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New twist in Heathrow expansion saga leaves third runway plan up in the air

A government White Paper first recommended extra capacity for the west London airport in 2003.

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A government White Paper in 2003 recommended the building of a third runway at Heathrow (Steve Parsons/PA)

A government White Paper in 2003 recommended the building of a third runway at Heathrow (Steve Parsons/PA)

A government White Paper in 2003 recommended the building of a third runway at Heathrow (Steve Parsons/PA)

Heathrow expansion plans have been left up in the air again after opponents won a Court of Appeal challenge.

The ruling, based on concerns about climate change, is the latest twist in a saga which began almost 17 years ago.

December 2003: A Government White Paper recommends a third runway is built at Heathrow.

An image released by Heathrow of its planned third runway (Heathrow Airport/PA)
An image released by Heathrow of its planned third runway (Heathrow Airport/PA)

November 2007: The Government publishes expansion plans. It says the new runway could be in operation by 2020.

November 2008: London mayor Boris Johnson, an opponent of Heathrow expansion, orders a feasibility study for an alternative plan for a new airport on an artificial island in the Thames estuary.

January 2009: Prime Minister Gordon Brown backs a third Heathrow runway despite strong opposition from local residents, environmental groups, neighbouring councils and Labour backbenchers.

Then prime minister Gordon Brown boards at plane at Heathrow in November 2008 (Steve Parsons/PA)
Then prime minister Gordon Brown boards at plane at Heathrow in November 2008 (Steve Parsons/PA)

October 2009: Opposition leader David Cameron tells a public meeting in Richmond, south west London, that expansion of the nearby airport will not go ahead, saying “no ifs, no buts”.

May 2010: Labour loses the general election. The new coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats immediately scraps the third runway proposal.

March 2012: Supporters of the plan are given renewed hope when Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne say there is a need for airport expansion in south east England.

September 2012: An independent commission on future airport policy is set up by Whitehall, chaired by Sir Howard Davies.

July 2015: The commission, which dismissed the ‘Boris island’ plan, recommends that a new runway should be built at Heathrow rather than Gatwick.

June 2018: MPs vote in favour of expansion by a large majority.

February 2020: Campaigners win a Court of Appeal ruling over the third runway on environmental grounds. Heathrow Airport says it will appeal against the ruling to the Supreme Court.

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