CONSERVATIVE MP Zac Goldsmith has quit in protest within minutes of the government’s announcement to add a third runway to Heathrow Airport.

The Richmond Park MP had already made a public pledge to resign and stand as an independent candidate in his seat if the decision was taken, having long campaigned against the expansion plans.

Speaking in the Commons after the Heathrow announcement, Goldsmith said: “The government has chosen a course that is not only wrong, it’s doomed.

“It is wrong because of the million people who will directly suffer on the back of the environmental harm this project unavoidably produces, and doomed because the complexities, the cost, the legal complications mean that this project is almost certainly not going to be delivered.”

An announcement made to conservatiive members in Richmond Park
An announcement made to conservative members in Richmond Park

Goldsmith’s resignation will now force a by-election within the constituency.

The Liberal Democrats are expected to attempt to retake the seat which was held by them until Mr Goldsmith was elected in 2010; they have already selected Sarah Olney as their candidate.

It comes after the party made a huge comeback in the Witney by-election caused by David Cameron’s resignation, in which they saw their share of the vote surge by 23 per cent and the Tories’ majority slashed by some 20,000 votes.

“The key challenge actually is whether the Government itself puts up a candidate and if Zac Goldsmith’s going to stand as an anti-Heathrow candidate, is Theresa May going to put up her own Conservative, that’s the key question we want an answer to.” said Sir Vince Cable, former business secretary of the Liberal Democrats.

A public consultation will now be held on the impact of a third runway at the west London hub before the final decision is put to MPs for a vote in the winter of 2017/18.

Some of the UK’s largest unions have expressed their support for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Unite’s London and Eastern regional secretary Peter Kavanagh said: “The government’s approval for a third runway at Heathrow is welcome news, but it needs to fastforward the final decision and construction of the project.

“With every day that passes, rival airports like Frankfurt and Charles de Gaulle in Paris rub their hands at the prospect of gaining a competitive advantage.”

Mick Rix, national officer for transport and distribution at union GMB said: “The airport needs expansion if it is to retain its world class status as a global hub airport.

“Heathrow expansion is not reliant on public money. It will be built to stringent environmental standards. Heathrow must now mean Heathrow.”

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