Britain’s government on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to building a third runway at London Heathrow, Europe’s biggest airport by passenger numbers, a long-awaited decision that has stoked decades of division and debate.
“The time for action is now,” Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, said after a cabinet meeting as he laid out the controversial plan in parliament, which will vote on it in the coming weeks.
“This is a decision taken in the national interest,” he added.
The expansion project is highly contested, mainly over environmental and noise level concerns for a large area of west London around Heathrow.
“We’ve considered these issues very carefully,” Grayling told lawmakers under questioning. “But the other thing we have to take into account is the potential for our economy.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who represents a nearby constituency, has previously opposed the plan, once pledging to lie in front of bulldozers to stop building.
It is unclear whether he and other lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party will be allowed a free vote on the project.
Former Conservative Transport Secretary, Justine Greening insisted she would vote against the expansion — and urged the government to allow lawmakers to vote freely on the issue.
“These are local MPs who need to represent our local communities,” she told the BBC.
Although other Conservative MPs are also against the expansion, some opposition Labour lawmakers vocally backed the move in parliament.
Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald, said Labour will consider the proposal against four tests, including if environmental issues can be fully addressed and growth across the country is supported.
The parliamentary vote must take place by July 11, according to the Department for Transport.