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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 22:38 GMT
Terminal five cleared for take-off
Aerial view of Heathrow Airport
Heathrow handles 65 million passengers a year
London's Heathrow Airport has been given the go-ahead for a fifth terminal - to a mixed reaction.

The decision has angered environment groups and local people but has been welcomed by airlines, trade unions and businesses.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers made the announcement in the House of Commons on Tuesday, following a four-year public inquiry into the scheme.

There will be limits on the numbers of flights and restrictions on noise levels.

Mr Byers said the T5 development was in the "national interest" and is a crucial step to allow the UK to compete on Europe's economic stage.

Heathrow's operator BAA hopes the new terminal will be operational by 2007.

Now T5 has been given the go-ahead, we shall be looking very closely at the conditions attached

T5 opponent Peter Brown

Mr Byers said: "Such a development is in the national interest.

"It will enable Heathrow to remain a world-class airport. It will bring benefits to the British economy.

"For London to compete as a world player and for it to remain a major financial centre, T5 will help it stay competitive."

Key conditions to the approval included limiting flights to 480,000 a year, or about 90 million passengers.

BAA first applied for planning permission for the terminal, known as T5, eight years ago.

Click here for map of Heathrow plans

BAA chief executive Mike Hodgkinson welcomed the government's decision as "good news for the economy, the aviation industry, the travelling public and for the local community which has won sensible safeguards.

"Our responsibility now is to work constructively with our neighbours and to honour our promise to develop the terminal in an environmentally responsible way."

However, environmental campaigners and local councils remain bitterly opposed to T5, which could push up Heathrow's annual passenger numbers by more than 20 million.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
Nearly 5,000 documents were submitted to the T5 inquiry

But Mr Byers said the disadvantages of the scheme are far outweighed by the benefits to the UK.

"There are currently 65 million passengers going through Heathrow each year, but this increase will mean the airport can handle 90 million passengers when T5 is built," said Mr Byers.

He stressed that a further inquiry into "night noise" will be carried out by 2003.

Rail link

Mr Byers rejected BAA's bid to expand the M4 motorway between junctions three and 4B.

He also gave his approval for plans to link the Heathrow Express rail link and an extension of the Piccadilly Line on London Underground to T5.

Friends of the Earth, which has run a long campaign against T5, claims the public inquiry was turned into "a farce" by the government, because it was not "neutral" about the proposal.

An FoE statement also claims BAA has "not done proper analysis of potential disadvantages, such as 'over-heating' the economy, noise and air pollution and traffic congestion."

'Conditions attached'

Eleven local authorities around Heathrow have also been opposed to the scheme getting the go ahead.

"Now T5 has got the go-ahead, we shall be looking very closely at the conditions attached," said Peter Brown, a spokesman for the authorities.

"We want the conditions enforced and we do not want a repeat of the Heathrow Terminal 4 situation when promises on the number of flights were broken within a matter of months."

Inquiry facts
More than 30 million words spoken
80,000 pages of transcripts produced
More than six million sheets of paper photocopied
More than 700 people gave evidence
12 children were born to inquiry personnel and lawyers, including a set of triplets
Opponents dispute BAA claims the new terminal will not increase road and aircraft traffic by much.

John Connelly, Leader of the London Borough of Hounslow, said: "The impact of more than 30 million additional passengers flying into this already overburdened area of west London every year could have a devastating impact on local people's quality of life."

The government decision follows the end of the inquiry into T5, held from 1995 to 1999 and costing an estimated 80m.

Inquiry inspector Roy Vandermeer QC's report was published when Mr Byers made his decision.

Click here to return

The BBC's Simon Montague
"The government say the development will outweigh the environmental impact"
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"This marks the end of the traditional British planning system"
Eric Pickles, Shadow Transport Minister
"I was disappointed that Mr Byers did not announce any curtailment of night-flights"

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20 Nov 01 | Politics
20 Nov 01 | England
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