Heathrow is getting a legal team in place ahead of potential challenges to a third runway, as it continues to target a 2020 construction start date.
The project’s development director Philip Wilbraham said a second procurement process was under way to select a team to deal with legal challenges, with lawyers already in place to help with the planning process.
He added: “We may have to deal with legal challenges, but we are not aware of legal challenges as yet.
“We are preparing a legal team but the main reason for that is to ensure we go through the Development Consent Order process properly.
“We have already procured lawyers. Some of them are appropriate for the planning process and some of them will be appropriate if we end up in a judicial review.”
The government gave its backing to the third runway, which will be the first new full-length runway in the South-east since the Second World War, at a Cabinet committee meeting on Tuesday.
But planning experts have told CN the start date for the scheme could be held up until 2022 due to the potential volume of legal challenges expected from opponents of the airport’s expansion.
Taylor Wessing head of planning Al Watson said there were a multitude of legal and political challenges ahead, which could see construction pushed back to “late 2021 or 2022”.
But Mr Wilbraham said a DCO will be submitted in 2019, with planning permission expected by 2020.
“We may do some enabling works in advance if we can get planning permission,” he added.
A two-stage consultation process with the public will be launched before a DCO examination takes place, with the first consultation set for September 2018.
The public will give its feedback on the scheme before a further consultation will take place in the second half of 2018.
Mr Wilbraham said the two-stage consultation process is being put in place to remove “as many objections as we possibly can”.
He also said £2bn will be spent on procuring work within the UK supply chain, which will make up 95 per cent of the project’s workforce.
Mr Wilbraham said it was very important for tier twos to have access to the project, with 60 per cent of its workforce to be made up of companies outside of London.
He said: “We will be consulting with the market over the next months to understand how to package and deliver the project.”