Heathrow brushes off fears Boris Johnson could block expansion

Heathrow has brushed off the potential threat of a Boris Johnson premiership to its expansion plans as it kicked off a consultation over the £14bn scheme.

MPs backed the building of a third runway in a Commons vote last year but Mr Johnson, a front runner in the Tory leadership race, has expressed strong objections, even once saying he would lie down in front of bulldozers to stop it.

However, Emma Gilthorpe, executive director of expansion at Heathrow, played down any concerns that as prime minister, Mr Johnson might try to block the plans.

She told Sky's Ian King Live that the expansion "fits with his global Britain narrative".

Ms Gilthorpe added: "His biggest task on his desk will I think be Brexit.

"If he becomes our future prime minister - and Heathrow is essential to having a really strong economy for the UK, [and an] outward-facing trading nation - getting those links to those global markets, that's going to be absolutely essential if we are going to have a healthy and sustainable economy into the future.

"So Heathrow fits very neatly - Heathrow expansion - into that economic strategy."

The comments came as Heathrow launched a consultation on the "preferred masterplan" for its expansion.

Over the next 12 weeks people will be able to share their views on the future layout of the airport, the new runway and other issues such as road access.

Also covered will be options for managing the environmental impacts of the expansion, such as a Heathrow Ultra Low Emissions Zone, Heathrow Vehicle Access Charge and a 6.5-hour ban on scheduled night flights.

Already, the airport has suggested there will be a noise insulation policy, property and noise compensation, a community fund to help nearby residents, and measures to mitigate against air pollution and climate change.

Ms Gilthorpe said: "Expansion must not come at any cost.

"That is why we have been working with partners at the airport, in local communities and in government to ensure our plans show how we can grow sustainably and responsibly - with environmental considerations at the heart of expansion."

The expansion will happen in phases - the runway is due to open in 2026 but the overall plan will be completed in approximately 2050.

The timeline did not impress Paul Beckford from the No 3rd Runway Coalition, a group opposing the expansion.

He said it appeared the airport wanted to "spread the misery of their expansion plans over a 30-year period, inflicting the blight of construction and the resultant increases in air and noise pollution on communities across London for decades".

"Heathrow will claim this is the largest consultation ever and that may well be right," he said.

"However, this simply reflects the sheer scale of the impact that their expansion plans will have on local communities."

The response to the consultation will inform the airport's application for a Development Consent Order, which is expected to go before the transport secretary next year.

This is the planning consent the airport needs to go ahead with the project.

Mr Beckford said: "Every community across London and the Home Counties will experience the impacts to these proposals and we urge anyone concerned about the expansion to state their objections loudly and clearly in their responses to the consultation."

The consultation ends on 13 September.