Industry continues to react positively to Heathrow expansion go-ahead

Construction reaction to MPs backing Heathrow expansion has continued to be positive following yesterday evening’s vote in Parliament. 

While welcoming the overwhelming backing by MPs of the third runway at Heathrow Airport, Ramboll UK managing director Mathew Riley said that the chaotic process around the project highlighted some very real issues with the way major infrastructure projects are dealt with in the UK. 

“Whilst this is good news for the economy and our industry, the reality is that is has taken successive governments 20 years to make a decision and we still have the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn saying he may reverse this decision if Labour form the next government,” Riley said. “This whole process serves to demonstrate why politics alone cannot be allowed to dictate the fundamental needs of critical infrastructure in the UK. 

“The National Infrastructure Commission need to be given more power to influence long-term plans, as the current approach provides little reassurance to investors, who we will rely on to finance these investments. Going forward, it is essential that the government now provides full and consistent backing for this important addition to UK infrastructure,” said Riley.

Iain Painting, senior planning partner at planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore, said that the decision had implications beyond that of delivering a major infrastructure project. “This is a historic decision for the south east and the UK as a whole which will deliver significant economic benefit and business confidence to the country and attention also now needs to turn to how to best maximise this for the local area and local communities,” he said.  

“Because this is more than just a new runway, Heathrow’s expansion needs to be carefully planned for and considered, to ensure the complementary delivery of new homes, hotels, commercial and industrial space and transport connections that will be required. This will be no mean feat, in an area constrained by green belt and where existing local plans do not accommodate the expected housing need or demand for commercial and hotel space that will go hand in hand with an expanded Heathrow.   

“This expansion will change both the spatial map of west London and the western home counties, but also the economic activity of these areas, which will see improved connectivity and a fundamental change in their market perception. We should seek an overarching strategic plan, so that we have properly planned development in the right places at the right time. Private and public-sector partners need to come together to make this happen,” Painting said.

Rajiv Sudan, business development director at WYG, commented: “This is hugely positive for the construction sector and the UK, especially in light of Heathrow’s commitment to regional logistics hubs ensuring the whole of the country benefits from this investment. The government now needs to give similar unequivocal backing and funding to other key projects such Crossrail 2 and the redevelopment of Old Oak and Park Royal. 2018 has been designated the Year of Engineering and what better way to recognise this than to commit to a pipeline of infrastructure projects that will transform the UK in terms of competitiveness and social responsibility.”

Dave Barwell, chair of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering's major project group and CEO of AECOM in the UK and Ireland said: “The plans to expand Heathrow have been years in the making, but yesterday’s vote is, finally, a significant step forward.  As an industry we are now ready to lend our expertise, knowledge and support to deliver this major project of vital national interest. We can work closely with the airport, government and other stakeholders over the coming months to ensure issues like planning and finance don’t further delay delivery and we are ready to input into the detailed planning for the project, which can now begin in earnest.”

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