The government has approved the expansion of Heathrow Airport and creation of a third runway to expand airport capacity in the south east.

An expansion to Heathrow was favoured by businesses over rival plans to expand Gatwick Airport, but the plans faced strong opposition from Conservative MPs with constituencies near the airport or under flight paths.

A decision on where to expand airport capacity should have been made last year after the Airports Commission unanimously concluded that Heathrow expansion offers the “greatest strategic and economic benefits”.

However, David Cameron refused to make a decision that would be unpopular with some high profile Tory MPs such as Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith. Prior to becoming prime minister in 2009, Cameron had promised that there would be no new runway at Heathrow.

Ministers approved the decision at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will make a statement to the House of Commons about the decision at 13:00.

A public consultation on the effects of the airport expansion will now take place before the government gives its final seal of approval in 2017/18.

Construction is not expected to start on the new runway until 2020, and the expanded runway capacity will not be operational until 2025.

MPs opposed to the Heathrow expansion are expected to make statements about the decision throughout the day.

Previously, Zac Goldsmith promised to resign if Heathrow was selected as the location for expansion. He will make a statement after meeting with constituents later today.

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