A DECISION on whether to grant final approval for the expansion of Heathrow is unlikely to be made until late in the year.
This is the view of campaign groups who have fought tirelessly to prevent a third runway from being given planning permission at the airport.
Following a public consultation which began at the end of last year, the Government had been expected to make a decision earlier in the summer.
However, this was pushed back until autumn, and now groups including HACAN and NoTRAG (No Third Runway Action Group) believe another round of consultations will delay things further.
The Department for Transport this week put out its Equalities Impact Assessment and gave a closing date for responses of November 9. Protesters feel it will then need several weeks to assess the findings.
The Government is required by law to carry out an Equalities Impact Assessment if major projects are likely to affect a number of people from minority groups such as disabled people or those from ethnic minorities.
The Department had not done an assessment by the time the official consultation ended in February. It only started the work in spring following a letter from lawyers at Friends of the Earth pointing out that it would be in breach of its legal duties if it failed to carry out an assessment.
John Stewart, chairman of HACAN, said: "The one clear message is that a huge number of people from minority communities will be badly affected if the expansion of Heathrow goes ahead.
"But this consultation fails to spell out just how it will affect people. That is the more important part. It gives every sign of being a rushed consul-tant's document commissioned in haste by a government department which was forced into doing the assessment by the threat of legal action."
Geraldine Nicholson, chairwoman of NoTRAG added: "Once again the Department for Transport is shortchanging local people. Less than two months' consultation may be within the letter of the law, but it is not within the spirit.
"And, of course, once again the Department are only consulting people who will be within the 57 decibel noise contour. That excludes huge areas where noise is already a serious problem."