansion due to worries over noise and air pollution.
The project is now likely to face legal challenges and a final vote by lawmakers in a year’s time, meaning the runway can only open by 2025 at the earliest.
“The government’s preferred scheme will be subject to full and fair public consultation,” Transport Minister Chris Grayling said in his statement.
The British government’s decision to allow Heathrow Airport to expand is the clearest sign that Britain is open for business following its vote to leave the European Union, Grayling told reporters on Tuesday.
“This is a really big decision for this country but it’s also the clearest sign post the referendum that this country is very clearly open for business,” he said.
Asked about disagreements within the government on the choice of Heathrow, which is opposed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson among others, Grayling said it would be impossible to deliver such a project without some people disagreeing.
According to a three-year study by an independent Airports Commission, a new runway at Heathrow would create 70,000 new jobs by 2050 and increase gross domestic product by between 0.65% and 0.75% by 2050, representing a 147 billion pound ($180 billion) boost to the economy over 60 years.