02/02/2017 09:15 GMT | Updated 03/02/2018 05:12 GMT

The Public Consultation On Heathrow Is Launching Today - Time To Have Your Say

Paul Hackett / Reuters

The government's announcement last October that it supported building a new runway at Heathrow was a significant step towards expanding the UK's largest port, but only one of many before the first plane actually takes off.

The next step starts today with the launch of the government's public consultation on its draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS). The draft NPS sets out the planning policy which Heathrow must comply with in order to gain consent for a new runway.

The public consultation will run under the watchful eye of Sir Jeremy Sullivan, former Senior President of Tribunals, and will last for 16 weeks. This is an invaluable opportunity for local people to have their say about expansion.

As well as accepting written submissions from members of the public, this consultation will also take the form of a series of public engagement events, both locally and across the country. These will be vital forums, providing people with the opportunity to hear directly from representatives of the Department of Transport.

The last public consultation on Heathrow was held in 2015 when the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, received 70,591 responses, 82% of which were supportive of a new runway at Heathrow. More than 53,000 responses in favour came from individual residents so it's perhaps not surprising that Heathrow expansion enjoys huge local support with communities near the airport set to benefit from new opportunities and investment.

By late-May, the 2017 public consultation will finish and the focus will switch from the streets of Hounslow and Uxbridge to the corridors of Westminster. A parliamentary select committee of MPs will examine the fine print of the draft Airports NPS and question key stakeholders on the details.

In the summer and autumn, the government will be able to take stock of recommendations made during this exhaustive phase of public and political scrutiny. There will then be a crucial vote by MPs in Parliament next winter when the revised plans for Heathrow expansion are expected to pass.

The arguments in favour of expanding Heathrow are overwhelming; huge local and national support, major economic investment and vital new trade routes. A new runway will generate up to 77,000 local jobs, 5,000 apprenticeships and £61billion nationally. The benefits will be enormous so we urge everyone who backs Heathrow expansion to have their say and make sure it happens.