By Rob Gray
On Wednesday 3 December the Airports Commission, the independent body charged with making a decision about where to expand airport capacity in the south of England, came to Heathrow to hear evidence from local people about the future of Heathrow.
For the first time ever, residents who are in favour of expansion made their views known. The Commission can now be in no doubt: a majority of local people are in favour of growth, at a bigger, better and quieter Heathrow Airport.
The day kicked off in the way that many predicted, a handful of people formed a tiny protest outside the hotel's entrance, whilst two members of 'Plane Stupid' scaled the roof over the hotel's entrance and sat there, preventing guests from entering the hotel. What happened next surprised everyone, except us. Our supporters took their position next to the four protesters - just dozens of ordinary people making their case for a positive future for their community.
The silent majority certainly found its voice! Our supporters sang and waved placards urging Sir Howard Davies and his team of Commissioners to hear their side of the story. You can see a picture of our supporters in full voice above. Opponents admitted it was the first time they had ever seen a pro-expansion protest.
As well as making a scene outside, we had a job to do inside. The Commission heard evidence from both Heathrow Airport and Heathrow Hub, laying out their plans for the future of the airport, and how a bigger, better and quieter Heathrow could bring so much prosperity to our area. Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith, who is no fan of the airport (except for when his constituents are using it), and he used his speech to attack Back Heathrow and its supporters, claiming that we're a 'bogus’ campaign.
Our supporters were quite surprised and offended to be referred to as 'bogus', particularly when they have lived in the area for decades and have been supporters of our campaign for many months. Had Zac Goldsmith stayed and listened to our supporters, he would have known that they are like the majority of local people, proud of the airport and keen for more jobs and better prospects for local people. Instead he insulted local people who support growth and discounted their views.
Then it was time for Rob to speak on behalf of the campaign. It was a privilege to speak on behalf of our 50,000 supporters, if the commission had allowed it we would have preferred them to hear from you all individually, but we don't think they've got a fortnight to spare! You can read Rob's speech here but we'd like to share a small part of it with you:
"We only exist because of our thousands of supporters - they are our core and our strength. They are the reason we are here today".
Despite all the nonsense that has been written by those who hope we will fail, nobody can deny that truth. People who have said 'yes' to expansion, and 'yes' to a bright future for our local communities. You are the reason why we were able to have our voice heard yesterday.
Time and again throughout the day, pro-Heathrow residents rose to their feet to give the Commission their heartfelt views. It was truly inspiring to hear how passionately local people felt about the airport past, present and future.
There are of course two sides to every story, and it was also an opportunity for those who oppose the airport's expansion to have their views heard. We know that not everyone wants Heathrow to expand. It is important for the Commission to hear about the concerns people have, but also the constructive ways that the airport hopes to address those concerns. Many pertinent and valuable points were made on both sides of this argument.
Even if you couldn’t all be there yesterday, you can still make your views to the Commission known. You can contact the commission to provide your views through their consultation page on their website.
Our supporters are our core and our strength, and the only reason we're here at all.