By Chirag Trivedi
BBC News Online, London
The government's announcement that Heathrow could get a new runway and a sixth terminal has angered environmental groups and local residents who say it will increase noise and air pollution.
Heathrow could have a new runway and terminal
But it has pleased airlines and businesses who wanted expansion to make sure the west London airport remains competitive in the global market.
John Stewart chairman of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, (Hacan) Clearskies, said: "We feel the government has missed an historic opportunity to stop all further expansion of Heathrow.
"All this does is blight the lives of people living under the flight path and increase the noise and air pollution of the people living near the airport."
Commenting on the potential of a sixth terminal, he said: "We've always known that a third runway would mean another terminal.
"It is just another broken promise by the government. It contradicts promises made after they made after Terminal Five that there would be no more expansion."
This was echoed by Father Phil Hughes, of St Mary the Virgin Parish Church, in the village of Harmondsworth, on Heathrow's doorstep.
He said: "We're all extremely concerned - we've had a massive campaign to literally keep our community on the map.
The government's environmental criteria for terminal six are:
No increase in area affected by aircraft noise around airport
No expansion if it would breach EU limits on pollution
The airport will have to: use clean fuel for service vehicles, put pressure on airlines to deliver technology improvements, introduce charges for driving to the airport to cut car pollution
"After permission was granted for Terminal Five we were given a promise by the government that there would be no further expansion of the airport ever.
"Then six months later the consultation document arrived through the door."
British Airways has always been in favour of the west London airport's expansion.
Chief executive Rod Eddington said it was "excellent news for the aviation industry, customers, national and regional businesses and tourism".
He added: "We congratulate the government on recognising the enormous benefits that a third runway at London Heathrow airport will bring to Britain.
"We will work with the government and local authorities to establish an immediate programme of action that addresses the environmental issues at Heathrow and we will play a full part in ensuring that these issues are resolved."
There have been many protests against Heathrow's expansion
Nic Ferriday, west London representative of Friends of the Earth (FoE), said he doubts the government's sincerity concerning the environment.
He said: "There is slight relief that Heathrow is not first in the firing line but we are disappointed that the government has not addressed all the issues surrounding the impact on the environment.
"I think it is questionable that the government is taking it seriously at all.
"It says it will put pressure on airlines to introduce new technologies and cut emissions - but pollution around the airport has to be cut now.
"Simply putting pressure on the airlines is not good enough."
FoE has called for a "green tax" on airlines which would push up prices, reduce demand which it says will stop the need for expansion.
Virgin's Richard Branson said: "Had Heathrow not been included in the White Paper its pre-eminence in
European and world aviation would have been lost, leading to the loss of
thousands of jobs to other European airports."
Priority Heathrow, a pro-expansion group, said not putting the London airport first for expansion will affect the UK's business community.
Spokesman Andrew Fraser said: "The secretary of state has taken the bold step of approving extra capacity at Heathrow and we welcome his announcement of an action plan to bring this into effect.
"However, not to put Heathrow first is to risk the further decline in competitiveness with leading continental airport and lose endanger the UK's status as home to a world class hub."
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling also announced that his department will examine means by which to expand the use of the existing runways by allowing both to be used simultaneously for take off and landing.
According to Richard Barnes, Conservative London Assembly Member for Hillingdon, the borough in which Heathrow lies, this system, known as "mixed mode" usage, would allow for a further 71,000 flights into and out of Heathrow each year to 551,000 - a 15% increase.
He said: "My understanding is that if the government wants to allow mixed mode usage of the runways at Heathrow they would have to break the covenant limiting the number of flights to 480,000 agreed during the decision on Terminal 5.
"If the government breaks that agreement then it may be that the only way to get a fair judgement on these proposals is through a judicial review."