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Draft Airports NPS takes off…

On 2 February 2017 the Government published its highly anticipated draft Airports National Policy Statement (“NPS”) alongside a consultation on the contents of the draft NPS.

The draft NPS

The draft NPS will, if adopted, provide the primary basis for decision making on applications for development consent for a Northwest Runway at Heathrow Airport.

Although its name suggests that the NPS will apply broadly to airports, the document’s main concern is with development at Heathrow.  For applications for new runway capacity and airport infrastructure elsewhere in London and the South East it is an “important and relevant consideration” akin to a material consideration when determining applications under the 1990 Act.  So although it doesn’t carry quite the same weight for development away from Heathrow as it does for the Northwest Runway, it remains significant nonetheless.

The draft NPS sets out:

– why the Government sees a strong need case for new airport capacity in the South East in order to secure the UK’s status as a global aviation hub;

– the case for the Heathrow Northwest Runway as the Government’s preferred scheme, building on the long-awaited “preferred option” announcement in October 2016;

– the various principles against which applications for development consent relating to a Northwest Runway at Heathrow will be decided; and

– in relation to the potential impacts of the development of a Northwest Runway, the assessments that the applicant will need to carry out, and the specific planning requirements that the applicant will need to meet, in order to attain development consent.  As one would expect in relation to development of this nature, air quality, carbon emissions and noise issues feature strongly, and the draft NPS devotes much time to mitigation measures, community engagement and compensation.

Interestingly, the draft NPS was published shortly after the High Court struck out a claim for the judicial review of a decision by the Government to select for inclusion in a draft NPS a proposal for a third runway at Heathrow.  Cranston J. held that proceedings can only be brought in the six week period after designation of the NPS, so in this case the High Court had no jurisdiction to hear the claim.  As the NPS isn’t expected to be designated until late 2017 at the very earliest, any potential claimants will have to sit tight for now.


Together with the draft NPS the Government has published a consultation document which contains nine open questions seeking views on the key issues dealt with in the draft NPS.  In addition to the written consultation, the Government will hold a series of 20 local and 13 nationwide consultation events.  The local events are open to all whilst the nationwide events will be open to invited stakeholders.

The Government clearly has an eye on the importance of the consultation and its potential to be contentious and has appointed Sir Jeremy Sullivan, the former Lord Justice of Appeal, as an independent consultation adviser.  Sir Jeremy’s role will be to provide oversight of the process, ensure that best practice is upheld and to raise any concerns about procedure with the Secretary of State.

The consultation period closes on 25 May 2017.  The draft Airports NPS is available here and the consultation document is available here.