And so Heathrow has won – as was widely expected. It is to be given a third runway. Immediately the government has run into a storm of protest – but then again, this may have been an example of damned if it did, damned if it didn’t.
London Mayor, Sadiq Khan reacted with fury. He said that the “Heathrow expansion is the wrong decision for London, and the wrong decision for the whole of Britain” and “The government are running roughshod over Londoners' views.”
He added: “A new runway at Heathrow will be devastating for air quality across London – air pollution around the airport is already above legal levels of NO2.”
So, that wasn’t a very good reaction then.
Boris Johnson reacted with cynicism. He said: “The day when the bulldozers appear is a long way off, if indeed they ever materialise."
But then again, if the government had awarded the prize of the UK’s next London runway to Gatwick, others would have been just as critical.
Heathrow has two major advantages over Gatwick – it has better transport links to the rest of the UK. Plus, and this is crucial, it also has more connecting flights. It would not have gone down well with travelers if they had flown into Gatwick and then had to find a way to travel to Heathrow to catch their next flight. That happens too often, as it is.
Gatwick is all very nice, and based as it is near Crawley, is surrounded by beautiful countryside, and the pollution impact would have been much softer simply because fewer people would have been affected, but the location is a bit out of it. Fine if you live in Surrey or Sussex, but Heathrow is by the M4, near the M40, not far from the M1, and in the other direction not far from the M3. On the other hand, that part of the M25 can be hell.
So actually, the disadvantages of Heathrow were almost as great as the disadvantages of Gatwick.
But there was a third option, and that was to build the second runway at Gatwick and extend one of Heathrow’s runways. It is a little odd that this wasn’t chosen.
Some might ask, why can’t we be like the Victorians, ‘now they knew how to build infrastructure?’ But the Victorians were not hampered by planning regulations.
Some say that the UK needs to see massive investment into infrastructure, but whether it is a new runway, HS2, or whatever the idea, you can be sure it will be controversial, and a long list of reasons will be given as to why it is bad idea.
Mr Johnson is right about Heathrow. It will be a very long time before it is built – and the planning hurdles may be so great that it may never happen.But by then, by the time the fate of the new runway is decided, many years from now, the current government will surely be gone – Theresa May will have moved out of Downing Street, and the politicians who made the Heathrow decision, however, disastrous it turns out to have been, may not even care.