No final decision on expansion at either Gatwick or Heathrow is not expected until next winter.
A cabinet sub-committee led by Prime Minister Theresa May is set to decide on a ‘preferred scheme’ later this month she told ministerial colleagues.
But that decision would be subject to a ‘full and fair consultation’ before a final decision is put before the House of Commons in the winter of 2017/18.
Mrs May said: “This is a decision of both strategic and national importance. It marks the first step in a much longer statutory process directed at securing planning consent for whichever scheme is selected.”
Back in July 2015 the independent Davies Commission came out in favour of a third runway at Heathrow, but ministers have so far delayed accepting the recommendation.
Gatwick Airport has argued that it could deliver a second runway quicker and cheaper than expansion at Heathrow, but campaigners have suggested the area’s infrastructure is inadequate to cope and raised the noise impact on residents under existing and new flight paths.
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