EXCLUSIVE: Heathrow runway decision 'in two weeks'
Ministers are planning to announce their decision on whether to build a third runway at Heathrow in two weeks' time, PoliticsHome has learned.
The much-delayed move has been pencilled in for 7 July - the day after the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War - although it could be moved to 8 July.
A report published last July by the Airports Commission, chaired by by Sir Howard Davies, recommended a new runway should be built at Heathrow rather than Gatwick.
It also rejected a plan for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, which has been supported by former London mayor Boris Johnson.
At the time, David Cameron gave a "guarantee" that the Government would announce which airport had been given the nod by the end of 2015.
But in December, ministers announced they would "undertake a package of further work" before making an announcement this summer.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin cast further doubt on the process in January when he said a final decision could be further delayed by the EU referendum.
Sources close to the process have told PoliticsHome the Prime Minister is eager to make the announcement before parliament rises for its summer recess on 21 July.
However, publishing it the day after the 2.6 million-word Chilcot report comes out could be seen by some as trying to bury the controversy while the public's attention is elsewhere.
A decision to expand Heathrow would prove hugely controversial and potentially lead to a major split in the Cabinet, with many ministers known to oppose the move.
They include International Development Secretary Justine Greening and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers. Boris Johnson is also a vocal critic of a third runway, as is Zac Goldsmith.
Speaking in March, Ms Greening told the Telegraph: "I don’t believe that this government will proceed with a third runway decision. I just don’t think it is a smart decision.
“Trying to expand Heathrow is like trying to build an eight bedroom mansion on the site of a terraced house. It is a hub airport that is just simply in the wrong place."
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come.
“The Government is continuing to consider all three shortlisted options and the Commission’s evidence, as well as progressing the package of further work announced in December.
"This includes working on all the shortlisted locations to develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people.
“This work will conclude by the summer.”