Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We use cookies to personalise your experience; learn more in our Privacy and Cookie Policy. You can opt out of some cookies by adjusting your browser settings; see the cookie policy for details. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies.

Heathrow third runway: The profession reacts

Heathrow vision aerial view grimshaw

Leading figures from across the profession react to the government giving a third runway at Heathrow the green light

Jolyon Brewis, partner at Grimshaw

‘We are very pleased with the government’s announcement regarding the expansion of Heathrow Airport, and believe this is clearly the best way forward for the country. This decision gives credit to the longstanding quality service the airport provides to its passengers, and recognises the transport hub as a key generator in keeping the UK globally connected.

‘’We look forward to working with Heathrow on the new development, delivering their bold vision and working towards their ambitious and achievable target of becoming the most sustainable airport hub in the world.’

Neil Bennett, partner at Farrells 

‘This is just another step on a winding road, and we suspect Gatwick will still get its additional runway and terminal much earlier than Heathrow. There’s probably a need to expand both airports but Heathrow is not deliverable in the same timespan that Gatwick is.

‘There’s a much greater level of complexity at Heathrow because they need to either divert the M25 or place it in a tunnel. Heathrow’s expansion is also more than double the cost of expanding Gatwick, which is a lot simpler and has much less local opposition.’

Foster + Partners

We need increased hub airport capacity but not at Heathrow.

Brian Waters, president at the Association of Consultant Architects

‘It’s hard to understand why the government needs to make this decision at all. The Davies Commission established the need for more capacity in the South East. The competition commission broke up the BAA monopoly, so the airports should be left to take their own investment decisions and proceed subject to planning permission to make their case.

‘And the Elizabeth Line [Crossrail] should be quickly extended to Stansted (and Cambridge) to use its spare capacity while our sclerotic system continues to dither towards a new runway somewhere.’

Paul Finch, AJ editorial director 

‘The long-term future for aviation and infrastructure in the UK requires an estuary airport, as recognised and approved in the 1970s. In that sense the Heathrow decision is an irrelevance since it cannot address the real issues, identified by Foster + Partners in their holistic study which should be compulsory reading for politicians.’

James Silver, development director at Landid

‘With significant investments in Reading, Slough, Uxbridge and Hammersmith, we are delighted to hear that Heathrow will gain a new runway. The Western Corridor is one of the most uniquely connected regions of the country – with Heathrow, the Western Rail Link and the forthcoming Elizabeth Line – and this decision reinforces that as a priority.

‘Large infrastructure additions and improvements almost always lead to a demand for more amenities and vibrant redevelopment in nearby areas, which often mean greater access and opportunities for growing companies in the region, and those attracted by its many benefits. Among the new runway’s greatest effects, experts estimate that £211 billion in economic benefits could be pumped into the UK thanks to increased travel, tourism and jobs (up to 180,000). Businesses, residents and indeed investors in the region are likely to see the benefits sooner rather than later.’

Richard Robinson, chief executive for AECOM in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa

‘This is the right decision, not a moment too soon. As the UK prepares for post-Brexit scenarios, decisive action to increase aviation capacity where it is most needed is all the more critical. Giving Heathrow the green light for a third runway will enable the UK to be more outward-facing and better positioned to compete on the global stage.

‘This is a welcome fillip for the UK’s infrastructure sector and the businesses that rely on it. The collective sigh of relief following today’s long-awaited decision is almost audible. The focus now must be on accelerating delivery. Quickly securing the right legal mandate via the necessary environmental and planning approvals is vital.’ 

Robin Shepherd, planning partner at Barton Willmore

‘We, of course, welcome the decision to expand Heathrow in terms of the economic growth and success it will secure. We must now ensure that the planning system is sufficiently well co-ordinated with the right mechanisms in place to deliver and capture the significant local, regional and national benefits.

‘Now the decision has been taken, it is critical that we gather and maintain momentum and ensure the debate continues swiftly. Let’s ensure we are joined up regionally and nationally, let’s not abandon Gatwick and let’s ensure our regional airports are equipped to support and indeed grow on the back of this decision.’

Philippa Oldham, head of transport and manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

‘This is so near and yet so far. Without clear view from the government on its support for expansion at Gatwick and Birmingham airports, investors are still unable to take a long-term view on how to future-proof UK airport capacity.

‘The year of consultation means yet more uncertainty, at a time when we need to be definite about our industrial strategy. We need to use airport capacity in the South East to boost the whole UK economy. Air freight is an important contributor, with a particularly important role in supporting trade with countries outside the EU. This delay is therefore particularly worrying following the Brexit vote.

‘This is a good news story that could be a great news story. For local communities, the expansion of capacity helps support economic growth and employment as well as training and apprenticeship opportunities. For environmental impact, we well know that new aeroplanes are able to produce far fewer emissions as well as make less noise. A key factor for Heathrow is that the government should look to incentivise electric and hybrid technology to the vehicles that service the airport.’

Jason Brooks, UK head of aviation at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff

‘This is a landmark moment for UK aviation that we are rightly celebrating. As with Hinkley, the biggest boost this provides to the construction industry is confidence. Our business plans and recruitment drive can continue with conviction. However, this should be seen as just the first step to increasing airport capacity in the South East. The strategic importance and growth potential of Gatwick remains critical; we also need a new runway there in due course, for the UK to be able to maintain its position as a leading global aviation player and economic powerhouse.

‘The building of a third runway will provide enormous logistical, engineering and environmental challenges. We know sustainability will rightly play a crucial role for the duration and legacy of its construction. The industry’s response should be to seize the opportunity, continue working hard to attract the best and the brightest minds, and use this platform to become the world leader for major infrastructure design.’

Political reaction

Chris Grayling, transport secretary

‘The step that the government is taking today is truly momentous. I am proud that after years of discussion and delay this government is taking decisive action to secure the UK’s place in the global aviation market – securing jobs and business opportunities for the next decade and beyond.

‘A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the UK itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities. This isn’t just a great deal for business, it’s a great deal for passengers who will also benefit from access to more airlines, destinations and flights.’

Sadiq Khan, London mayor

‘This is the wrong decision for London and the whole of Britain. The government are running roughshod over Londoners’ views. Just five months ago I was elected as mayor on a clear platform of opposing a new runway at Heathrow, a position that was shared by the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Green and UKIP candidates in that election.

‘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.

‘An expanded Gatwick would have boosted our economy without causing these huge air and noise pollution problems and it could be built quicker and cheaper.

‘I will continue to challenge this decision, and I am exploring how I can best be involved in any legal process over the coming months.’

Tony Arbour, chairman of the London Assembly

‘We are appalled that the government has decided to give the green light to expansion at Heathrow, despite the vast body of evidence to indicate this will expose Londoners to higher levels of deadly air pollution, intolerable noise and overwhelming congestion. Also, the need for investment in public transport access for passengers and staff will be substantial in order to keep London’s transport network working. The government has not yet provided nearly enough clarity on whether this investment will be delivered.

‘The London Assembly has been opposed to Heathrow expansion since 2005 and we have carried out extensive work on the topic. Rest assured, we will continue to monitor air and noise pollution levels and other environmental impacts following today’s outcome.’

Nicholas True, Richmond Council leader

‘This is a dark and dismal day. It is dismaying news for all those who daily make their contribution to the national interest by living with the impact of Heathrow.

‘Ministers have broken David Cameron’s crystal-clear commitment made on behalf of the whole government and all those who then sat in it – “no ifs, no buts, no third runway”. They have kow-towed to the fat-wad lobbyists of the privileged few who own Heathrow. That is not what we expected of our new government. They told us that they were for the ordinary family, the many, not the privileged few. That was the promise once. Fine words butter no parsnips.

‘We have an airport that is ripe for expansion: Gatwick – an expansion that will come at no cost to the tax payer. But instead the government has decided to push for the costly Heathrow – a decision that will cost billions of pounds.’

Ravi Govindia, Wandsworth Council leader

‘This is deeply distressing news for the communities around this airport, but this fight is far from over. Ultimately it will be for the courts to decide if this project goes ahead, and the law is on our side.

‘The airport boasts illegal levels of air pollution, woefully inadequate transport capacity and has Europe’s worst noise footprint, and that’s with just two runways. Expansion will make all of these severely damaging issues worse. It’s wrong on every level, legally undeliverable and will end in failure after years of wasted of effort.’

Tony Newman, Croydon Council leader

‘It’s a calamitous decision. It’s clear whatever side of the argument you’re on, the only option that can realistically deliver is Gatwick. Heathrow will be mired in consultations and judicial reviews for decades to come and will never happen.’


Readers' comments (4)

  • Do Foster & Partners - and Paul Finch - really grasp the implications for the country outside London, Essex & Kent if an 'estuary airport' were to be developed as the main hub?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It seems to me that it is undeniable we need additional airport capacity and that has to add to our international "hub" airport - Heathrow. This extension should have been decided years ago. As a result the time factor rules out the estuary airport as the immediate solution. Had Maplin the original new airport been built in the late 1960's Docklands would have been redeveloped much earlier and with it large parts of the neglected East London. It would have taken pressure off the even then the overdeveloped Heathrow area. Also what seems to be undeniable that air passenger and freight travel will continue to grow. That being so Government should now start the process of planning for an estuary airport which resolves most of the environment problems associated with Heathrow - and to a lesser extent Gatwick. Government should now study the Foster scheme and start planning for the inevitable. Owen Luder. CBE PPRIBA

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • How many times does it have to be pointed out to our governments, a third, or even 4th runway is not the solution to any of our transport capacity problems. We need an integrated infrastructure strategy, which no organisation has come up with. And we need it now, especially following the post Brexit reality. It needs to consider what we need, and how we get there.

    Here is what we do:

    A new runway at Gatwick, with a high speed rail link to London and Heathrow, for passengers and freight. ASAP.

    1 and eventually 3 new runways at Stansted, with high speed rail links to everywhere. Europe, the North, Cambridge, Oxford, London and Heathrow. Also an associated new town to house the labour required to operate the airport.

    The Estuary Airport is unfortunately, and sadly, not a viable option due to the fog, migrating birds and the wreck of the Montgomery.

    David Farmery, Designer
    (involved with: Channel Tunnel, HK Airport, KL Airport, Heathrow T5)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • MacKenzie Architects

    A couple of quotes from the above-
    "... We look forward to ... Heathrow ... becoming the most sustainable airport hub in the world ..."

    How on earth can knocking everything down and re-building something completely different ever, ever, ever be considered "sustainable" anything.

    "... among the new runway’s greatest effects ... £211 billion in economic benefits could be pumped into the UK ..."

    So how couldn't that have been acted on 15 years ago and a proper strategy would have been developed for UK Hub, instead of sitting on our hands and letting Europe catch up.

    "... the Western Corridor is one of the most uniquely connected regions of the country ..."

    Err, of course it isn't. You might as well draw one of these maps that shows Northampton as the centre of the universe (which it may well be)

    I think all this nonsense proves that Government and their Civil Servants are completely incapable of taking any measured decision (on anything). The only alternative conclusion you could draw is that they "have been swayed by a forceful lobby of special interests", that has nothing to do with objective reasoning.

    How difficult is it to write a brief for UK's 21st Century Airport Hub.
    A single sided sheet of paper would cover it, and it wouldn't take 30 years to come up with a solution to the challenge.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs

Discover architecture career opportunities. Search and apply online for your dream job.
Find out more