Back Heathrow gets to business

From Hounslow to Hillingdon and from Brentford to Uxbridge, 
businesses are backing Heathrow. 


By Pedro Diogo

Your local greengrocer might not be the first business that springs to mind when thinking about who needs Heathrow but in the communities around the airport, thousands of small businesses indirectly rely on it to succeed. Whether you’re buying Dutch flowers from your local florist or sipping a cup of Colombian coffee – Heathrow probably played a huge part in making that possible, and hundreds of businesses have been in touch with us to voice their support for growth at the UK’s hub airport.

Recently, Back Heathrow volunteers decided to pound the streets of west London to meet these businesses – and find new ones – who rely on Heathrow. The response was fantastic: nine in ten high street businesses, from West Drayton to West Ealing and from Southall to Staines, told us that the airport enriches their local communities and plays a major role in the economic success of town centres in west London.

Many wanted to get involved in the campaign and to show their support for a bigger and better Heathrow. The easiest way for businesses to do this is to put up Back Heathrow posters in their shop windows – and over 200 did this in just a couple of weeks! Every high street our volunteers visited demonstrated overwhelming support for our campaign. The image above shows just a few of the hundreds of businesses supporting Heathrow expansion in the boroughs around the airport.

We know how big a role Heathrow plays in the local economy. The airport handles over £86bn of UK goods each year – as much as Southampton and Felixstowe ports combined – connecting local businesses on its doorstep with the world’s markets. It’s no wonder that 32 chambers of commerce, representing thousands of businesses, including many from Hillingdon, Windsor, Hounslow, west London and the Thames Valley are backing Heathrow to grow.

Since we started the campaign, business owners from the communities around the airport have been in touch to pledge their support for growth at Heathrow. They want to feel the benefits of expansion – including up to 180,000 new jobs – meaning an opportunity to grow their businesses alongside the airport. Economic benefits for the UK could reach £211bn, securing jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships for local people if Heathrow is allowed to expand.

The future of Heathrow and that of local communities are intrinsically connected. A bigger and thriving airport gives our high streets the chance they need to grow and succeed. That’s why over 100,000 residents alongside businesses and local organisations have joined our campaign to back Heathrow.

If you run a local business and support growth at Heathrow, please get in touch if you would like us to send you a pack of materials to show your support for a bright and successful future for Heathrow and our local communities.

How Heathrow’s opponents pollute their own arguments

By Rob Gray

Opponents of Heathrow expansion are getting very excitable because they believe that air pollution is THE issue that will stop a new runway being built. But by singling out UK airports they are in serious danger of overlooking the main cause of a growing environmental problem. Do they care?

Next month, the UK Airports Commission is expected to deliver its recommendations on where new runway capacity should go. Before the Commission reports it continues to carry out further work on the impacts of air pollution and it is right to do so. Heathrow must ensure that any pollution from a three-runway airport in future is lower than today’s two runway operation.

Some might say that is not possible. Anti-expansion protesters are quick to point out that “Heathrow exceeds EU limits on air pollution”. However, they are slow to admit that at the only two monitoring points near the M4 where limits are breached, airport-related emissions account for just 16% and 6% respectively of pollution at those sites. The vast majority of emissions come from vehicles on the roads close to Heathrow, traffic that is neither heading to or from the airport.

In fact, Heathrow has made significant progress in reducing its own emissions but you won’t hear much about this from the airport’s detractors. In the past five years alone, Heathrow has cut emissions by 16%, using cleaner, greener energy for more efficient terminals (like the new T2) and introducing new ultra-low emission vehicles for airport cars. Heathrow already hosts the world’s largest single site employee car share scheme, the busiest bus and coach station in the UK and has the UK’s first publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling site.

Heathrow has also announced a 10-point air quality blueprint which can be read here.

More can and will be done by the airport to reduce emissions and improve the air quality for our local communities, but anti-expansion protesters are determined to demonise the airport whilst ignoring the main cause of air pollution (nitrogen dioxide emitted by millions of vehicles used across London and beyond).

Put simply: the criticism flies in the face of logic.

Last week Ray Puddifoot, leader of Hillingdon Council and long-standing Heathrow adversary, said: “[Sir Howard] Davies is telling us that Heathrow can vastly increase flights, passenger numbers and its freight operation, but that there will be no extra traffic on local roads. This is not credible or realistic.”

What Cllr Puddifoot forgets is that unlike today, millions of passengers will have a vastly greater choice about how to travel to a bigger and better Heathrow. Today, if passengers want to get to Heathrow by public transport, they have just three choices: train from Paddington, tube from central London or the bus.

By 2030, in addition to these choices, they will also be able to choose trains from Wales and the West Country via Slough and Reading, central and east London via Crossrail and possibly direct trains from Clapham Junction and Waterloo. This will mean at peak times no fewer than 32 trains serving Heathrow per hour. That is more than one train every two minutes.

This significantly improved public transport service to Heathrow will mean fewer cars, less congestion on our local roads and more importantly: fewer damaging emissions. The airport also has comprehensive plans to introduce an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone for the roads serving Heathrow. This would remove the dirtiest and most polluting vehicles from those roads improving air quality even further.

Anti-Heathrow protesters will tell you that air pollution is a road block to any expansion plans. Expert evidence from the Airports Commission suggests that they are wrong. Yet in their midst, opponents have a man who could help solve the air pollution problem in west London, if they can just bring themselves to separate two things that have been wrongly linked - Heathrow and the vast majority of non-airport related traffic. The question is whether the Mayor of London can be bothered.

Whisper it… Heathrow’s getting quieter

By Pedro Diogo

The definition of noise is an unwelcome sound, and aircraft noise is, understandably, a concern for some people living under the Heathrow flightpaths. They want to know how the airport’s expansion would affect them if it is given the go-ahead by the UK Airports Commission and Government. In a remarkable development, a small laboratory in central London may well have the answers - and even opponents of a new runway at Heathrow are quietly impressed.

The Arup Sound Lab was originally created to help with the acoustic design of concert halls but is now being used to demonstrate how noise will impact on local areas if an extra Heathrow runway was in operation. Arup is a globally renowned professional services firm which specialises in engineering, design and planning. It has been commissioned by Heathrow Airport to carry out this work but Arup is strictly independent for the sake of its own reputation, and all studies are peer-reviewed and checked.

Using independently collected recordings and studies from locations in west London, Arup’s acoustic experts have been able to recreate these local environments in the Sound Lab. The experience is delivered in a neutral way so as to allow listeners to draw their own conclusions.

Video: The Guardian / Arup

Recently, the Back Heathrow team visited this world-class facility. Sitting in the quiet room of the Sound Lab, we heard for ourselves what an expanded Heathrow would sound like for local residents under the flight paths in set locations close to our office in Hounslow and also in Richmond. We heard: 

  • How older aircraft sound today
  • How new aircraft sound
  • What newer aircraft in the future will sound like, using new procedures, steeper approaches and better noise insulation

And the difference is very clear. Aircraft from the time a new runway is built will sound quieter, fly higher over communities around Heathrow and, with a new runway to the north-west of the airport, for example, places like Richmond could get complete noise relief for days or even weeks at a time. Local politicians should definitely pay the Sound Lab a visit!

These ground-breaking changes in technology and an improved noise insulation package proposed by the airport mean that a new runway could improve the quality of life for many residents and offer communities substantial relief from aircraft noise. Even critics of Heathrow expansion acknowledge the benefits of new technology in the air. 

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, the leading opponent of Heathrow expansion, said, “It’s a useful tool to show how quieter planes will impact on local communities. On noise grounds it makes the prospect of a third runway a little less of an issue: what this did show me is that the new generation of planes will be quite a lot quieter than the current planes in the sky.

“The critical question is if they could prove a third runway would lead to more respite for communities than they get today. Then they may be on to a winner.”

We have always said that expansion at Heathrow can only go ahead if the airport reduces its noise footprint in future. The good news is that Sound Lab shows how Heathrow really can quieten the doubters.

READ MORE about the Arup Sound Lab in this Guardian article.



100,000 reasons why Heathrow expansion is the only option for the UK

By Rob Gray

Back Heathrow is delighted to announce that we now have 100,000 supporters living in the communities surrounding the UK’s only hub airport. We must push home this incredible advantage, which proves that Heathrow is the only politically deliverable option for airport expansion in the south east. A map showing the location of Back Heathrow’s supporters can be found here.

It has been less than two years since Back Heathrow was launched to provide a voice for local people who support growth at Heathrow and the thousands of jobs that the airport provides. Until Back Heathrow was founded, local people who support and rely on Heathrow were left out of the discussion, allowing a vocal minority opposing expansion to do all the talking.

Not anymore.

From a starting point of just a few hundred supporters, Back Heathrow has grown into a movement of thousands. We were delighted when 20,000 local people signed up to the campaign, followed soon after by reaching the impressive target of 50,000. By the start of 2015, our campaign numbers had soared to more than 80,000 supporters, and the race to sign up 100,000 people was on.

Now, just a few short months later, we have reached this important and significant milestone. There are now:

  • 100,000 reasons why a bigger and better Heathrow will deliver for local people.
  • 100,000 reasons why Gatwick cannot compete with Heathrow: their neighbours do not want expansion.
  • 100,000 reasons why the Airports Commission must listen to local people near Heathrow.

But, the story is not over yet. Back Heathrow has really taken off, and we’ve reached the cruising altitude of 100,000 supporters. However there is still much work to be done before we can help land an extra runway. Back Heathrow will continue to make the case for a quieter, cleaner and bigger Heathrow and to fight for the best deal for our local communities. If you would like to be part of this, why not sign up here?

No one questions the scale of opposition to Heathrow….but they should

Plane Stupid

By Rob Gray

On Tuesday, opponents of Heathrow expansion held what was billed as “the biggest rally of the year” at 664-seat Church House in central London. The event had been advertised extensively, with the first publicity appearing last year, followed up with social media and thousands of pounds worth of full-page adverts in local newspapers.

The rally organisers, HACAN, promised a major event that would be an opportunity to ‘show Westminster your opposition’ but unfortunately the number of attendees failed to match expectation, with the venue remaining around half full.

We are well aware that there is opposition to the expansion of Heathrow, and indeed any infrastructure project. Look around the country, whether it’s Heathrow, Gatwick, new railway lines or housing, any major infrastructure project has its opposition groups. Yet even the organisers of Tuesday’s rally have previously admitted that the majority of people in west London support Heathrow expansion.

Far from being the biggest rally of the year, this event is the latest in a long line of unfortunate attempts by Heathrow’s opponents to overstate their support. Last month, HACAN was left red-faced after they claimed that Twickenham MP Vince Cable was speaking at this week’s rally on behalf of the Government. Local business leaders were angry that Vince Cable had been billed as speaking as ‘Secretary of State for Business’, appearing to be in breach of official rules. When challenged, organisers of the event claimed that this billing was an ‘error’.

But it wasn’t an ‘error’ because they were warned several weeks prior to the event that this information was misleading, but they chose to go ahead anyway and promote Dr Cable’s appearance as ‘Secretary of State’ in their advertising blitz.

This followed misleading claims that Heathrow Airport had received more than 90,000 individual noise complaints. It was revealed that more than half of them were from just 50 people, with around 30,000 of those complaints being sent using automatic software. The numbers had been artificially inflated by those who are trying to claim that the opposition to expansion is greater than it really is.

Anti-Heathrow protestors have also been pushing anyone opposed to expansion to sign a petition on the Hounslow Council website. The petition has been advertised widely, including an expensive letter drop to houses across the London Borough of Hounslow, whilst national anti-aviation groups have been urging people to sign online, no matter where they live. So far it has fewer than 850 signatures despite running for more than six months.

Although the petition was aimed at Hounslow residents, a quick scan down the list of signatories reveals that many names are from people living nowhere near Hounslow, including residents in Lambeth, Windsor and Richmond. The petition even allows you to sign if you’re not resident in the UK! How’s that for local?

This week the Airports Commission said that during the consultation they received 68,000 responses, and whilst we don’t yet know exactly how many Back Heathrow supporters responded, we know that many of our supporters have been in touch to say that did. When the Commission publishes its final report, it will also publish the responses it received and it will be fascinating to see how these break down.

Those opposed to expansion will register their opposition, and they have every right to do so. It is important that those who may lose out have their views heard, and more importantly, are treated fairly and adequately compensated if plans get the go ahead. Unlike some who oppose expansion, we do not try to gag those who hold a different view.

However, there has been a clear and consistent pattern of deliberately overstating the amount of opposition to expansion, whether through electronic fakery, or struggling to half-fill venues. This now raises some serious questions about the level of opposition to Heathrow expansion. No one has challenged the wild numbers bandied about by the anti-Heathrow campaign....until now.

Anti-Heathrow rally dogged by speaker controversy

By Mike Appleton

Organisers of a controversial anti-Heathrow rally will have red-faces today. This morning it was reported that Vince Cable is in trouble because two west London business leaders have reported the Secretary of State to the Prime Minister for an apparent breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

Anti-Heathrow expansion group HACAN has being trying to put together a ‘Rally Against the Runway’ to draw together a few hundred people in central London next week. Heading a line-up of the usual suspects dominated by the ‘green blob’ is the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

This billing is highly unusual as the Ministerial Code makes it very clear what Ministers can do as a constituency MP, and what they can’t do as a Minister. The Code is there to make sure that Ministers are doing what is right for the entire country, rather than just for the constituency that they represent. Section 1.2 (h) of the code is very clear:

Ministers in the House of Commons must keep separate their roles as Minister and constituency member”

This week, the Chief Executives of both Hounslow Chamber of Commerce and West London Business, representing thousands of businesses in west London, wrote to the Prime Minister to complain that the Minister responsible for business, manufacturing and exports appears to be using his official position as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to campaign against Heathrow expansion.

It is no surprise that the CEOs are unhappy about Vince Cable’s impending appearance as Business Secretary at next week’s protest when businesses are overwhelmingly in favour of expansion at Heathrow. In their letter to the Prime Minister, which you can read in full here, they make clear that more than 30 Chambers of Commerce representing many thousands of businesses throughout the UK support expansion at the airport, alongside bodies like the EEF which represents UK manufacturers.

When this story broke earlier today, HACAN immediately acknowledged that Dr Cable wasn’t speaking as Secretary of State, claiming it was an ‘error’. But if this is true, why did they ignore the same warnings that we gave them in early January, seven weeks ago? Why did they then go ahead, taking out full page adverts in local newspapers advertising the top speaker as ‘Secretary of State’ and ‘Cabinet Minister’? Why did Vince Cable retweet a flyer promoting the rally clearly showing him topping the speaker line-up as Secretary of State?

HACAN should have made clear from the start that Dr Cable was appearing as a local MP, rather than trying to overstate support for their rally. How on earth could the UK’s business secretary allow his privileged position and title to be used to promote an event that is so anti-business and anti-growth? We may never know because today he is busy opening the International Festival for Business which helps UK companies export in a global marketplace. You couldn’t make it up.

Our trip to Parliament

WATCH: OUR TRIP TO PARLIAMENT: 80,000 say ‘YES’ to Heathrow expansion

My how we’ve grown! We are delighted to announce that 80,000 local people have now shown their support for the Back Heathrow campaign. On Monday we took a campaign bus to Central London to visit the offices of the Airports Commission and take our message to Parliament. You can watch a video of our day by clicking on the link above or read on below to find out how we got on.

Around 50 campaigners hopped on a coach at Hounslow, travelling to Westminster to hand in our official Back Heathrow response to the Airports Commission public consultation. ‘Voices For Our Airport’ draws together a sample of the thousands of positive views we have heard from residents and businesses. It makes for compelling reading.

We’d have liked to include a quote from each one of our supporters, but it might have been a little too heavy to have taken with us. Luckily, we know that our supporters have been sending in submissions in their thousands, so the Commission can be in no doubt about where they stand.

After delivering our response to the Airports Commission offices in Westminster, we then headed off to Parliament to demonstrate the local support for Heathrow. What better way to show off our big number, than to do it with a big number! (See video.)

Heading into Parliament, our supporters had the chance to walk the corridors of power, telling MPs and peers what we’ve all been saying for months: the people of west London and the Thames Valley want a bright and successful future for their local airport. The message was clear: stop listening solely to those who oppose Heathrow, and please start listening to the majority who support the significant benefits that a bigger, better and quieter Heathrow would create.

Over the past few days there has been a further outpouring of support for Heathrow expansion, and not just from local residents. Thirty Chambers of Commerce from Inverness to Plymouth, Britain’s manufacturers and two major unions have said ‘Yes’ to growth at Heathrow. Even Gatwick’s biggest customer easyJet has come down in favour of Heathrow.

This is all good news. However, with an Airports Commission recommendation and a new government just round the corner, there is much work still to be done. Meanwhile, this formidable campaigning coalition of 80,000 residents, local businesses and community groups looks set to keep on growing.

You can read Voices For Our Airport, the Back Heathrow response to the Airports Commission public consultation by clicking here.

Poll shows huge local support for Heathrow expansion

By Rob Gray

The past few months have seen support flooding in for Back Heathrow with thousands of residents signing up to our campaign for a bigger, better and quieter airport.

In some cases local people have been ahead of their elected representatives in acknowledging majority support for Heathrow expansion. But if anyone was in any doubt then a new independent poll from Populus has confirmed this in spectacular style.

The top opinion pollster interviewed more than 10,000 people living in the 10 parliamentary constituencies closest to Heathrow, making sure their sample accurately reflected the make-up of the local population, and asked them for their views on the UK’s hub airport. It is a massive poll by any standards and should provide a wake-up call to any politician who still believes the myth that most residents do not want their airport to grow.

Across these local communities, 50% of residents expressed support for Heathrow expansion compared to 33% opposed. The rest remained neutral. No less than 57% felt positive towards the airport set against just 7% who felt negatively towards the airport. Slough showed the most support for Heathrow’s expansion with 63% of local people surveyed giving the thumbs-up for growth.

Supportive majorities in favour of Heathrow expansion swept across west London. They were found in Feltham & Heston (57% v 29%), Hayes & Harlington (56% v 28%), Spelthorne (53% v 29%), Ealing Central & Acton (53% v 28%), Brentford & Isleworth (52% v 34%), Uxbridge & South Ruislip (47% v 32%), Windsor (43% v 40%) and even Richmond Park (42% v 41%).

Twickenham was the only constituency that showed a majority against. The core of opposition has always been in Richmond, London’s wealthiest borough, comprising both Twickenham and Richmond Park constituencies. However, even here it is a complicated picture because whilst there is no doubt aircraft noise can be an issue, Richmond residents are right up there as some of Heathrow’s most frequent flyers. In 2013, 786,920 passengers began their journey from the borough.

The majority of people in west London, Thames Valley and beyond support the expansion of the UK’s hub airport. Even the leading opponents of Heathrow expansion have acknowledged this fact. Nevertheless, it is important that we tell decision-makers about the levels of support for Heathrow.

As you may know, the Airports Commission is running a public consultation on Heathrow expansion but it finishes next week on Tuesday 3February. It is really important that you let the Commission know your views on expansion. You can send your views directly to the Commission through our super-quick online form.

If you have already done this – thank you!

We’ll have more news on the campaign for you soon.

Back Heathrow at the Airports Commission

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.

Airports Commission goes live with Public Consultation

By Rob Gray

Today has been yet another significant milestone in our campaign, as the Airports Commission launched its public consultation. To support this, they have also released detailed analysis of all the options over hundreds of pages, but don’t worry, we’re not going to make you read it!

If you are interested in all the details, they can be found on the Airports Commission’s website, but we thought it might be a good idea to spare you the effort and bring you some of the headlines.

The Commission has been very clear that building additional capacity at Heathrow would provide a much needed boost to our local economy and huge economic benefits for generations to come.

An extra runway at Heathrow could benefit the economy by up to £211 billion, whilst also creating almost 180,000 jobs by 2050. By 2030, 41,000 of these jobs would be at the airport alone. Proposals to expand Heathrow would benefit the UK as a whole, boosting jobs right across the country, and not just in west London and the Thames Valley.

The Commission’s workings are complex, but more importantly they are independent of both Heathrow and Heathrow Hub, the promoters of the expansion projects at the airport. What is interesting is that in terms of the economic benefits of Heathrow’s expansion, the Commission has said that the airport’s own estimates were too low and that expansion would have a bigger effect on the local area and the UK than the promoters anticipated.

Local people will also benefit through reduced noise from aircraft. As the report notes: “When compared to current noise levels, fewer people are predicted to be affected across all metrics”, meaning that even a bigger Heathrow would lead to a smaller number of people experiencing noise than they do today.

The report also, for the first time, puts a figure on the price of doing nothing at Heathrow. Anti-expansion campaigners have always accused Back Heathrow of ‘scaremongering’ for pointing out that doing nothing would lead to fewer jobs at the airport. The Commission’s report estimates that there could be 14,000 jobs fewer jobs at the airport if Heathrow doesn’t grow.

These jobs would not all be lost in one day, but instead as part of the steady decline over the years, something we have warned about over the past few months. This report now shows that there are 14,000 local reasons why doing nothing at Heathrow is not an option.

The Airports Commission's findings show beyond doubt that our campaign has been right to call for expansion to boost our local economy and to protect our local communities from decline. Despite this, the campaign is far from over, and there is still a long road ahead before the Commission makes its final decision.