When Chris Grayling MP gave the expansion of Heathrow Government backing last Tuesday, it was the campaign’s biggest milestone to date. It seemed like the battle was almost over – but far from it. There is still a tremendous amount of work to do, and that’s why Back Heathrow supporters travelled to Parliament Square this week to encourage MPs to vote in favour of Heathrow expansion later this month.
Sporting Back Heathrow bright yellow t-shirts, supporters stood either side of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn (volunteers in masks, not the actual politicians!) to symbolise the need for cross-party unity for a new runway at Heathrow airport, which will boost the UK’s economy and provide thousands of jobs at a time of economic uncertainty.
Back Heathrow supporters stand either side of the pretend leaders on Parliament Square.
MPs Steve Double (Conservative, Newquay), Gavin Shuker (Labour, Luton South) and Jim Fitzpatrick (Labour, Poplar and Limehouse) also came along to show their support. All three posed with May and Corbyn in front of the House of Commons background.
Gavin Shuker MP said, “It’s in the national interest to get Heathrow working, and working properly. I represent an airport constituency and we know the demand is massive. In the South East the demand is massive and it’s the same for the whole country, so Parliament needs to get on and back Heathrow.”
Back Heathrow has been campaigning for a new runway for five years now, and finally, we have got to this crucial moment: a Parliamentary vote has been tabled on expansion. Now is the time for decisive action, now is the time for MPs to do what is right for the UK and vote for expansion at Heathrow.
Last week’s local elections ended up being judged a score-draw by many political commentators but for anti-Heathrow councils it was a bad night.
Richmond and Wandsworth councils have been part of a group that has spent around £1 million of taxpayers’ money campaigning against Heathrow expansion over the last few years. Whilst locally Heathrow expansion may not have been a big issue at this election, residents are showing clear signs of tiring of their representatives using taxpayers’ money to pursue their anti-growth agenda - when they could be spending the money on vital local services.
In Richmond the Conservative council has made a virtue of going against their national party and opposing Heathrow expansion. They lost a total of 28 seats and with it control of the council. The Wandsworth Conservatives did hold the borough, but they lost eight seats.
These results show that outright opposition to new jobs, apprenticeships and investment was not rewarded on election night.
The results showed that fighting a campaign against the provider of so many local jobs is no longer a required position for a prospective west London politician to get elected or re-elected. In fact, the opposite may be true with anti-expansionism showing signs of being an electoral turnoff.
We’ve already seen this trend at last year’s general election when the pro-expansion Stephen Pound, Virendra Sharma and Kwasi Kwarteng were all comfortably re-elected to Parliament with big majorities. Last week we also saw setbacks for Labour in Hillingdon and the Conservatives in Hounslow who both fought vehemently anti-Heathrow expansion campaigns.
Local politicians need to learn the lessons from these elections and respond accordingly. Polling consistently shows that residents in local boroughs back expansion. The evidence suggests that Heathrow expansion is now more likely to be a positive rather than a detriment in election campaigns. That's something that all parties need to take heed of when they campaign in an area with over 100,000 supporters of a new runway.
Today the Transport Select Committee launched its 160-page report on its scrutiny of the plans for Heathrow expansion. I’ve read it. And if you get the chance to do so you’ll probably come to the same clear conclusions I have.
The Select Committee, chaired by Lilian Greenwood (below), believes that aviation expansion is important for our country and it also believes that the north-west runway at Heathrow is the right place to put it. The Committee also makes a series of recommendations that it feels would make the scheme better and reduce any likelihood of a legal challenge to it. That’s a Select Committee doing its job and doing it well.
The Secretary of State Chris Grayling (above) has been around for a while and we’re confident that he will see the report for what it is – a good piece of analysis that is supportive of the country’s need to expand Heathrow. So much so, that on Radio 4 this morning he could not have been clearer. He said that once the Committee’s report has been considered, he will bring it back to Parliament - as originally scheduled before the Summer recess, possibly in June.
There is excellent cross-party support for expansion at Heathrow – our event with Labour MPs and the Unite trade union (below) showed that the numbers really do stack up on the Labour benches. That’s before we add the support of parties like the SNP and the DUP. We also welcome the fact the Select Committee has been able to marry up its support for Heathrow with real recommendations to ensure that local people will see the environmental benefits of the project.
Over the years we have seen scrutiny and debate improve this project – whether it’s been the pledge to increase respite at night or the crucial commitment to write in to law the environmental regulations on clean air that must be met before additional capacity at the airport is released.
Today we have reached a key milestone, with a vote on the outline planning permission now within touching distance. I’m confident that MPs will ensure that hurdle is cleared, and we will then move to a period of even greater scrutiny before a detailed planning application is put in and considered. We welcome that scrutiny too because we want the best possible scheme.
But crucially, we want to see it within a timeframe that sees the UK benefit from 180,000 new jobs, 10,000 apprenticeships and a much-needed boost to our country’s economy.
Thankfully, after this report and the government’s response to it, we can be confident that the timetable is still on track.
Back Heathrow Executive Director
If you were out and about in west London or the Thames Valley on Monday, you may have taken a second glance at a van driving around with a cartoon behind it.
This unusual sight was in fact Back Heathrow’s latest billboard which we were showcasing across the boroughs nearest to the airport.
Our day started in Slough where the rain didn’t put off Slough Borough Council Leader James Swindlehurst and Councillor Martin Carter, Cabinet Member for Planning & Transport from coming out and meeting us outside the Copethorne Hotel.
It was great to be supported by Slough Council which understands that with nearly 30% of the borough’s workforce dependent on a vibrant and successful Heathrow airport, building a new runway is more important than ever.
Next up was Harrow where we were greeted by Sachin Shah, Leader of Harrow Council, Councillor Phillip O'Dell and Councillor Kiran Ramchandani. With 1200 families in Harrow already benefitting from Heathrow expansion, it’s no surprise that these local leaders are keen for a new runway to be built as soon as possible.
Finally, we were welcomed to Ealing Southall by local MP Virendra Sharma who is keen to back a project that will create so many new opportunities for his constituents. With nearly 10,000 Ealing residents either already working at Heathrow or in directly related industries, it is vital that we ensure the airport is bigger and better in the future.
We’re proud to be based in the local community and it’s great to be supported by so many local leaders. If you see one of our billboards while you are on your travels, then please do take a picture and send it to us.
Every week is a busy week at Back Heathrow but this one will live particularly long in the memory.
Unusually for us, the week began by focusing on the recent past instead of looking towards the future. The Government’s prominent public consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) closed in the summer but this week the results were released, and it says some great things about the Back Heathrow campaign and our supporters.
The consultation received a total of 72,239 individual responses and 58,277 of those were identified as supportive of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, more than 80%. Of those, 51,343 came from Back Heathrow supporters. That’s down to you. Thank you.
This demonstrates the enormous support for Heathrow expansion, both locally and across the country. This consultation clearly shows that support for a new runway is very strong. More local people back the additional jobs, apprenticeships, investment and opportunities that will come with expansion.
While this consultation closed in the summer, the snap general election had a knock-on effect which means that the Government has to announce a short eight-week extension to the consultation on air quality and capacity. That process has begun and will end on the 19th December.
This week also marked the one-year anniversary of the Government’s official public endorsement of Heathrow expansion.
October 25th, 2016 was a great day for everyone who supports a bigger, better Heathrow and we’re pleased that the Government remains committed to Heathrow expansion. But a year on, we’re still itching to get on with it and start building.
The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said that there will be a vote on Heathrow expansion in the first half of 2018 and we will continue to work with you to hold the Government to that commitment.
To mark the one-year anniversary, Back Heathrow joined with the TUC to launch a new advertising campaign outside Terminal 5, emphasising the huge number of new jobs and apprenticeships that will come from Heathrow expansion. Look out for the Back Heathrow advertising at a billboard, bus stop or on a bus near you.
As you can see from the photo below, it was a great event but one with an important message: local supporters of Heathrow are not going away – we’re getting louder!
Summer is a time for sun, relaxation and holidays. That’s the theory anyway.
Here at Back Heathrow, we have taken a different approach. We have spent August out and about speaking to local people about what they think of Heathrow’s plans for building a new runway.
Below you’ll find a series of short videos of some of the people we’ve spoken to on the streets of west London – click on the images and see if you agree with them about why they back Heathrow expansion.
First up, meet John from Chiswick who tells us that he is all for Heathrow expansion and that he’s sick and tired of waiting for a new runway.
Next is Ed from Hounslow who thinks that the new jobs that will come from expansion will really benefit the local community.
Finally, we have Maureen from Staines who’s proud that Heathrow provides so much local employment and she wants to keep that momentum going in the future.
These are just some of the conversations we’ve had with local people this summer. We’ll be releasing more short films in the next few weeks and if you see a Back Heathrow team on a high street near you, please do stop and say hello!
The Queen opened Parliament this week in a low-key ceremony which was dominated by Brexit.
As MPs gathered in Westminster for the first time since the general election, the Queen announced that her Government would spend the next two years focused on eight bills to help the UK navigate our exit from the EU.
At a time of political and economic uncertainty, the jobs and growth that Heathrow expansion will create will become more important than ever.
There was no specific mention of Heathrow in the Queen’s Speech. That is unsurprising because the Speech sets out the Government’s forthcoming legislation and there is no need for Primary legislation for Heathrow expansion to progress. Heathrow featured in the 2015 Speech, and it would be strange to see it mentioned every year now that we are in a process.
Having said that, in the months ahead politicians will have a unique opportunity to create 180,000 jobs nationally, and the chance to eradicate youth unemployment locally through a vote in Parliament to allow the third runway to move to the full planning stage.
There is nothing to suggest that the Government is wavering in its support for Heathrow expansion. In fact, by proposing a deal with the DUP, which overwhelmingly supports Heathrow expansion, and by appointing Jesse Norman as Transport Minister, who has previously written in support of a new Heathrow runway, the signs suggest that it’s full steam ahead.
But we should not be complacent. We can’t afford to let Government or opposition politicians backslide on expansion, which is why we will continue to work hard to ensure that they understand the huge local support for a new Heathrow runway. It is time to get on and build it.
The next steps in Westminster are for a committee to analyse and scrutinise the Government’s draft NPS on expansion.
Whilst the committee will doubtless already be aware of the jobs, apprenticeships, investment and opportunities that will come to the local area and the whole country from expansion, members will also want to know about Heathrow’s commitment to sustainability.
One example is the airport launching the Fly Quiet and Clean League Table which will name and shame the loudest and dirtiest airlines flying into Heathrow. This list will be published every three months to promote more efficient planes at the airport.
This is just one example of many measures that Heathrow will take up to honour commitments to sustainability. We at Back Heathrow will work with our supporters to hold the airport to account.
We want a bigger, better, cleaner and quieter airport. We will also remind politicians, from all sides, of the value of 77,000 new local jobs, 180,000 jobs across the country and the eradication of youth unemployment from the local area.
That’s the kind of certainty our country needs.
After sixteen weeks, the public consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement (otherwise known for being on Heathrow expansion) has now closed.
This has been an extensive process with numerous public exhibitions where tens of thousands of people have been able to engage with the issues and understand more about the huge benefits to be had from a new Heathrow runway. We really appreciate everyone’s support and want to thank all those who made a submission on such an important issue.
The process to secure Heathrow expansion continues with the new Parliament due to scrutinise the Government’s plans through a select committee. But before we get to the work of MPs we need to elect them which brings us to next week’s General Election.
Nationally, the main issues that candidates and voters have been discussing include Brexit, social care, energy and the NHS. These have also been important issues for local people living in West London and the Thames Valley.
Heathrow expansion has not featured prominently in this campaign but local people still support a bigger, better Heathrow. Increasing runway capacity at the UK’s biggest port is vitally important, particularly as we begin the process of leaving the European Union.
Fortunately, several candidates who back Heathrow expansion are standing again in constituencies such as Ealing North, Ealing Southall, Harrow West and Spelthorne. Hopefully they will be ready to hold the Government to account over the need for Heathrow expansion and the benefits to be had.
This election campaign has also meant a return from some who we thought we might not see again in the political arena. Vince Cable is standing in Twickenham and Zac Goldsmith is hoping to become MP for Richmond Park, just six months after being comprehensively rejected by his constituents after launching a by-election on the very issue of Heathrow. Curiously, Zac has returned to the Conservative fold by standing on the party ticket despite the Tory manifesto endorsing expansion.
With both the Labour and Conservative manifestos endorsing the recommendations of the Airports Commission, which overwhelmingly backed the building of a new runway at the UK’s only hub airport, we can look forward to a continuation of huge political support for Heathrow expansion in the next Parliament.
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.
"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.
- 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.