Heathrow expansion will allow more connecting flights with UK airports, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said.

Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has said that building a third runway at Heathrow will allow more connecting flights with other UK airports, telling the Commons that six regional airports could be added to the Heathrow hub network, bringing the total to 14.

Belfast, Liverpool, Newquay, Prestwick, Humberside and Durham Tees Valley are thought to be the new airports.

His comments came as he launched a public consultation on the new runway, which has caused significant opposition from last October, when the government said that building a third runway at Heathrow was the preferred option for expanding airport capacity.

Mr Grayling also told the Commons that a third runway would generate tens of thousands of jobs, and be a major boost to the economy as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

Mr Grayling said: “By backing the north-west runway at Heathrow airport and publishing our proposals, we are sending a clear signal that when we leave the EU, we are open for business.”

The Government is about to set its strategy for withdrawal from the EU in a White Paper, and Mr Grayling said that a third runway would enhance the UK’s global links.

“Leaving the EU is a new chapter for Britain and provides us with a great opportunity to forge a new role in the world. We are determined to seize that opportunity and having the right infrastructure in place will allow us to build a more global Britain,” he told MPs.

Alongside the “draft policy statement” on Heathrow expansion, the Transport Secretary also issued a consultation document on improving Britain’s air space infrastructure and investing in new technology. The two consultations are being carried out together and will run until 25 May, with final decisions going before Parliament late this year or early 2018.

The consultation will consider air pollution, additional rail and road infrastructure, and the impact on surrounding towns and villages.

Events will be held across the country regarding the consultations, as Mr Grayling said “the whole country will benefit”.

The estimated cost of a third runway is £22Bn, and will generate a forecasted 70,000 jobs. An additional 260,000 take-offs or landings would be permitted each year from the expanded airport, on top of the current cap of 480,000.

John Stewart, Chairman of anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said it was important that the government assessed the consultation “in an even-handed way” and rejected the plan if the expected impact on issues such as noise was found to be “too great”.