Here's what the UK construction industry thinks about Heathrow runway 3

After years of consultations, debates and opposition, the government has thrown its weight behind a third runway at Heathrow Airport. 

It is a momentous decision for the country - and one that isn't without its doubters. But what will the plan to build a new airport mean for the construction industry and the potential for extra jobs?

Background to the third runway decision

The road to approval at Heathrow has been a long one, with four years of consultations. It led to a final report from the Airports Commission, published last summer, which unanimously recommended a northwest runway at Heathrow as the best option for the UK's future economy.

In the report, the Chairman of the Airports Commission, Sir Howard Davies, explained that London's airport system will be at full capacity by 2040 as things stand.

Major projects like this help build a strong pipeline of work, which enables construction firms to plan for the future and offer thousands of jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities.



With Heathrow operating at capacity and Gatwick Airport not far behind, it's obvious that action is needed. 

The options put forward included a new airport in Thames and Estuary, and a "plausible case for expansion" for expansion at Gatwick.

However, the report felt that the third runway at Heathrow Airport was the most suitable for increasing the number of long haul flights, and with it, the UK's economic potential.

What will Heathrow's third runway provide?

Described as a boost to the UK's connections with the rest of the world, the expansion at Heathrow - the first full length runway to be constructed in the area since the Second World War - is expected to bring approximately £61 billion of economic benefits in the next 60 years. 

In the final report from the Airports Commission, Sir Howard Davies highlighted the need for more long haul flights to and from the UK; the danger is that if this country doesn't provide a viable solution, these routes will be set up in Europe instead. 

With the UK's impending exit from the European Union, this would be another blow for trade and business. 

By 2030, the scheme will have created an extra 77,000 local jobs, therefore providing a huge boost to the local economy.



Sir Howard Davies said: "The service sector, whether the City, the media industry or universities, depends heavily on prompt, face-to-face contact.

"Good transport links, especially aviation connectivity, make an important contribution to enhancing productivity, which is an important national challenge."

The Heathrow runway should provide better connections to places in Asia and South America. Crucially, it is predicted that construction of this development will create a further 16 million long haul passenger seats in 2040. 

For trade, business, employment opportunities, this is significant. 

In terms of extra jobs in the country, Heathrow promises to vastly increase the number of vacancies. By 2030, the scheme will have created an extra 77,000 local jobs, therefore providing a huge boost to the local economy. 

Many regional airports are already reaching their operational capacity and if we are serious about the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse, we must spread capacity across multiple locations and allow the UK to reach its full potential.



Apprentices will be treated as a priority too; the government has committed to creating 5,000 new apprenticeships by 2030. 

Chris Grayling, the government's Transport Secretary, described the approval as "momentous," and explained why this is such a big step for the country.

He said: "The step that government is taking today is truly momentous. I am proud that after years of discussion and delay, this government is taking decisive action to secure the UK's place in the global aviation market - securing jobs and business opportunities for the next decade and beyond. 

A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the UK itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities. 



"This isn't just a great deal for business, it's a great deal for passengers who will also benefit from access to more airlines, destinations and flights."

Construction industry view of the third runway

Reaction from the construction industry has been largely positive, with the feeling that confirmation of another runway at Heathrow provides economic security that will allow companies to make long term plans and commitments. 

"A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the UK itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities."

The Director of Policy at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) believes the announcement is a "major boost" to construction.

Steve Radley said: "Today's Heathrow announcement, if given the final go ahead, could offer a major boost to the construction industry in these uncertain economic conditions.

"Major projects like this help build a strong pipeline of work, which enables construction firms to plan for the future and offer thousands of jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities."

That element of security is echoed by Jeremy Blackburn, Head of Policy at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

However, he also thinks that Gatwick's proposal - which was described as plausible by Sir Howard Davies - should not be discounted.

Jeremy said: "While the decision over Heathrow has finally provided the UK with some much needed certainty during a time of great economic and political change, it would be naive to draw the airport debate to a close. 

"All three proposals were feasible and given the projected population growth in the south-east of England, the expansion of Gatwick should not be dismissed out of hand."

Apprentices will be treated as a priority too; the government has committed to creating 5,000 new apprenticeships by 2030.



The RICS Head of Policy thinks that the government shouldn't stop there; the Heathrow runway will improve connectivity across the UK to the likes of Liverpool, Belfast International and Durham Tees Valley. 

Given that one of the chief reasons for this expansion is that the airport will reach its operational capacity without development, Jeremy believes this is a problem throughout the country and further work will help to solidify economic and construction opportunities elsewhere.

"Government should also consider building additional airport capacity outside of London and across the UK in order to meet future demands," he said. 

"Many regional airports are already reaching their operational capacity and if we are serious about the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse, we must spread capacity across multiple locations and allow the UK to reach its full potential."

Will the construction industry be ready for Heathrow?

[BQ]Skills shortages can only be tackled if everyone pulls together to attract more individuals into the profession - in particular women, given the huge disparity between male and female numbers in construction.

There is much work to be done according to a leading construction recruitment agency. Paul Payne, Co-Founder and Managing Director of One Way, is in no doubt that the approval is good news for the industry: "Given the complexity of the project, it's likely to generate thousands of jobs across construction, engineering and technology."

However, Paul warned that these are exactly the type of industries already struggling with the skills shortage, and such an "immense strain" could affect when the project finishes. 

"All of these areas of expertise have long suffered from significant shortages in skills that are already impacting supply and demand of talent in construction. This new development will quite simply put immense strain on resources that could impact on the project's timeline."

I am proud that after years of discussion and delay, this government is taking decisive action to secure the UK's place in the global aviation market - securing jobs and business opportunities for the next decade and beyond.



In order to alleviate this problem, Paul has urged the industry as a whole to look at attracting more women into construction, which is a major untapped resource when looking at the differences between male and female construction employees. 

He said: "These skills shortages can only be tackled if everyone pulls together to attract more individuals into the profession - in particular women, given the huge disparity between male and female numbers in construction. 

"It's for this reason that we've launched our #GirlsAllowed campaign where we will get into schools and colleges to promote greater awareness of careers in these fields, an approach we feel more firms should adapt."

Next steps for Heathrow expansion

Following the government's decision to approve Heathrow's third runway, the Department for Transport will present details of the proposed scheme in a draft 'National policy statement'. 

This, as per legislation, will be scrutinised via an extensive public consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny will follow this. 

A vote will be held to bring forward a final version of the 'National policy statement', which will then allow Heathrow to submit is planning application. 

Written by John Train