Heathrow Airport expansion
it will not be take off for a new runway at Heathrow Airport until the government has the final sayMatthew Lloyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images

European airport bosses will be "celebrating" Sir Howard Davies' decision that Heathrow Airport should be awarded a new runway, because of the inevitable legal challenges it faces.

The Airports Commission today (1 July) gave the green light for a third runway – the Northwest Runway option presented by the airport – to be built at the West London hub.

Commission chairman Davies said the recommendations for the location of the new runway were "clear and unanimous".

But the runway faces fierce opposition from local residents as well as Conservative MPs Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith, whose constituents they argue would be adversely affected, and the decision is likely to be fought all the way to court.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson was one of the MPs who opposed a new runway at HeathrowReuters

The legal challenges, Westminster-based law firm Bircham Dyson Bell believe, will only delay development and prevent Britain from keeping up with aviation capacity in Europe and beyond.

"The only ones really celebrating today's report will be Britain's European competitors, as the legal challenges and issues facing a third runway at Heathrow will further delay Britain's efforts to keep up with global aviation capacity," said the firm's head of public affairs, Dr Stuart Thomson.

After a three-year report into the UK's aviation capacity, Thomson believes the commission's response is only the starting point and it is now left to politicians to back the plan if it is to get the thumbs up from the government.

"This is not the final point in the aviation debate, it is really only the start. Heathrow will be overjoyed with the outcome but Gatwick will not give in without a serious fight, nor will the residents of West London, the Mayor of London and maybe his successor.‎ Deliverability is really the next stage.

"It is now up to business, politicians and other stakeholders to come behind the recommendation. That is a significant challenge. The public, in particular, will want reassurance. As one Parliament cannot bind another, the government will need to work harder if it backs Heathrow's plans."

Airports Commission final report
The Airports Commission's final report said the argument for a new runway at Heathrow was 'clear and unanimous'Reuters

Davies's 344-page report said Heathrow would give the economy a £147bn (€147bn, $231bn) boost, add 70,000 jobs by 2050 and connect the airport with 40 more destinations across the world.

The public, however, could be made to stump up billions towards the £18bn price tag and the new runway would result in the destruction of 783 homes in a nearby village.

The scale of the infrastructure project means it needs government consent. Angus Walker, partner and head of government and infrastructure at Bircham Dyson Bell, said there was a possibility the Tories could remain neutral.

"The way the government decides a runway should be consented will be particularly important, and the commission was neutral on this issue," Walker said.

"If it is to be by a hybrid bill in parliament – like HS2 – then the government will be the promoter of the bill and will have to take sides. If it is by development consent order – like Hinkley Point C or the Thames Tideway Tunnel – it will be for the airport to promote and the government could remain neutral."