The continued procrastination over whether to expand Heathrow Airport seems to play into a much wider theme in the British (and particularly the English ) planning system.

It is almost impossible to plan for  the long term infrastructure and housing needs of the country without causing controversy.  

"Large scale" or strategic developments; such as airport expansions, high speed rail lines and even modest urban extensions of several hundred houses can be deeply unpopular projects in the short-term. A fact of which both national and local politicians are deeply aware. 

This leaves decision makers with a choice: necessary long term development or short term political expediency.  Often the short term pressures win out, a fact which has contributed to the current housing crisis and also to the lack of investment in infrastructure in the UK.  

The Heathrow decision will be a good indication as to whether this is about to change.