Heathrow is expected to be given the green light within days to build a third runway.
After years of delay, Prime Minister Theresa May is set to defy fierce opposition from key members of her Cabinet, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, to boost Britain’s airport capacity.
Campaigners predict an announcement about Heathrow could be made by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in the Commons as early as Tuesday.
A decision to back Heathrow would be welcomed by business groups, which claim that expanding it will provide a much bigger boost to the economy than the alternative choice of a second runway at Gatwick.
But last night supporters of Gatwick were refusing to give up, and claimed the Government is also planning to leave the door open to expanding airport capacity there as well.
Insiders said Gatwick could be given approval within the next five years as its 30-year agreement with West Sussex local authorities not to expand is due to expire in 2019. However, senior Whitehall officials have questioned whether the finance would be available to fund two major runway projects.
It was also claimed last night that the Government plans to urge Birmingham Airport to push forward proposals for an additional runway – an option which was not even considered by the independent Airports Commission in its report, published more than a year ago, that unanimously backed a third runway at Heathrow.
Mr Johnson – who promised to lie down in front of the bulldozers if Heathrow was given the go-ahead – is said to be resigned to Mrs May pushing ahead with a third runway at the UK’s biggest airport.
A Cambridge University study last week found that a third runway at Heathrow could be built without breaching pollution laws, which had been seen as a key barrier to its expansion.