From the Richmond Heathrow Campaign,
Wednesday 16th December 2020:
The Supreme Court today upheld Heathrow’s appeal and concluded that the Transport Secretary was entitled in 2018 to ignore the UK’s climate change commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and that the decision to progress Heathrow’s expansion to the planning stage is lawful.
There were always major gaps in the arguments for Heathrow’s third runway and the world has changed so much since 2018, not least because of Covid-19. Climate change is the greatest risk to aviation growth and last week the Climate Change Committee’s 6th Carbon Budget emphasised no net increase in UK airport capacity and that an increase at one airport means a reduction elsewhere – in other words levelling down the regions. Bio-fuels and carbon removal from the atmosphere are only partial solutions and demand will have to be constrained to achieve aviation’s net zero carbon.
If Heathrow still wants a 3rd runway it will have to restart the already delayed planning process with diminishing chance of success. The pandemic has highlighted Heathrow’s lack of financial resilience and the improbability of raising finance for a very expensive expansion in the face of growth constrained by climate risk. Heathrow should not waste billions of pounds on ill-judged expansion. Shareholders are unlikely to want to dilute a steady cash flow with the poor return from risky expansion without tax payer support.
Heathrow should give up its impossible ambition and focus on making Heathrow a better airport and re-enforcing London as the best served city in the world with its five airports.
Better surface access, more passengers per flight and replacement of international-to-international transfer passengers with UK passengers would be a good start. Reducing carbon, air pollution and noise, including no night flights, are crucial. It would be of great benefit to the UK generally for the recovery and subsequent expansion of air traffic to be shared across UK airports, instead of concentrated at Heathrow, thereby levelling up regional jobs and economies and better serving demand and world-wide access.
More than two million people, including Richmond and Kew residents, are exposed to Heathrow’s aircraft noise and attendant health risk but worse still they have experienced the threat of expansion for over a decade. Heathrow and the government should abandon a further decade of expansion and flight path uncertainty and focus on reducing existing noise misery. Residents now know how much better life can be without aircraft noise.
One certainty is the opposition to Heathrow’s expansion from community groups, NGOs and local councils is stronger today than ever with the environment playing a much bigger part in society’s goals. Richmond Heathrow Campaign will continue to ensure that Heathrow’s expansion remains a pipe dream.
Richmond Heathrow Campaign represents three amenity groups in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames: The Richmond Society, The Friends of Richmond Green, and the Kew Society, which together have over 2000 members.