Councils are spending taxpayers’ cash on lawyers to oppose Heathrow expansion

Unless you’ve been holidaying on the moon this week you will have seen the news that we will all be getting election fever once again on June 8th (whether we want to or not).

Whilst Heathrow expansion is unlikely to be a big issue in the national campaign, locally all candidates will take a position on Heathrow’s new runway. If you want to know what the candidates in your area think then get down to your local hustings, ask a question and find out!

Whilst Westminster takes a break, we at Back Heathrow remain focused on the draft NPS Airports Consultation and we will continue to encourage all our supporters to make their submissions. There’s still time for you to have your say so if you haven’t yet, please do so by clicking HERE.

Whilst national politicians are going to the country, local politicians in west London have been occupying themselves with representing their constituents and ensuring value for money for hard-pressed council tax payers, to varying degrees of success.

The BBC has reported that Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon and Windsor & Maidenhead councils spent £350,000 from their general and development funds on legal fees challenging Heathrow’s planned new runway.

Council general funds are where money for most local services is drawn, with funds raised from council tax. Essential public services provided by these four councils could potentially suffer and many local taxpayers will ask why their hard-earned money is being spent on expensive lawyers instead of on services like road maintenance or adult social care.

Many Back Heathrow supporters will be inadvertently contributing to this anti-expansion legal fund and many more will be frustrated that they weren’t consulted before their money was used on a scheme that they might fundamentally disagree with.

If you are a local resident in one of these boroughs and you oppose the way your money is being spent then please write to your local newspaper expressing why you’re so angry with the revelations in the BBC piece. You can also attend your local hustings for the forthcoming general election and find out what your local candidate thinks of these councils’ actions.


TOP GREEN ADVISERS HELP HEATHROW CREATE EYE-CATCHING ENVIRONMENTAL STRATEGY

"We have to say, that if you look at this coldly, it makes Heathrow one of the most progressive airports in the world." This quote comes not from an airline economist but from Friends of the Earth spokesperson, Andrew Pendleton. The praise, possibly through gritted teeth, came this week after Heathrow launched an innovative new strategy to tackle the airport's environmental impacts.

Heathrow 2.0, the airport's new sustainability strategy was devised with input from some of the world's most respected environmentalists, academics and community leaders.

You can find the full details of the plans HERE but some of the key points include:
  • Making growth from a new runway at Heathrow carbon neutral
  • The use of 100% renewable electricity at the airport from 2017
  • Quiet Night Charter to at least halve the number of late running departures to reduce noise for local communities.
  • Establishing an airside ultra-low emission zone by 2025

Heathrow will also fund and develop a Centre of Excellence for sustainable aviation to minimise aircraft noise and pollution.

An eye-catching aspect of Heathrow's plans is to explore the restoration of peatlands in the UK to offset carbon. Peatlands cover 12% of the UK but 80% are in poor condition. Restoring them would avoid releasing billions of tonnes of carbon over decades to come whilst helping flood prevention and protecting wildlife.

Tony Juniper is the respected former Friends of the Earth Director and Prince of Wales's adviser on green issues. Juniper helped the Heathrow airport team create its new strategy, calling it "bold and brave". He said: "The difference here is the extent to which they have which really embraced the challenge rather than trying to avoid responsibility".

Juniper, who is agnostic about expansion, added, "If society is going to say we are going to accommodate growth rather than to try and block it then the best possible thing you can do is to try to ensure it is as sustainable as possible… we have a growing demand for aviation and we need to be able to deal with that through a number of different approaches.”

The Prince of Wales's 'green guru' acknowledges that fast-growing aviation is going to have to become sustainable because stopping more people flying “is not going to happen”. With Heathrow announcing record passenger numbers of 75.7 million for 2016, the airport knows it must continue to innovate to make sure any gap between the economic benefits of a new runway and its environmental responsibilities is bridged. It is doing that in some style.


The public consultation on Heathrow is open – now’s the time to have your say

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Last October, the government announced that it supported building a new runway at Heathrow. This was a significant step towards expanding the UK’s largest port, but only one of many before it actually becomes operational.

The next step starts with the government’s public consultation on its draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) which is now officially open. The draft NPS sets out the planning policy which Heathrow must comply with to gain consent for a new runway. The public consultation will run under the watchful eye of Sir Jeremy Sullivan, former Senior President of Tribunals, and will last for 16 weeks. This is an invaluable opportunity for local people to have their say about expansion.

As well as accepting written submissions from members of the public, this consultation will also involve a series of public engagement events, both locally and across the country. These will be vital forums, providing people with the opportunity to hear directly from representatives of the Department of Transport about the specific plans for the new runway.

The first of these events took place in Southall on Monday with the Staines, Twickenham and Putney events scheduled for next week. There are lots of events happening across the local area and you can find out where your nearest one is by clicking HERE.

By late-May, the 2017 public consultation will finish and the focus will switch from the streets of Hounslow and Uxbridge to the corridors of Westminster. A parliamentary select committee of MPs will examine the fine print of the draft Airports NPS and question key stakeholders on the details.

In the summer and autumn, the government will be able to take stock of recommendations made during this exhaustive phase of public and political scrutiny. There will then be a crucial vote by MPs in Parliament next winter when the revised plans for Heathrow expansion are expected to pass.

The arguments in favour of expanding Heathrow are overwhelming; huge local and national support, major economic investment and vital new trade routes. A new runway will generate up to 77,000 local jobs, 5,000 apprenticeships and £61billion nationally. The benefits will be enormous so we urge everyone who backs Heathrow expansion to have their say and make sure it happens. If you haven’t already done so, please register your support for the Heathrow Northwest runway by clicking HERE.

 

 


Why Heathrow is vital to the Prime Minister's vision of the UK as a great, global trading nation

Last week Theresa May used her Brexit speech to outline its implications for the future of the UK and our ability to trade. Yesterday, the government announced a new industrial strategy for the UK with business minister Lord Prior writing about how it will affect national infrastructure, including Heathrow. 

Gaining less media coverage but also a significant indicator for Britain’s future in international trade was Heathrow’s announcement of record passenger numbers in 2016.

Heathrow welcomed 76 million passengers last year, or the equivalent of 3 full Millennium Stadiums of people every day. These passengers were travelling via 81 different airlines, to 194 destinations, across 82 countries. The record was set in the same year that Heathrow celebrated its 70th birthday and saw over 1.5 million tonnes of cargo come through the airport.

Domestic firms looking to increase exports need to have access to overseas markets and foreign businesses looking to invest in the UK need to be able to travel here easily. Heathrow’s record passenger numbers demonstrate the vital role Heathrow already plays in the UK’s ability to facilitate trade, a role that will become even more important once we leave the European Union. To trade effectively, Heathrow will need to expand in order to provide more air routes and trade links with the whole world, including with Europe.

In her Brexit speech, the Prime Minister said that her aim was “to build a truly global Britain. A country that reaches out to old friends and new allies alike. A great, global, trading nation.” Expanding Heathrow is vital to achieving this and it’s heartening to know that building a new runway at the UK’s largest port continues to enjoy huge local support.

Yesterday, Hounslow Council released a poll of its local residents which found that 44 per cent of those surveyed support a third runway at Heathrow while only 29 per cent opposed. We have always known that there is significant support for Heathrow expansion in Hounslow but some may be surprised, particularly as Hounslow is the most overflown borough in London.

This poll demonstrates the huge local support for a new runway but if we are to secure the jobs, apprenticeships, investment and prosperity that will come to communities from a bigger and better Heathrow then residents across West London and the Thames Valley must speak out. The next opportunity to do just that is coming when the Government launches its public consultation on a new runway at Heathrow very soon.

 

 


MORE MPS BACK HEATHROW EXPANSION AS SUPPORT CONTINUES TO GROW

As we begin the New Year, support for Heathrow expansion continues to grow, notably at the local level but also amongst politicians across the UK. A recent poll of 130 MPs by ComRes found that 74 per cent of MPs now back building a third runway, up by seven percentage points since the summer. The proportion of Conservative MPs in favour has risen from 71 to 80 per cent over the same period.

The next twelve months will be very busy with various events, consultations and analysis taking place, all relating to Heathrow expansion. The first stage, expected within weeks, will be for the government to bring forward a draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) for consultation. An NPS sets out the planning policy which Heathrow must comply with in order to get planning consent for a new runway.

There will then be a major public consultation on the draft NPS expected to last until the spring when anyone can have their say. This 16-week process is extremely important because it is vital pro-expansion supporters demonstrate the enormous backing the project has within local communities.

After the public has had a chance to comment on the draft NPS, it will be the turn of MPs in Parliament. This will initially be done by members of a select committee where they will examine the fine print of the draft NPS and question key stakeholders on details of the proposal.

In the summer and autumn of 2017 the government will have time to take stock of all the analysis, scrutiny, comments and recommendations made during the public consultation. The government will also consider a final report by the select committee and the draft NPS will then be revised accordingly. This will be followed by a key vote in the House of Commons in approximately one year’s time when we will hopefully be another step closer to building Heathrow’s new runway.

The polling suggests that a huge majority of MPs will carry the vote in favour of Heathrow. But there’s 12 months to go before then…it should be an interesting 2017!

 


THE RICHMOND PARK SIDESHOW: WHAT NEXT AFTER THE ‘HEATHROW’ BY-ELECTION?

The Liberal Democrats pulled off a sensational victory in the Richmond Park and North Kingston by-election. They overturned a huge majority to snatch the seat from the incumbent Zac Goldsmith who stood as an independent having resigned from the Conservative Party and triggered the by-election when the Government gave the amber light for a third runway at Heathrow.

Although the new MP Sarah Olney is also against a third runway, I believe the defeat of Zac Goldsmith will send a strong signal to both the Government and Heathrow Airport that the public opposition to it is much less solid than they had expected.

For half a century, the wealthy Richmond constituency has been the bedrock of the opposition to Heathrow expansion. Yet it refused to rally round the candidate who had triggered the election on that issue, decided other issues, such as Brexit, were more important… when given the chance, the residents of Richmond didn’t prioritise the third runway…

The Government has many more hurdles yet to climb before it gets a third runway but it is not inconceivable that, if it does succeed, it will look back and see the Richmond result as the day the amber light turned to green.

These aren’t the words of a pro-Heathrow campaigner. They were written by the leader of the anti-Heathrow expansion campaign, John Stewart, Chair of HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise). John has campaigned against Heathrow expansion for decades and is a shrewd observer of the political landscape. For him to publicly acknowledge that the anti-expansion campaign failed to generate momentum where opposition has been strongest would have hurt but he is right.

Before the polls opened, we wrote that the Richmond Park by-election was an irrelevant sideshow as all the major candidates were anti-Heathrow. Moreover, most residents living in communities nearest the airport are in favour of a new runway and the project has widespread support across the UK.

Zac Goldsmith tried to make the by-election a referendum on Heathrow in order to get re-elected as MP. He failed on both fronts. The voters in Richmond Park decided what the by-election was about and they decided that Brexit and many other issues were more important to them than Heathrow.

The government supports Heathrow expansion and it has the firm backing of a majority of MPs. In south-west London, the people of Richmond Park have publicly declared ambivalence. Even opponents are beginning to realise that sustainable Heathrow expansion is seen is the right decision for the local area and the country. It’s about time.


The Richmond Park by-election is a self-indulgent sideshow

 

Today, many inhabitants of the Westminster village will glance up to take a passing interest in events a few miles west along the Thames. For in leafy Richmond, a by-election is taking place.

Zac Goldsmith triggered this contest by resigning as MP for Richmond Park in protest at his government’s support for a new runway at Heathrow. He then declared his intention to stand as a candidate to become the new MP for Richmond Park in the same election that he had just forced.

Such parliamentary shenanigans may look odd to the outside world - not many people petulantly resign from a job and then immediately reapply - but they are perfectly legal, if extremely costly to the taxpayer. So, the people of Richmond Park will be dragged to the polling booths. Again.

Whilst Westminster and Richmond Park will be focused on the by-election, the rest of the country, and indeed the rest of west London will not. Outside of London’s wealthiest borough, Heathrow’s expansion is broadly welcomed.

Fortunately, many west Londoners can look forward to a bright future now that a new runway at Heathrow has been approved. Whilst there are some opponents in Richmond with legitimate concerns, it is important to remember that Heathrow expansion is backed by most residents living in the boroughs near the airport.

Nor should it be forgotten that whilst Richmond already benefits from plenty of prosperity, this isn’t necessarily the case in other areas of west London where unemployment is much higher. Communities in these areas will really benefit from the jobs, apprenticeships and additional investment that a bigger, better Heathrow will bring.

Last week, Zac Goldsmith organised a rally on Richmond Green to protest against Heathrow expansion, the subject that brought him to resign in the first place. Even the presence of the Liberal Democrat contingent could not swell the numbers beyond a few hundred. The candidates must hope that more people vote on Thursday.

The turnout compares poorly when you consider that tens of thousands of west London residents recently wrote to the Prime Minister to ask her to back a new runway at Heathrow.

The Richmond Park by-election may stir up the media for a few hours but it is a self-indulgent sideshow. Britain deserves better and by expanding Heathrow, our biggest port, we will get it.


Now we need to get on and build a new Heathrow runway!

 

We were promised that Theresa May’s government would decide on airport expansion by the end of October. After years of dither and delay from successive administrations, that promise has finally been kept after the government announced that it was backing a new runway at Heathrow.

The case for expanding Heathrow is overwhelming. From local support to economic investment and from new flight routes to more apprentices, the benefits will be enormous. That’s why we’re delighted that Theresa May has made the right choice for both the country and the local area.

Heathrow is all about people with 114,000 people employed at the UK’s largest single-site employer and 250,000 people who work in the local area relying on the airport economy. We believe a new runway will generate up to 77,000 new jobs, 5,000 new local apprenticeships and £61 billion nationally.

It’s not surprising that Heathrow expansion enjoys huge support in the local area with communities near the airport set to gain through fresh opportunities and investment from a new runway at Heathrow. When Populus conducted a recent poll of more than 10,000 local residents recently, they found that 51% of residents living in the twelve parliamentary constituencies nearest to Heathrow supported expansion whilst only 35% opposed.

The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, received 70,591 responses to its public consultation and 82% were supportive of expansion at Heathrow. More than 53,000 responses in favour came from local residents compared to just 161 responses from the Stop Heathrow Expansion group.

Heathrow expansion is also backed by business groups, trade unions, exporters and most MPs in Parliament. This makes an extra runway not only politically deliverable, but also politically desirable. A recent survey of MPs found that 71% of Tory and 73% of Labour MPs back a new runway at Heathrow so the Prime Minister knows that she can count on the support of Parliament.

Following the vote to leave the European Union, the UK must capitalise on new trading and connectivity opportunities. If Theresa May is serious about making our country ‘a global leader in free trade’ then a new runway at the UK’s biggest port is a sure way to show the world that Britain is ready and open for business.

A new runway at Heathrow will benefit the whole country as we make our way in a post-Brexit world. But it will particularly help the communities near Heathrow who will benefit from stricter conditions on noise, more jobs, extra investment and new opportunities for the local area.

Local people have finally been given clarity and certainty on Heathrow expansion. But the hard work begins now if we are to build a new runway at Heathrow.

The tens of thousands of Back Heathrow supporters who feel passionately about their airport and who want it to succeed in the future have been listened to. For the national interest and for local residents, we need to get on and follow through by expanding Heathrow.

 


GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS DECISION ON HEATHROW WILL BE TAKEN IN OCTOBER

 

As the October nights draw in, we also edge ever closer to a decision on Heathrow. A government spokesperson has already confirmed that there will be an announcement this month so the wait may soon be over.

Ahead of the announcement, Heathrow has, unsurprisingly, featured heavily in the media. Boris Johnson remains probably the most well-known opponent of Heathrow expansion yet even he appears to acknowledge that the momentum seems to be against him. Press reports this week suggested that the Foreign Secretary will not resign from the Cabinet to “lie down in front of the bulldozers” if a new Heathrow runway is approved.

Heathrow is the UK’s largest port, handling over a quarter of British exports. Therefore, it was no surprise that Heathrow's cargo volumes rose six per cent in September on the back of growth to East Asia and Latin America. Heathrow’s success means that it will contribute even more taxes which will go towards helping the local area.

In fact, next year Heathrow will continue to pay the highest rate bill of any business in England and Wales by contributing £118 million, one third of which will be used by Hillingdon council to fund important public services. The irony of £40 million from Heathrow being spent each year in the constituencies of Boris Johnson and John McDonnell has not been lost on us.

Whilst a government decision on Heathrow expansion is expected imminently, the actual Parliamentary vote could still be weeks or even months away. Recent polling found that a majority of MPs in the House of Commons support Heathrow expansion and any future vote will be made easier by this week’s news that the Scottish Government is backing Heathrow’s new runway. This means that many of the SNP’s 54 MPs in the House of Commons are more likely to support Heathrow expansion.

With the government decision expected soon, media interest is picking up. Many journalists want to hear from local residents about why they support Heathrow expansion so that they can understand the benefits that a new runway will bring to local communities. The Guardian is one of these so if you are interested in telling your story, then please write your response HERE. Your stories help to explain why Heathrow expansion is so important for local people so please do click on the link. 

 


FINALLY, A GOVERNMENT THINKING LONG-TERM ON INFRASTRUCTURE?

 

The annual political conferences in Birmingham, Liverpool and other cities across the UK are chances for MPs, councillors and party members to discuss policy, generate new ideas and then gossip over a few too many complimentary drinks.

It was no surprise to hear the Prime Minister say that the government “will shortly announce a decision on airport expansion” as it’s been widely reported in the media that a decision is likely in the next few weeks. But what she said immediately beforehand was perhaps more interesting: “we are a government ready to take the big, controversial decisions on infrastructure in the national interest”.

Whilst it would be wrong to read too much into these words, it is reassuring to know that Theresa May understands the importance of significant, national projects and how they can benefit the UK. Mrs May criticised previous governments’ policy of printing money via quantitative easing and the Chancellor Phillip Hammond echoed her desire to do more to promote major infrastructure. This is likely to be carried out through the National Infrastructure Commission, a body that was modelled on the Airports Commission and established to take the short-term politics out of long-term economic decisions that could benefit the whole country.

Heathrow didn’t dominate proceedings at Labour conference in Liverpool, but with most Labour MPs in favour of Heathrow expansion, especially those in key areas like the North East and parts of Wales, a free vote on the issue now seems highly likely.

Finally, away from the conference cities of Liverpool and Birmingham to Cambridge where the University announced that it has conducted an independent study (which you can read more about here ) which found that Heathrow could build a new runway without breaking European pollution laws. The study measured nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels using 40 sensors in and around the airport and then used modelling to predict what would happen in the future.

When it comes to air quality, opponents of expansion have deliberately interchanged the words ‘Heathrow’, ‘west London’ and ‘London’, blaming Heathrow for most of the pollution in the area. This is despite a huge majority of pollutants originating from non-airport related traffic. Now that independent experts have exposed the weakness in this argument, a key plank in the anti-expansion argument has been removed.

The Prime Minister wants the UK to be a “global leader in free trade” and seems prepared to act in the national interest to make this happen. Soon we will find out whether we really have a government prepared to look beyond a general election cycle and approve a new runway at Heathrow.