The British Parliament has overwhelmingly approved plans to expand Europe’s biggest airport after decades of debate over its potential impact.
The House of Commons on Monday voted 415-119 to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government and business groups strongly backed the expansion, saying it would be tantamount to putting out an “open for business” sign as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.
But small communities around the airport and environmental groups have vehemently opposed the expansion on environmental, noise and financial grounds. Friends of the Earth described it as a “morally reprehensible” move that would result in Heathrow emitting as much carbon as all of Portugal.
Greenpeace UK said it was ready to join London councils and the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, in a legal challenge to the third runway. The environmental watchdog said if ministers wouldn’t protect people from toxic air, opponents would ask a court to do so.
May had directed Conservative Party lawmakers to vote for the project. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who once pledged to lie down in front of bulldozers to stop the expansion, avoided a confrontation with the prime minister by visiting Afghanistan on Monday.
His absence did not go unnoticed. Shouts of “Where’s Boris?” could be heard in the Commons, as opposition lawmakers spoke out against the $18.6 billion project.
The government has vowed the airport will be built at no cost to the taxpayer and will create some 100,000 jobs.
But former Conservative Party transport secretary Justine Greening — who broke with her party to reject the expansion — told lawmakers the story of Heathrow was one of “broken promises, broken politics and broken economics.”