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Heathrow Airport Expansion: May’s No.2 Challenge Next to Brexit | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Heathrow Airport. Reuters

London-Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has been once again cornered into a sticky situation, other than the Brexit dilemma, her government has to make a final and decisive decision on a highly controversial topic that is the Heathrow airport expansion.

Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, is 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 opposition.

The British government has decided to allow Heathrow airport to build a new runway, Sky News reported on Tuesday.

But there is strong environmental opposition to the expansion — the capital’s first new full-length runway since World War II — and the approval process could still delay or even block its execution over the coming years.

The government is due to announce the decision shortly.

The expansion adds to the political burdens May would have to deal with in her fourth month in office.

“Sky sources say the government has approved plans for a third runway at Heathrow,” an article on the news channel’s website said.

Ministers opposed to the plans have been granted the rare opportunity to voice their dissenting views, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, an outspoken critic of Heathrow expansion.

The government rejected a rival bid for a second runway at Gatwick airport south of the capital, backed by current London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

“This is the wrong decision for London and the whole of Britain,” Khan said, adding that he would look into the possibility of legal action.

“A new runway at Heathrow will be devastating for air quality across London – air pollution around the airport is already above legal levels of NO2 (nitrogen dioxide).”

Earlier the BBC reported Heathrow had been chosen, but did not specify which of the two possible options the government had backed — a new runway or the extension of one of its existing ones.

The government said the new runway would “bring economic benefits to passengers and the wider economy worth up to £61 billion” (69 billion euros, $75 billion) thanks to the increase in the amount of air traffic the capital is able to handle.

It said up to 77,000 local jobs are expected to be created over the next 14 years, while the airport has committed to create 5,000 apprenticeships over the same period.