Richmond Heathrow Campaign responds to the Government’s Heathrow announcement

Yesterday’s Government announcement supporting a 3rd runway at Heathrow is still only a single step towards a goal that may never be delivered. The final free vote in parliament will not be taken until October 2017 or later. In the mean time the proposal faces several obstacles:

1. The Government’s failure to explain how a 3rd runway will be paid for without raising landing charges and without massive public subsidy.

2. The impact of the 2008 Climate Change Act, which can only result in Heathrow diverting growth from parts of the UK where it is needed to the south-east where it is not.

3. Legal challenges from local councils (including Richmond) and environmental groups.

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign’s view is that this decision is political and not rational. The history of the Roskill Commission in the early 1970s shows that a Government runway decision can be changed, and then never implemented. We will continue to campaign to expose the absence of a factual foundation for today’s runway decision with a view to the proposed new runway sharing the same fate.

We are now on Twitter and will be building up a series of infographics over coming weeks. If you are on Twitter then please follow us, and please retweet us to your followers if you like what we are saying.

You can see our full position on Heathrow and all our submissions to the Davies Commission on our website.

For further papers covering the different aspects of Heathrow expansion please visit RHC Facts.

Peter Willan, Chair of the Richmond Heathrow Campaign writes:

On Tuesday 25 October, Chris Grayling (Secretary of State for Transport) announced with enthusiasm the Government’s support for a 3rd runway at Heathrow and that the scheme will now be taken forward. The process involves a draft National Policy Statement in the New Year followed by consultation, parliamentary scrutiny and a vote and then designation at which point a detailed planning application can be made.

The Government states it has relied on the recommendation of the Airports Commission in July 2015 and the positive outcome of further work on two unresolved issues of air quality and carbon emissions. Tribute was paid to the quality and professionalism of the Commission’s report.

Emphasis is given to the value of expansion to the local and wider economy with increased employment and international and domestic connectivity. The Statement repeatedly referred to Britain being open for business. In spite of the substantial costs, the Government says it is confident a plan will be delivered that keeps landing charges close to current levels. At this stage it is not clear whether the Government has ruled out any financial support for surface access or anything else.

The Government claims to recognise environmental costs and to that end – an expectation to end night flights before 6am and new legally binding noise targets. It notes the airport has pledged £700 million for noise mitigation. Meeting air quality legal requirements will be made a planning condition. Compensation for those communities affected will be supported by up to £2.6 billion (paid by Heathrow). We should be wary of any predictions decisions or conditions offered, given the history of broken promises by Government. No mention has been made of a 4th runway but then any promise not to expand further is almost certainly worthless.

Richmond Heathrow Campaign has consistently argued against the need for any new runways, given the restrictions flowing from Climate Change Act 2008 on carbon emissions that in effect limit the number of passengers to around 380 million per annum by 2050. We set out in our fact sheets at the negative impact on the UK economy of a 3rd runway under these circumstances and based on the Airports Commission’s evidence. Growth in total UK passenger numbers is reduced and Heathrow diverts demand from the rest of the UK, thus damaging employment and local economies around the UK. Growth of inbound tourism and long-haul business trips is reduced thus reducing economic benefits and the number of UK overseas destinations remains unchanged. These are all facts, along with many others, the Government has seemingly ignored. The Commission’s recommendation just does not stand up to scrutiny of its own facts.

The decision in our view is not rational and is founded on politics pressured by Heathrow and business lobbying. The Government has missed the opportunity to invest in making London’s five airports and their access better and allowing the rest of the UK to expand. Instead, concentration and overheating in the southeast will stifle competition. The Government and Heathrow are now engaged in a huge gamble that the expansion can be delivered, achieve the estimated benefits and satisfy the environmental and other constraints. We doubt success will be achieved. We will do what we can to ensure the scheme never gets off the ground.

Significantly, four local authorities including, Richmond, along with Greenpeace will almost certainly launch a legal challenge. The scheme is likely to be frustrated and delayed for several years and may never take off. We will continue the challenge with the support of our local amenity groups we represent – the Richmond Society, the Kew Society and the Friends of Richmond Green, which together have over 2,000 members. Not to do so would allow our community to be blighted with the potential of additional flights over Richmond. Our neighbour, Heathrow, has poured salt on the wound by declaring it will seek an early expansion of flights before the runway is built. We encourage people to follow us on twitter and support the campaign.

Further Reading from the Evening Standard . . .

Heathrow expansion is ‘wrong decision for London and Britain’
Sadiq Khan, October 2016

Expanding Heathrow will be a monumental blight on west London
Simon Jenkins, October 2016

Third Heathrow runway is ‘an outrageous vanity project’ says BA boss Willie Walsh
July 2015