By Mike Appleton
Sir Howard Davies, you have mail. Today, the chairman of the Airports Commission will receive detailed plans from the shortlisted schemes to solve the UK’s aviation capacity problem. Happily, two of these favour Heathrow.
For months, both plans have been under development whilst key questions about vital issues like aircraft noise, carbon emissions and transport links were answered. Now both plans have been made public, we are able to see for the first time the real benefits for all of us in west London, the Thames Valley and beyond.
The owners of Heathrow Airport - who favour a new runway to the north-west - say their option would create more than 100,000 jobs across the UK, including many locally. But they also point to £100bn of potential economic benefits and a £550m fund for noise insulation and property compensation. Supporters of the second option from Heathrow Hub, fronted by ex-Concorde pilot Jock Lowe, also offer large-scale job creation but say their proposal demolishes fewer houses and delivers a world-class noise mitigation strategy.
The other official option for the Airports Commission will be submitted by Gatwick. You may have seen some of their anti-Heathrow advertisements arguing that Gatwick is the ‘obvious’ choice for a new runway. We have no objection to Gatwick growth but not at the expense of Heathrow growth. Heathrow’s runways are full. This must be the priority – there is a hub airport capacity shortage, not a wider capacity shortage.
The Mayor of London’s plans for a new hub airport to the east of London, resulting in the closure of Heathrow, are still alive but only just. Boris will learn his fate in the autumn. However, it must be disheartening for anyone involved in this ill-fated project to watch the Mayor’s protracted and clumsy swanning back towards the House of Commons.
Like you, we want Heathrow to succeed, not decline. Any option to increase capacity at Heathrow will protect jobs and allow the wider economy in the area to flourish for years to come. It is clear that both of these new options for Heathrow’s future open an exciting new chapter for the airport and local communities.
The Airports Commission process is the final opportunity to secure a bright future for Heathrow and it is important that politicians seize it with both hands. If they do, they will find that the majority of local residents in west London are behind them – as first-rate, independent polling has shown year after year.
This week was an important step towards making Heathrow’s future more secure, but there is still a long way to go before a final decision is made. If local elections are taking place where you live, make sure you tell any candidate that comes to your door your views, so that they are under no illusion about how local people really feel about Heathrow.
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By Jack Andrews,
It’s not just those directly employed at the airport relying on Heathrow for their jobs. South east England and west London have grown up with Heathrow as businesses have taken the opportunity to base themselves close to Britain’s UK hub airport. They want to connect to the world and an entire supply chain has sprung up to provide jobs and services to those who depend on those links.
As the debate over new runways rumbles on, we were delighted when Feltham firm Mixed Freight Services approached us offering to help the Back Heathrow campaign. The company’s founder, Alan Smith, wanted to send a clear message to the politicians that would be happy to see the airport decline or even close. “Heathrow’s future affects people like the 70 employees working for our company,” said Alan, continuing, “There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region that depend on Heathrow and that is a serious number of people to brush aside in this debate.”
For Alan there is a stark connection between the future of Heathrow and that of his business. His firm can grow alongside Heathrow or it can decline alongside Heathrow – and the effect of closing Heathrow doesn’t bear thinking about.
That point was so important for Alan that he didn’t want to risk anyone not getting the message. His solution was to create something that would be difficult for others – including the politicians – to miss; he decided to turn an 18-metre lorry into a mobile advert for Back Heathrow. Those that see this lorry (pictured above with Alan, left) drive past over the coming months, whether they’re on the motorway or at the airport, will have no doubt of Alan’s support for local jobs.
Of course, Alan’s logistics enterprise is just one of thousands of local businesses that would suffer if a decision was made against Heathrow continuing to be a global hub in west London. As Stephen Fry, Chief Executive of Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, puts it, “Many of Hounslow’s firms are dependent on the Heathrow economy”. That’s why 77% of businesses in Hounslow support expansion, and why 76% in Hillingdon do too.
There’s a reason that 202 of the 300 top companies in the UK have chosen west London and the Thames Valley as the location for their headquarters – proximity to Heathrow airport.
The connectivity that a major competitive hub provides makes this area one of the best places to be if you’re looking to move people or freight around the world, that’s why companies like Microsoft, Honda, Mars and Google have chosen here as their centre of operations.
Major local employers also help sustain supply chain companies, whilst the multitude of employees living nearby ensures that shops and other community businesses can be successful. A recent independent report for Ealing, Hounslow and Slough Councils showed that 300,000 jobs across the region are at risk if Heathrow’s status as an international hub airport is jeopardised.
All of these tremendous economic and social benefits that Heathrow brings to west London and the wider region could be put at risk if more local politicians do not speak out in favour of the golden goose on their doorstep. Local voters are surely entitled to ask… what on earth are some of their elected representatives playing at? Meanwhile, it’s great that Alan and thousands of other supporters are, at least, looking out for jobs in our area.
Keep an eye out for a large, yellow Back Heathrow lorry!
By Rob Gray,
Did you know there are more US astronauts than BA Concorde pilots? Well, you do now. When the longest-serving Concorde pilot dropped in to Back Heathrow on Monday evening, we thought we’d give him a warm welcome. So we invited around 100 of our friends.
In his time, Captain Jock Lowe has been responsible for the day to day operation of the entire British Airways fleet of 300 aircraft worldwide and served as Chief Pilot of British Airways. He has also been President of the Royal Aeronautical Society. But his latest project is rather different.
Jock is the front man for Heathrow Hub which is an independent proposal to extend Heathrow’s existing runways. Some expressed surprise when this option was shortlisted by the Airports Commission as a potential solution to the UK’s airport capacity problem - but not those of us in the Back Heathrow cockpit. A man used to piloting the world’s most famous supersonic aircraft at cruising speeds of 1350mph can handle the odd technical question or two about runways.
Local residents gathered at the Marriott Hotel on the Bath Road, a short hop to the UK’s hub airport, to hear Jock run through his plans allowing Heathrow to grow. They also had the chance to question Andrew Macmillan, Heathrow’s Strategy Director, about the airport’s own expansion plans, which are also on the Airports Commission shortlist. It’s fantastic for our campaign that two options for growth at Heathrow are still in contention. We don’t mind which one emerges as the winner – so long as one does!
But whilst our 100+ supporters were delighted to see Jock, they were less happy to hear about the Mayor of London’s plans to build a Thames Estuary Airport and close Heathrow. They had come to offer their backing for our campaign which has now attracted tens of thousands of supporters. As these determined residents-turned-activists hoovered up the campaign posters, balloons, car stickers and petitions, I thought that if I was Boris, I seriously wouldn’t want to mess with them.
Yet it’s not just about preposterous plans to close Heathrow and build Boris Island, or Fantasy Island as Jock refers to it. The vast majority of local residents are genuinely proud of Heathrow and recognise the benefits this national asset brings to local communities. They want a successful UK hub airport in west London and many are prepared to campaign hard to get it.
There will be turbulence ahead but there are signs that the powers-that-be are starting to listen. Before Christmas, one prominent local politician said that she never heard from pro-Heathrow constituents. She doesn’t say that any more. Perhaps, too, she has seen the polling which shows that the majority of residents will vote for local politicians who back Heathrow expansion.
Supporters of Back Heathrow won’t win everyone round but they are beginning to unveil the true picture of resident opinion in the boroughs surrounding the airport. And it’s looking good.
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.