THE government faces the prospect of legal challenges and public protests if it gives the go-ahead this week to the construction of a third runway at Heathrow airport.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced at the Tory conference in Birmingham that the government would “shortly announce” a decision on airport expansion and this is expected this week.
Heathrow authorities say expansion is needed more than ever following the vote to leave the European Union.
Alternatives to a third Heathrow runway include expansion of Gatwick airport in West Sussex, extension of one of Heathrow’s existing runways, or doing nothing as most flights are inessential and taken by society’s richest.
Campaign groups have raised concerns about the environmental impact of increasing capacity at Heathrow, already one of the world’s busiest airports, as well as the cost of improving the airport’s road and rail links.
A commission headed by Sir Howard Davies recommended in July last year that Heathrow should have a third runway.
MPs may be given a free vote after the decision is announced, which would allow ministers such as Boris Johnson and Justine Greening to oppose Heathrow expansion without needing to resign.
Some 67 per cent of MPs support a third runway, according to the results of a poll published by Heathrow bosses on September 13.
Legal challenges by local councils and demonstrations by environmental activists and residents are also expected.
Multimillionaire Tory MP Zac Goldsmith has vowed to resign as MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston if Heathrow expansion receives the green light.