By Rob Gray,
Last week Boris Johnson came to Heathrow. Well, not exactly to Heathrow, but to Hillingdon Civic Centre, no more than a stone’s throw from Heathrow. He came to talk about the airport. Or to be more precise, he came to talk about closing it down.
We want, the Mayor said, Heathrow to close and to build a Garden City for 100,000 people, to create 66,000 jobs and provide a wide range of education and health facilities. Boris was joined by Ray Puddifoot who seems endlessly delighted at the thought of Heathrow closure. Councillor Puddifoot is Leader of Hillingdon Council and so in effect Heathrow landlord. Looking admiringly at Boris, Ray said that “the only senior politician of any party with the clarity of vision to deal with this issue is Boris Johnson”.
However the “clarity of vision” was sorely exposed in Boris’s report. Referring to the proposed Garden City it stated: "Location: lack of close proximity to an airport may have an adverse impact on certain sectors. Good connection to a new airport would be required."
So the only thing the new Garden City doesn’t have is an airport. Well, an airport and jobs.
Local MP John McDonnell says “as many as 200,000 local jobs would be at stake and for the leader of the local council to put at risk so many local jobs is a dereliction of his duty to represent our local community. If he gets his way, our local economy will collapse”.
London Assembly member for Ealing & Hillingdon and local GP Onkar Sahota, challenged the cost of the Mayor’s “unworkable, unrealistic and unaffordable plan to taxpayers” which I’m told cost in excess of £3m (and counting) to produce.
Onkar said that the Mayor “must be the only person left in London who thinks this is a good idea”. Onkar clearly had forgotten that Councillor Puddifoot thought it a good idea as well.
However a day later and the reality of the situation kicks in. European boss of US-based Delta Air Lines calls for the expansion of Heathrow over Gatwick airport, saying: “business travellers prefer it”. Delta’s Perry Cantarutti, who is running the airline’s new transatlantic tie-up with Virgin Atlantic, warned: “Cities that offer two hub airports tend to be a limiter for airlines and for passengers. It’s not a viable alternative.”
Sadly, The Boris and Ray Show was not an April Fool’s joke – they really are happy for Heathrow to close. It’s just one reason why Back Heathrow has already attracted the support of more than 20,000 local residents who want to defend jobs and secure a bright future for the UK’s hub airport. It’s just the beginning for our campaign and you are welcome aboard.