Reaction to the Government’s decision to expand Heathrow is coming in thick and fast. Here’s what they’re saying…
Campaign group HACAN, which has opposed a new runway at Heathrow, has said that countless residents will be ‘dismayed and distraught’ by today’s announcement. And it questions whether the runway will can ever be built because of the huge obstacles Heathrow still faces in delivering it.
HACAN chairman John Stewart said: “Countless residents will be dismayed and distraught by this decision. Some will lose their homes. Some face the daunting prospect of living under a noisy flight path for the first time. And many others will get yet more planes over their heads. But real doubts must remain whether this new runway will ever see the light of day. The hurdles it faces remain: costs, noise, air pollution and widespread opposition including an expected legal challenge from the local authorities.”
Stewart added: “As expected, permission for a new runway has been made dependent on certain legal conditions being met. HACAN will fight for the implementation of these measures whether we get a third runway or Heathrow ultimately remains a two runway airport.”
London Assembly Green Party member Caroline Russell AM has condemned the Government’s decision to select Heathrow Airport as the preferred choice for expansion, and renewed her appeal to the Mayor of London to get behind policies that would make better use of existing air and international rail capacity (1).
Supporters of Heathrow expansion claim a third runway could be completed without air quality legal limits being breached. However, opponents reject suggestions that anticipated future reductions in air pollution from cleaner vehicles could allow an expanded Heathrow airport to emit more pollution than at present and stay within legal limits.
In May Caroline questioned the Mayor of London on airport expansion. He said he was ‘not persuaded further expansion of airports within London would be compatible with (my) aim of achieving legal limits for air quality as soon as possible’ (2).
Caroline Russell said:“The decision to choose Heathrow as the preferred option, depending on the final vote next year, has offered temporary relief for the people living under the new flight paths but prolonged their anguish as they wait another twelve months to find out their fate.
“Imagine a motorbike zooming outside your front door from morning to night – this will be the new reality for West Londoners who will be blighted by more air pollution and intrusive noise because of this miserable decision.
“This is a two-pronged problem for west Londoners, as well as contending with noisy flights their local roads and public transport will be clogged with increased traffic, worsening their daily journeys and exacerbating air pollution.
“There’s no way expansion should even be on the table when air pollution in Heathrow already exceeds legal limits. This is a bad decision that will accelerate climate change and makes a mockery of the Government’s announcement to ratify the Paris Agreement.
“I am calling on the Mayor to influence the Government to make sure alternatives to yet more expansion are explored; annually there are around 10 million seats of unused capacity on the Eurostar and a frequent flyer levy could help use existing runways more efficiently (3).
“The Mayor should, for example, convince the Government to renegotiate the current Eurotunnel fee structure that means both trains and passengers pay arbitrary fees and makes international train travel so expensive.”
“Transport for London (TfL) estimate that £18 billion of investment (4) will be needed to upgrade the transport infrastructure around an expanded Heathrow with just £1 billion coming from Heathrow.
“The Mayor must explain how TfL’s finances will cope with the additional pressure if this does happen. He should also set out how he will ensure the clean air savings his ULEZ might bring can be safeguarded against emissions from Heathrow expansion.”
Stop Heathrow Expansion, a resident-led community group opposed to the third runway at Heathrow, said residents were once again left worried and blighted by the Government’s decision today to support expansion at the airport.
The villages of Harmondsworth and Longford will be flattened in order to become a runway, with thousands of people losing their homes. Many thought their homes and community was safe following the Government’s decision in 2010 to cancel the previous proposal for a third runway.
Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, commenting on today’s announcement confirming the Government’s intention to support a third Heathrow runway said:”After an incredibly expensive lobbying campaign the Government has foolishly accepted the myth that what is good for the overseas owners of Heathrow is also good for the UK economy.
“The reality is that airports such as Luton and Stansted have spare capacity. And in time HS2 will also allow easy access to Birmingham airport for many Londoners.
“We can improve the UK’s international links through better use of all our airports. It is the triumph of vested interests for this Government to claim that the environmental wreckage created by a third Heathrow runway is a price worth paying.”
“The case against a third Heathrow runway is as strong as when Theresa May actively opposed it and when David Cameron once promised ‘no ifs, no buts, no third runway’.”
Robert Barnstone, Campaign co-ordinator, Stop Heathrow Expansion, said: “Once again residents around Heathrow are fighting for their homes, schools, places of worship and community. The years of uncertainty that lie ahead while Heathrow is challenged in the courts brings yet more blight and worry to thousands of people.”
Barnstone added: “The fight is only just beginning. Like last time, we will see the Government in court and see off this threat, this time for good.
Previously, in 2009 the Government supported a third runway, but was successfully challenged in the High court the following year. Among those opposing the third runway then included Prime Minister Theresa May, who, in 2010, “welcomed the cancellation of the third runway” (1).
Responding to the government’s announcement that Heathrow is its preferred airport for expansion, Conservative London Assembly member Keith Prince said:
“I am extremely disappointed the government has ignored the vast swathes of evidence indicating that a third runway at Heathrow will be an environmental and logistical disaster.
“Even if you ignore the damning air quality assessments, the mere fact that the busiest junction on the M25 would have to be moved underground should have been enough to make this a no-go.
“Millions of drivers will face seven years of congestion and severe delays whilst the monumental task of tunnelling one of the world’s largest motorways underground gets underway.
“Experts predict 223,000 journeys will be delayed every single day as a result, causing misery for hundreds of thousands of commuters and businesses, not to mention those simply trying to drive around west London or to the airport itself.
“I sincerely hope that during the upcoming period of consultation, the government recognises it has made a mistake and reconsiders.”
Airlines have welcomed the long awaited decision on additional runway capacity following today’s Government announcement that development should proceed at Heathrow.
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK), representing 70 airlines, has been calling on the Government to end the years of uncertainty, and to move forward with urgency since the final report by Sir Howard Davis’ Airports Commission was released last July.
Dale Keller, chief executive of BAR UK said “We welcome that a decision has finally been made to allow an additional runway at Heathrow, and yet for us this is simply the beginning and the real work starts now. We look forward to engaging closely with the Government and Heathrow Airport Limited during the public consultation and National Policy Statement process that follows, to ensure that the new capacity can be financed without pre-funding by today’s passengers and be delivered on-time and at a cost that is affordable to airlines and the travelling public.
The new runway will deliver further vital connectivity for the whole of UK’s economy in an increasingly globalised world.”
This not only protects the 80,000 jobs directly employed at the airport but will increase to a further 114,000 jobs that will be needed says GMB
GMB, the union for airport workers, has welcomed reports that Heathrow expansion has been approved by ministers. The project is set to have a huge impact on the UK steel sector and will create thousands of jobs in both construction and steel industries.
An analysis of the project by the Airports Commission in 2014 found that Heathrow expansion would create up to 180,000 jobs and provide £211bn in economic benefits across the UK by 2050.
Theresa May previously criticised delays in approval for Heathrow expansion. Responding to the announcement of a White Paper on air transport in 2003, May, then Shadow Secretary of State for Environment and Transport, stated: “Far from setting a clear way forward for air transport in the UK, today’s announcement is a fudge from an incompetent Government, which will deliver only blight to millions of people living around airports across the country.”
Mick Rix, GMB National Officer for Transport and Distribution, said: “GMB has a long standing policy of support for Heathrow expansion for the best part of a decade. Heathrow expansion has a clear cut case.
“The airport needs expansion if it is to retain its world class status as a global hub airport. In recent years because of this long standing process work has slowly drifted to European competitor hub airports. Heathrow expansion is not reliant on public money. It will be built to stringent environmental standards. Heathrow must now mean Heathrow.”
“This not only protects the 80,000 jobs directly employed at the airport but will increase to a further 114,000 jobs that will be needed, and 10,000 local apprenticeship schemes. The boost to the economy, and the earnings potential for the surrounding boroughs in West London, can also be measured with the boost it guarantees to our regional economies. Expansion also means that the delays people experience in their current Heathrow travel experience, will be severely minimised.
“The majority of people who live and work near the airport, business, and all major trade unions, and the TUC who have members employed by the airport are supportive of expansion. Heathrow expansion is a win, win for everyone. The time for dithering and political expediency has to stop, there is a clear cut case for Heathrow expansion, Heathrow expansion and the economy desperately needs decisiveness not delay.”
Chief Executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Colin Stanbridge said: “I am relieved that the decision has finally been made and firmly believe it is the right one.The constant dithering over a decision in past years has risked damaging British business but now we finally have the chance to act to future-proof the UK economy.
“Now we need to mitigate those delays and commence construction work as soon as practical to maximise the benefits to London and the wider UK.
“However as the runway will take several years to be operational we need to make best use of existing aviation infrastructure now including strengthening rail links and improving services at London City and Stanstead airports.”