This week’s announcement by Heathrow Chief Executive, John Holland-Kaye that Heathrow will meet and exceed the conditions laid down by the Airports Commission is great news for anyone interested in the future prosperity of west London, the Thames Valley and the whole of the UK.
Our country has been plagued by indecision on airport expansion in the south east for months, years and even decades but this important announcement will help sweep away the barriers to finally building a vital new runway.
The news is a tribute to supporters of Back Heathrow and to the positive way they have conducted themselves during this campaign. Our supporters are local people who care passionately about their communities and want them to thrive and prosper in the future. They are united by a desire to see local jobs protected and Heathrow’s future secured.
The government has long known why Heathrow is the answer to Britain’s aviation capacity problem; a new runway at the UK’s only hub airport will offer new flights to emerging markets, protect existing jobs and create 77,000 new jobs and thousands of apprenticeships in the local area. It was the “clear and unanimous” recommendation of the independent Airports Commission – set up by the Prime Minister.
But Heathrow’s new announcement takes the process to the next stage and strips the government of any lingering excuses for not supporting a new runway. Even anti-expansion campaigners said Heathrow had “gone further than expected” and that the move “could turn out to be significant”.
Click here to view full details of Heathrow’s announcement.
As the UK’s largest port, a successful Heathrow is vital to the health of British economy - it is the only way to connect all of Britain to global growth and the only way to guarantee its future success is to expand.
With these new commitments in place Heathrow has passed the test of balancing the huge economic gain from expansion with the local and environmental impact. The case for a new runway at Heathrow is overwhelming; it’s time to get on and build it.
When is 53% not a majority?
When is it wrong to say 50% over 33% means 'most people support something'?
And the answer to both questions is... when it comes to campaigning for Heathrow expansion. At least, that is the view according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which last week controversially banned one of our adverts following complaints from a handful of anti-expansion campaigners. The full ruling can be found here.
The ASA ruled that we cannot use the phrase: 'Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion' - mainly because 50% is not 'most people'. Ironically, if we had used the phrase 'More people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion than oppose it', this would have been OK.
Evidence clearly shows that in a major independent poll of 12 parliamentary constituencies, 50% of local residents support Heathrow expansion whilst 33% remain opposed. But what makes the ASA decision truly confusing is the fact that based on the ASA's own definition of what constitutes 'near to Heathrow' no fewer than 53% of local residents back a new runway.
It is highly likely that most people (!) won't care about the technical detail but the ruling will still stand, we think, unfairly. The reaction of a small but increasingly vitriolic number of anti-Heathrow protestors to the ruling is exactly why the Back Heathrow campaign is needed. They despise the fact that we are giving oxygen to an alternative view - one backed by huge numbers of local residents - when for too long they have had the floor to themselves. We are shattering the myth that it is always 'big business' v 'little residents' when it comes to major infrastructure projects - and our opponents, spearheaded by well-organised and determined green fanatics, do not like it one little bit.
In the recent Airports Commission public consultation, 82% of the 70,591 responses were in favour of Heathrow expansion. Most of these were local residents so we think the ASA is on wafer-thin ice with its ruling. More local people support Heathrow expansion than oppose it - that's a fact. And our new adverts will prove it.
The aviator glasses glinted in the spring sunshine as a bouncing crowd of Back Heathrow supporters wearing yellow flight attendant hats gathered outside the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday. Living near Heathrow airport, these residents came to central London for a fun campaigning day with a serious message.
We were in Westminster to launch our new Captain Cameron campaign and to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister on behalf of 100,000 local residents who want a positive decision on Heathrow expansion and no more delay. Campaigners were joined by special guest Captain Cameron, in full pilot uniform, to call on ‘Captain’ David Cameron and ‘First Officer’ George Osborne to land Heathrow expansion and watch the UK take off.
First stop was College Green outside Parliament to meet the media for a photo-opportunity and interviews. Captain Cameron then led the way along Whitehall to Downing Street to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister (who looks uncannily like Captain Cameron). The full text of the letter can be read here
The letter urges the Prime Minister to end the uncertainty surrounding airport expansion and give the green light to a new runway at Heathrow. It refers to the £211bn economic benefits and 180,000 jobs up and down the country which would come with Heathrow expansion. The letter also asks why the Prime Minister would risk huge protests in an unspoilt area of rural England by backing expansion at Gatwick, an option for which there is little support.
Captain Cameron was in high demand for photographs from tourists and passers-by but there was no time to waste before we headed off to the Department for Transport to deliver a letter to Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin, asking him to back Heathrow expansion and end the uncertainty for residents living near the UK's hub airport.
Our day in Westminster was hugely enjoyable and served to remind the Prime Minister that despite the looming EU referendum, the pressing matter of Heathrow will not go away. This was a final call for Captain Cameron. The Prime Minister now needs to show real leadership to land Heathrow expansion. A new runway at the UK’s only hub airport can be approved with confidence because it is backed by most local residents living near the airport, businesses, exporters, airlines, trade unions, regional airports and a majority of MPs. It’s been a long-haul but there must be no more delays.
Keep an eye out for our new campaign advert in the coming weeks. You can see it here
The European referendum has been dominating news coverage as politicians, as well as the rest of us, decide whether to back remain or leave.
The current political focus on debating the pros and cons of EU membership means that David Cameron has delayed the decision on expanding Heathrow – a damaging action which is costing our economy millions. However, it was interesting to see the Prime Minister kick off his EU campaign at O2 in Slough.
O2 is one of many top companies backing Heathrow whilst Slough is home to more headquarters of multinational companies than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put together. They are there because of Heathrow. As he talked up the importance of trade and business in the EU, the Prime Minister will have been aware that the local MP, council and most residents in Slough support Heathrow expansion.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye made clear his view on the EU debate this week saying: "A vote to remain offers the best of both worlds – it secures our place as a powerhouse in the global economy, while remaining in the world’s largest free trade zone.” Yet he also warned that a Brexit would make a new runway even more urgent.
Heathrow clearly has a global reach but it is also well connected to European destinations. Heathrow handles over 1.5 million metric tonnes of cargo every year and over 200,000 passengers every day. It employs 76,000 people within the airport boundary (equivalent to the population of Guildford), and as the UK’s largest port responsible for a quarter of all exports from the UK by value, Heathrow is well placed for the future no matter what the referendum result. But running at 98.5% capacity, it must expand.
Back Heathrow has over 100,000 supporters across West London and the Thames Valley. Clearly there will be different views on the UK’s role in Europe amongst our supporters but what unites us is a desire to see local jobs protected and Heathrow’s future secured.
The Government already knows that a new runway at the UK’s only hub airport is the answer to the problem of airport capacity in the south-east. Extra capacity at Heathrow will offer new flights to emerging markets, protect existing jobs and create 77,000 new jobs in the region. These include 10,000 apprenticeships from the boroughs neighbouring the airport which would help eradicate local youth unemployment. In total, 180,000 jobs will be created across the UK and the benefits to the country are worth £147 billion.
What we all need to do over the coming weeks and months is to keep banging the drum for Heathrow so that once the EU referendum is over and David Cameron finally sits down to make his decision on airport expansion, he knows that there is only one answer. And he will be warmly welcomed back to Slough when he chooses Heathrow.
A new year brings new opportunities and all of us who back Heathrow expansion have reasons to be optimistic in 2016.
The government’s decision not to make a decision in December was obviously very disappointing, but polling shows that the majority of MPs from across all parties consistently back building a new runway at Heathrow. Clearly there is a desire and a will within Parliament to make Heathrow expansion happen – now the Government needs to get on and do it.
According to the latest ComRes poll, 68 per cent of Conservative MPs and 66 per cent of Labour MPs support expanding Heathrow whilst all MPs are twice as likely to say they strongly support a new runway at Heathrow than a second one at Gatwick. The majority of MPs also disagreed that an additional runway would prevent the UK from meeting its emissions targets.
This high level of support from politicians from across the political spectrum demonstrates that not only is expanding Heathrow economically essential, but also politically deliverable.
Some of the most high-profile anti-Heathrow politicians have had an uncomfortable couple of weeks over Christmas and the New Year; from Mayor Boris Johnson’s hypocrisy at investing £3.5 million of GLA public money in Heathrow despite being a well-known opponent, to Zac Goldsmith’s controversial comments which wrongly linked the Volkswagen emissions scandal with Heathrow air quality.
While Heathrow opponents flounder, support for expansion continues to soar. As well as huge political support from across all parties, Heathrow expansion is also backed by UK businesses, large trade unions and most local residents. Indeed, 82% of the 70,591 responses to the Airports Commission public consultation backed Heathrow expansion and most of those were from residents who live near the airport.
These local people are proud of their airport and want to see it thrive in the future. They know that expansion will create 77,000 new jobs in the region, including 10,000 apprenticeships from the boroughs neighbouring the airport which would be of enormous social and economic benefit to the local community.
2016 will bring a new set of challenges in the battle to provide greater capacity at Heathrow. But two of those challenges shouldn’t be demonstrating local support or political will for building a new runway; both of these have been repeatedly and overwhelmingly proven already.
The airport battle to build a new runway looks set to continue for the next few months, delighting no-one except advertising agencies. Despite a unanimous recommendation from the UK Airports Commission to build a new runway at Heathrow, the Government has delayed making a decision.
By putting a final decision beyond the London Mayoral elections in May, the Conservatives are trying to avoid giving Zac Goldsmith a headache. The Government claims there is a need to carry out further environmental studies but this is doubtful because any environmental concerns – which the Airports Commission insists are surmountable - can be fairly assessed during the planning process. This would be undertaken by means of the independent Environmental Impact Assessment which applies to any national infrastructure project.
There was widespread anger from politicians, business groups, unions, international airlines and residents who back Heathrow expansion. Yet the Government’s decision not to make a decision also infuriated residents living near both Heathrow and Gatwick who would be directly affected by any new runway. All of the above need certainty – surely it was the least the Government could provide?
The Airports Commission has been clear in its recommendation that a new runway be built at Heathrow. The Government should follow up on this recommendation and expand Heathrow with strict environmental conditions attached so that local communities, as well as the whole country, can benefit.
Heathrow is a vital asset for communities in West London and the Thames Valley. It’s not surprising that so many local people want to ensure Heathrow flourishes in the future so that it remains the UK’s premier airport, able to match its foreign hub competitors.
In the Airports Commission public consultation earlier in the year, 82% of the 70,591 responses backed Heathrow expansion, mostly from residents who live near the airport. And a recent Populus poll of more than 12,000 residents in the constituencies and boroughs close to Heathrow found many more residents (50%) supported Heathrow expansion than opposed it (33%).
People in the local area are rightly proud of the airport and those that work there are particularly proud that Heathrow carries 78% of the UK’s long-haul flights, a quarter of UK exports by value and is our country’s largest port. But Heathrow is operating at full capacity and it has to grow to meet demand. The UK’s only hub airport is the front door to Britain yet it is closed to new business.
The risks of not expanding are huge. New flights will operate from a different hub airport abroad that has spare capacity, like Paris, Amsterdam or Madrid. As if to illustrate that very point, British Airways boss Willie Walsh announced that he would pull BA out of Heathrow if the Government continued to dither over expansion. Investment, jobs and export opportunities for the local area and across the UK would be lost and could cause irrevocable long-term economic damage.
Heathrow is already the UK’s largest single site employer. It provides more than 114,000 jobs in the local community whilst a further 250,000 jobs in the wider region rely on a thriving Heathrow.
An extra runway will also create 77,000 new jobs in the local region, including 10,000 apprenticeships from the boroughs neighbouring the airport which would help eradicate local youth unemployment. In total, 180,000 jobs will be created across the UK and the benefits to the country are predicted to be worth £211 billion. That’s some prize for a Government looking to prove it is on the side of hard-working people.
So, there is still a golden opportunity to secure the jobs and investment for the local area that will come from expanding the UK’s only hub airport. But at some point soon, the Government must bite the bullet and actually take the decision to expand Heathrow.
By Mike Appleton
You might be forgiven for thinking that following the strong Heathrow recommendation by the Government-backed Airports Commission the future of the UK's only hub airport has been resolved but that is not yet the case.
Following the report, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would provide a response by the end of the year, something that we keenly anticipate. In the meantime, this has not stopped a great deal of debate in the media and at political events during the past few weeks.
At the Conservative Party conference, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne dropped his biggest hint yet that Heathrow should get the nod to expand. On the eve of the conference, he announced that he was setting up the Infrastructure Commission headed by former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis. Several commentators noted that Lord Adonis is a high profile supporter of expansion at Heathrow, whilst the Chancellor told conference:
“We turned our country around, and together we’ve made sure, Britain is working again. Now we must build on those foundations….Build the new roads, and railways, and runways.”
This is a welcome boost for our campaign and a reminder that the Government is well aware of the urgency and importance of pressing ahead with a decision. Whilst the Chancellor made clear that he wants to get going on important infrastructure projects like Heathrow, the Prime Minister has had more than 50,000 reminders of how important this runway is to local people.
Last month, a group of Back Heathrow supporters paid the Prime Minister a visit at 10 Downing Street to deliver some of the 50,000 postcards that have been sent by our supporters urging him to back a new runway. With this and the unanimous backing of the Airports Commission, UK businesses and most local residents, the Prime Minister now has everything he needs to say YES to a bigger and better Heathrow.
But what of Heathrow's opponents? Those opposed to expansion have also been busy, setting up a ‘Coalition Against Heathrow Expansion’ made up of just eight MPs (out of 73 in London and 650 nationally). They have sent out 1.6 million leaflets to households across London. These leaflets claim to show areas that “could be impacted” by expansion before admitting in small print that the maps shown are not indicative of final flight paths, and have been delivered as far away as Tower Hamlets in east London.
The leaflets also encouraged residents to attend what was billed as “the biggest rally ever” in central London on 10 October. This rally was designed to show off the ‘huge’ support against Heathrow expansion, and it had certainly been built up as a major display of force.
Zac Goldsmith MP for Richmond Park had previously spoken of a ‘one-million-strong’ army of Heathrow opponents, and a campaign “the likes of which has never been seen before”. Meanwhile, Windsor MP Adam Afriyie promised that 15,000 people would rally against expansion from his town alone. But come the day, just a few hundred people turned out to protest in Parliament Square.
This protest followed a similar anti-expansion event in March, which was again billed as ‘the biggest rally of the year’, but gathered only around 300 people, despite expectations to fill the 600-seat venue.
This is not to detract from the valid concerns those protesting may have, but it raises serious questions about whether the level of opposition to Heathrow expansion has been exaggerated for so long, it has become part of the media narrative.
Make no mistake, for a small number of people, the effects of Heathrow expansion will be significant, and their concerns must be listened to, and properly addressed. The airport has an absolute duty to treat those worse affected with the greatest of care and fairness. Heathrow also has a responsibility to continue to reduce noise and pollution if it wins the expansion argument.
It will soon be time for David Cameron and his Government to make a decision on Heathrow expansion. People on all sides of the debate now require certainty so they can plan for the future.The Prime Minister will see that 82% of the 70,000 responses to the Airports Commission public consultation were in favour of Heathrow expansion, and he will know that there is wide cross-party support in Parliament for Heathrow to grow. There will never be a better time to give a green light for Heathrow expansion. Given that the Prime Minister set up the Airports Commission it will be an extraordinary U-turn for Mr Cameron to then ignore its recommendation.
By Mike Appleton
Campaigners from Back Heathrow visited Number 10 Downing Street this week to deliver some good news for the Prime Minister and his top team.
If David Cameron decides to support the recommendation of the Airports Commission in a few weeks’ time, he now knows there will be no shortage of welcoming voices from the residents of west London and the Thames Valley. Local businesses, residents and workers have waited nearly 10 years for a decision on Heathrow, and the vast majority want to see a growing and successful airport.
That was the message a delegation of campaigners and residents took to Downing Street this week, when we delivered the final batch of tens of thousands of postcards which have been sent to the Prime Minister over the past couple of weeks.
Our visit to No 10 is the latest evidence of local supporters far outweighing opponents. A hard core of opposition will remain but their numbers have been diminishing. Sadly some anti-expansion protestors have turned to unpleasant tactics, including threats to individuals and unsavoury abuse on social media.
For years the media and politicians have been sold tall tales of a local population uniformly opposed to expansion, but it is now clear that this was a myth. This is backed by hard evidence in the Airports Commission public consultation. No less than 82 per cent of all responses backed Heathrow expansion. More than 53,000 responses came from local residents who support growth at Heathrow. Submissions from opponents of expansion numbered just a few hundred.
Polling by Populus tells the same story. These large polls, of 1,000 respondents in each of the 12 constituencies near Heathrow show pro-expansion supporters easily outnumbering opponents. This popularity is being felt in Westminster where MPs are lining up to back expansion at Heathrow.
Chairman of the Conservatives’ influential 1922 Committee Graham Brady said that now is the “perfect moment” to overcome the political indecision on expansion and to reap the benefits. He estimates that 600 out of 650 MPs would vote in favour. Meanwhile, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told the CBI that when it came to the Airports’ Commission’s recommendation, “we’re going to take the decision and get it built.”
Opponents of Heathrow expansion have a right to be heard, but they should not bully those residents who disagree with them. Thousands of our supporters joined the campaign because they are fed up of being shouted down by a vocal minority.
The Back Heathrow campaign has already proven that the majority of people in west London and the Thames Valley support expansion at Heathrow. Our supporters, their friends and relatives will continue to make their voices heard. Now we need the Prime Minister and the Government to listen.
Campaigners fired up to say YES to Heathrow
More than 300 Back Heathrow campaigners and their families came together for a summer BBQ in Hounslow last weekend. It was a great opportunity to thank some of our hard-working activists and meet a few new faces.
Anyone at the event would have been in no doubt about the strength of support amongst the attendees who came from across the local area. Residents from Ealing, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Slough, Spelthorne, and Richmond gathered in glorious sunshine.
Guests at the Back Heathrow event showed a real cross-section from across our local communities, with people from all walks of life and a range of backgrounds. The one thing that united everyone there was their hope for a secure future for their family, friends and neighbourhoods. Happily the event proved very popular, but the limited places meant that we couldn’t cater for many supporters who wanted to attend. However we will hold more campaign gatherings in the coming months.
Since its launch nearly two years ago Back Heathrow has sought to bring together and give a voice to those who support a bigger and better Heathrow. Our latest get-together was yet another vivid example about how far and wide our message has travelled.
Many of the hundreds present had volunteered in our office, opened envelopes, signed up their neighbours, written to MPs or sent their views to the Airports Commission.
Our campaign co-ordinator Rob Gray gave a short speech where he thanked everyone at the event for playing their part in the campaign, pointing out that 53,000 Back Heathrow supporters wrote to the Airports Commission calling for expansion at the UK’s hub airport. They made up a huge chunk of the 86% of respondents who backed Heathrow. Rob reminded those present that there is a long road ahead before a new runway can be built to bring jobs and prosperity to Heathrow’s local communities. But at least we now have more than 100,000 supporters to help us!
We never need reminding that a small, but vocal minority oppose expansion. As if on cue, a handful of protestors picketed the gate into the venue hoping to make their point. In total around 10 of them turned up in the sweltering heat, including paid spokespeople from protest groups. It was a real shame that they used negative tactics to try to disrupt a BBQ for local residents, but ever the compassionate campaigners, Back Heathrow took out some ice cream to help them cool down.
Local residents were not intimidated by the protest, and continued to enjoy the food, entertainment and the fabulous raffle, which included prizes generously donated by our friends and supporters.
To round off the afternoon, some of our attendees posed for the photograph you can see (above) which shows very clearly how we feel about what the Prime Minister should do next.
If you agree with our aim to make Heathrow bigger and better whilst helping local communities reap the benefits that expansion would bring, why not send your views to the Prime Minister and ask him to back expansion at Heathrow. Thousands of our supporters have already written to the Prime Minister, but we need your help too!
Don’t delay, make sure you sign today! Click here: http://www.backheathrow.org/
By Mike Appleton
As you will have seen, the Government backed Airports Commission has announced that they have chosen Heathrow as the location for extra airport capacity in the south east of England.
Officially, it will mean a new full length runway to the north west of the existing northern runway, but in practice it will mean much more than that for our community, our region and the whole of the UK.
According to the Airports Commission, this will mean a huge difference to our local economy, with thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships. Nationally, it could mean up to 77,000 new jobs and £147bn of economic benefits to the whole of the United Kingdom. Heathrow’s unique role as a hub airport will connect cities and airports across the British Isles to the emerging markets of the world.
This has only been possible with the huge backing that we have enjoyed from our supporters. In just two years, Back Heathrow has grown to now having more than 100,000 supporters. Our supporters come from right across our local area, and from all walks of life and it is this diversity that has made our campaign so vibrant and, to date, successful.
Those opposed to expansion often accuse Back Heathrow of being a group that ‘only’ represents airport workers, and it is true that some of our supporters do work at Heathrow - good for them! Yet many do not work at the airport and live in the local community, seeing the positive impact that Heathrow has on their local area.
It’s not just residents who have supported our calls for a bigger and better Heathrow. Good numbers of local businesses across west London and the Thames Valley have given their support, engaged their staff and decorated their vehicles for Back Heathrow. One of our first supporters was the owner of a post office. When asked why he supported expansion, his answer was simple: he replied that the majority of his customers worked at the airport. He knew that if his business was to grow and prosper, the airport has to grow and prosper as well.
Last Tuesday, residents and businesses joined forces with the UK’s largest trade union, Unite for a reception at Parliament. The reception brought together local business folk with airport workers and residents alongside trade union activists and representatives to call for expansion at Heathrow and the enormous benefits it would bring.
Slough’s MP, Fiona MacTaggart gave a rousing speech, rightly calling Heathrow the ‘engine of not just Slough and the Thames Valley, but the whole of the UK’. She was followed by Diana Holland, the Assistant General Secretary of Unite, who noted that expansion had been voted through by Unite’s general committee. This was not just about workers at one airport... Unite’s members from across the UK had agreed expanding Heathrow is the right way forward.
Following the publication of his report, Sir Howard Davies wryly observed that if you have The Sun and The Financial Times on your side, you’ve probably done the right thing. But support for Heathrow expansion goes further.
Far from the old, lazy narrative of Heathrow’s opponents saying it is ‘residents vs big business’ there is now a wide-ranging coalition of support for the UK's hub airport, from residents to small businesses, community groups, trades unions, international airlines and FTSE 100 companies calling for an additional runway and the benefits it would bring.
However, it is the breadth of our local support that has marked out this campaign. In the recent Airport’s Commission public consultation, 82% of respondents backed Heathrow expansion. No fewer than 53,000 of the 70,000 responses were from our supporters, and the accompanying map (on page 21) shows the areas of west London and the Thames Valley who submitted.
Despite this ringing endorsement for Heathrow, it will still require support at the highest level of Government to ensure that expansion goes ahead. We will be working with our supporters to ensure that their voice is heard and their views are put to the top of the agenda.
If you support a better and bigger Heathrow, let the Prime Minister know. Simply fill in this super-quick online form with your name, address and postcode to ask David Cameron to implement the Airports Commission's recommendation for Heathrow.
There is a significant cross-party support for Heathrow expansion, but the Prime Minister set up the Airports Commission – surely now he must back its findings.