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Heathrow Airport third runway: Zac Goldsmith resigns as Tory MP with immediate effect

Published 25/10/2016

Zac Goldsmith has warned of dire consequences for the Conservative party if Heathrow expansion is approved
Zac Goldsmith has warned of dire consequences for the Conservative party if Heathrow expansion is approved

Zac Goldsmith, who is forcing a by-election in protest at the Heathrow Airport expansion decision, has resigned as a Conservative MP with immediate effect.

The failed London mayoral candidate said the decision to push ahead with a third runway was "catastrophic".

Mr Goldsmith, a high-profile environmentalist whose Richmond Park and North Kingston constituency lies under the Heathrow flight path, has long threatened to resign if the Government backed the expansion plan.

He told MPs earlier: "The Government has chosen a course that is not only wrong, it's doomed."

A third runway at Heathrow Airport was been given the go-ahead by the Government on Tuesday.

Proposals to expand an existing runway at Heathrow or build a second runway at Gatwick were rejected.

A public consultation will now be held on the impact of a third runway at the west London hub before the final decision is put to MPs for a vote in the winter of 2017/18.

A new runway could be operational by 2025.

Prime Minister Theresa May moved to head off possible Cabinet resignations by giving ministers freedom to speak out against the Government's decision, with the possibility of Heathrow expansion fiercely opposed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Justine Greening.

Mr Johnson said the project is "undeliverable" and is likely to be stopped.

The Government has proposed that a six-and-a-half-hour ban on scheduled night flights will be introduced for the first time, as well as more stringent night noise restrictions.

The timing of the ban will be determined through a consultation.

The Department for Transport (DfT) claimed that the new runway will bring economic benefits to passengers and the wider economy worth up to £61 billion.

Heathrow said it is ready to deliver a third runway that is "fair, affordable and secures the benefits of expansion for the whole of the UK".

Business groups, politicians and trade unions welcomed the decision as an end to years of "dithering" over the issue.

Labour said it was in favour of an additional runway somewhere in the South East but called for "vital" reassurances on capacity, climate change, noise and air quality, stressing that the Government's announcement "does not yet do that".

Environmental groups expressed concern about the impact and some local residents were angry that there could be hundreds of thousands more flights each year.

The Government is expected to face legal challenges over the decision.

Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, said: "Ultimately it will be for the courts to decide if this project goes ahead, and the law is on our side."

Mrs May said the decision demonstrates that Britain can make a success of Brexit and was vital for the country's prosperity.

Speaking to the Standard following a Cabinet meeting, she said: "After decades of delay we are showing that we will take the big decisions when they're the right decisions for Britain, and we will ensure they're right for ordinary working people too.

"Airport expansion is vital for the economic future of the whole of the UK and today also provides certainty to Londoners.

"Businesses will know that we are building the infrastructure they need to access global markets. Ordinary working people will know that my Government backs jobs and growth."

Announcing the decision, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "The step that the Government is taking today is truly momentous.

"I am proud that after years of discussion and delay this Government is taking decisive action to secure the UK's place in the global aviation market - securing jobs and business opportunities for the next decade and beyond."

He went on: "We've thought long and hard about this. The committee considered all three options. There were three very good options on the table.

"But we believe a third runway for Heathrow is the best option for our future. It's the best for the whole country to create better connectivity to the different regions of the United Kingdom and to provide the best trade links to the world."

The Transport Secretary said it was inevitable that some people would disagree with the decision after being asked about opposition from Mr Johnson and Ms Greening.

Mr Grayling said: "It would be impossible to deliver a project like this without some people disagreeing with the strategy.

"We've taken a view that where people have direct constituency concerns and interests they should have the freedom to articulate those long-held views.

"But this is about taking the right decision for the United Kingdom."

Asked if he believed the third runway would be built, Mr Grayling replied: "Absolutely."

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