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UK approves third runway for London's Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport

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Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The UK has approved the addition of a third runway to Heathrow airport in London — a decision that has taken decades to come to and that has already been heavily criticized by members of the government. Businesses have said increasing airport capacity in London is a must, but expanding any of the city's existing airports (there are six in total) means clashes with nearby residents. Environmental campaigners have also objected to the new runway, which will hamper the UK's pledged reductions to greenhouse gas output.

The earliest the new runway can be built is thought to be around 2025, with construction not beginning for another four or five years. A public consultation will need to be held on the plans, and it's possible that objections from politicians could also delay work. London's former mayor and the current British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson labeled the plans "undeliverable" minutes after they were announced, while senior Tory MP Zac Goldsmith has announced his plans to resign over the decision.

The government claims the new runway will deliver economic benefits of up £61 billion ($74 billion) while also creating 77,000 new jobs locally. But the biggest worry is noise, with the new, larger runway leading to a 50 percent increase in flights over London. The government is proposing a six-and-a-half-hour ban on flights overnight as well as legally binding noise targets, but residents in the area are still unconvinced. For some, though, the news is worse than extra noise: a number of villages are scheduled to be partly or wholly demolished to build the extra runway.