Assuming a smooth path it is still likely to be another four to five years before construction gets underway.
The government must also launch a public consultation on the local impacts of its decision in the new year, before publishing a national policy statement on aviation. This needs to be ratified by parliamentary vote, either in late 2017 or 2018.
Heathrow Airport said today it was taking first steps towards planning with an extensive engagement and consultation with local communities on environmental impacts and project design.
Wildlife and other environmental surveys in the local area, will start early next year.
Once submitted, inspectors will then recommend it to the secretary of state for communities for final approval in 2020.
Earlier this month, the Heathrow named its integrated design team for the planning process which includes engineers Amec Foster Wheeler, Arup, Atkins, Mott MacDonald and Jacobs and transport planner Quod and Grimshaw as architect.
It chief client side professional advisers are Arup, CH2M, Mace and Turner & Townsend.
Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s Expansion Director, said: “Heathrow has its team in place, working to deliver the benefits of expansion in the most sustainable way.
“During the detailed planning process there will be lots of opportunities for local communities, industry partners and other interested parties to help shape our proposals.
“Together, we want to create a plan that not only boosts the economy – locally and across the UK – but one that delivers a lasting legacy in the local area and tackles important local issues including reducing noise and meeting air quality requirements.”