The proposals from British Airways to make as many as 12,000 people redundant and possibly end its entire operation at Gatwick is a worrying demonstration of how Covid-19 is changing the world. It is a deeply concerning time for people in and around Heathrow airport.
With so many jobs and livelihoods dependent on a thriving UK aviation industry, these fears will be shared in homes and communities across the country. Regional airports throughout the land are suffering. Some, like Newquay and Teeside, have shut to all but the emergency services, whilst others are reducing hours of operation and severely curtailing flights. Glasgow Airport has even repurposed its long-stay car park to host a drive-through mobile testing centre for the virus.
It’s not just the airlines and the airports that are suffering, as thousands of local businesses who rely upon them for work are hurting too – caterers, taxi drivers, cargo handlers, transport and construction workers, energy suppliers, security staff, cleaners and so on. It has been estimated that in the area to the west of Heathrow aviation and related activity supports around 120,000 jobs and contributes £6.2billion to the UK economy.
As Executive Director of Back Heathrow, the community group with over 100,000 supporters, I speak to local businesses, employees, and unions, and know the anguish this is causing. It’s really tough, but I know that we are all in this together and if the UK is to get its economy back on track, it’s going to need fully functioning airports and local businesses trading successfully again.
I hope that for some it won’t be too late. The Government must take action now to safeguard UK airlines and airports, so we can meet the Prime Minister’s challenge and ‘fire up the engines’ of our economy in post-lockdown Britain.
In these worrying times people are asking why is it that passengers arriving at Heathrow from around the world, including Covid19 hotspots like China, Italy and Iran, aren’t being tested for Covid19? Instead, under a system of 'enhanced monitoring', passengers are handed information leaflets and told to self-isolate for 14 days.
John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport, is equally bemused, and he isn’t alone. Other UK airports are also confused by the situation. They say the absence of checks is creating a false impression that Britain's airports are more dangerous than other nations and fear this could have long-term implications on passenger numbers.
As Executive Director of Back Heathrow, I support John Holland-Kaye’s letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, demanding stringent regulations to combat the virus. It’s time to adopt an internationally agreed set of measures for all airports in the world, including temperature checks, antibody tests, and a requirement that all passengers carry health passports proving they are medically fit. Without such precautions the health of the nation is at further risk, making a mockery of the lockdown conditions imposed on the rest of our country.
I know the critical role air travel plays in the lives of local people and indeed the whole of the UK. There are 76,000 jobs at stake at Heathrow and many more in local supply chains and supporting industries. These people need to feed their families, pay the rent or mortgage, and spend in the local economy. They need the government to urgently agree a plan that revives confidence here.
Our national plan must include the rigorous application of social distancing as well as temperature and antibody tests at British airports.
The Coronavirus emergency has shown us just how many people we depend on in our day to day lives.
On Thursday evenings at 8pm we have been able to celebrate many of them. Whether it’s our NHS heroes – the doctors, nurses and carers who risk their lives for us every day, or others like shopkeepers, refuse workers and volunteers in our neighbourhoods. They certainly deserve all the support we can give.
Heathrow is playing its part too at this difficult time. We know that across the country there have been huge issues in getting PPE (personal protective equipment) to frontline staff.
So, it was good to see Heathrow donate 6,000 respiratory face masks in the last week to Hillingdon Hospital and the Thames Valley Air Ambulance, and more will be delivered to these frontline organisations in the next few days.
Local Heathrow Community Rangers have been terrific – out in local communities delivering donations to foodbanks.
Despite operating with only one runway, Heathrow airport has experienced a 409% rise in ‘cargo only’ flights, carrying essential medical equipment and supplies for frontline teams battling against the pandemic.
On a lighter note, for those of you with children aged between 7 and 11, you might be finding it hard to keep them occupied during this extended Easter holiday. If so, why not visit the Heathrow educational resources website: https://www.heathrow.com/company/local-community/educational-resources
The website has a fun airport cargo challenge, a comms challenge and an airport quiz to keep the kids occupied – at least for a bit.
This is going to be a strange Easter weekend for us all. But please follow the government advice – stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
The Back Heathrow team
Supporters of Heathrow expansion understand well that not everyone agrees with us. That’s fine, because our democracy is built on the proud tradition of differing views, but in today’s world it seems some people don’t just want different opinions, they want ‘alternative’ facts.
The ‘New Economics Foundation’ (an organisation opposed to Heathrow expansion) has just published an error-filled report on Heathrow’s expansion, claiming it will be subsidised by public money, that ticket prices will rise, carbon emissions will increase costs, and money and jobs will be sucked away from the regions and nations of the UK. All of this is just plain wrong.
The debate around the rescue plan for Europe’s largest independent airline, Flybe and its tax liability will be of keen interest to supporters of sustainable growth.
The rescue includes the potential deferment of over £100m in air passenger duty. APD charges for short haul flights start at £13 for economy and £26 for business/first class.
The plan also includes a Treasury review of air passenger duty as part of a Budget process to ensure that regional connectivity is supported alongside the UK’s climate change commitments to meet net zero carbon targets by 2050.
Although the tax deferment was attacked by some environmental groups, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps defended the decision.
“Air passenger duty is not designed as an environmental tax. I think that we can do far more by reviewing the way it works. I'll give you a simple example: there are now aircraft that are being designed and about to start flying which fly on electricity. They're going to do the island hops in Scotland.”Read more
Building support in 2019: A big thank you from the Back Heathrow team!
It has been a busy year and with 2020 only a few days away, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at some of our 2019 campaign highlights.
In January, over 1,200 residents signed campaign cards supporting Heathrow expansion, which were delivered to the reception desk of Hillingdon Civic Centre – only for them to be returned, unopened to the Back Heathrow office in early February.
Later that month, the campaign was boosted by a survey of Hounslow residents that revealed a significant shift in local opinion in favour of Heathrow’s new runway. It showed that 59% of residents overall supported the new runway – up from 44% in 2016.
In March, Back Heathrow was a strong presence outside the High Court at the start of the legal proceedings by several local authorities against Heathrow expansion. Our Director, Parmjit Dhanda said: "This project has been on the starting blocks for decades, and it’s now time to get on and build it.”
In May, Back Heathrow welcomed the ruling from the High Court rejecting claims from objectors (led by five London boroughs) who called for the new runway project to be stopped.
Later that month, Transport Minister Jesse Norman MP revealed that costs of £625,000 from the legal challenge to expansion would be recovered from the unsuccessful claimants.
In June, another council residents’ survey – this one in Ealing, revealed that that a large majority of its residents now backed the new runway, with 69% of residents supporting expansion.
In July, local residents voiced their support for the new runway at a demonstration in Uxbridge where they were supported by the GMB and Unite trade unions.
Also in July, Back Heathrow supporters in Ealing helped launch a campaign to persuade the council to have a free vote on its stance over Heathrow expansion.
In August, Back Heathrow supporters asked the Prime Minister to support the new runway, by showing him how much support there is for the project in his own constituency.
Supporters handed over 700 postcards from constituents asking Mr Johnson to give his full backing to the expansion project. A delegation of Back Heathrow supporters met with Boris' doppelganger outside the Civic Centre in Uxbridge, much to the amusement of supporters and residents.
In September, Back Heathrow exhibited at the TUC annual congress in Brighton, where the debate on Green investment, infrastructure and apprenticeships was in full flow among delegates.
September saw a supporters’ summer event that set the scene for a possible general election, with a reminder for local politicians that their stance on Heathrow expansion matters to our 100,000 campaign supporters across West London and the Thames Valley. Take a look at the gallery of photographs of the event – over 300 supporters attended!
Later that month, Back Heathrow team members went along to the Hounslow Regeneration Conference, where among the speakers, was an interesting presentation by the University of West London on apprenticeships.
During the autumn, a major campaign event took place, once again at the Royal Courts of Justice on the first day of the appeal lodged by several London boroughs, environmental groups and the Mayor of London.
It was a good day from a Back Heathrow point of view. We had scores of supporters present – including GMB and Unite union representatives, who added their voices to the chorus of: Get on and build it!
Finally, as November faded into the Christmas run-up and election day loomed, Back Heathrow organised a general election hustings event in Hounslow. The main subject for the event was the proposed new runway at Heathrow airport.
Discussion throughout the evening was robust and respectful across the party divides. The six candidates who attended were left in no doubt of the importance of jobs and the economy to the audience, while also maintaining that the runway could be sustainable – and meet strict targets on noise, air and carbon.
On top of this, Back Heathrow organised several supporter meetings during the year including in Hayes, Feltham, Ealing, and Staines.
As you can see, it was a busy year and 2020 is set to be just as busy too. Thanks to all our supporters for your help.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you all!
And to our opponents, on the whole we can say we’ve had a healthy debate with you too!
October 17, 2019 was another huge day for the Back Heathrow campaign. Our supporters were outside the Royal Courts of Justice on what was the first day of an appeal launched by several London boroughs, environmental groups and the Mayor of London.
They were the same claimants who lost a judicial review earlier this year, when the High Court threw out their challenge to the new runway at Heathrow on all grounds – and then awarded costs of £625,000 against them.
It was a good day from a Back Heathrow point of view. We had dozens of supporters present – including GMB and Unite union reps who added their voices to the chorus of: Get on and build it!
The mood among supporters was enthusiastic and good natured, fuelled by lots of coffee and the expectation of being on the other side of the road from the anti-expansion protesters.
It was a very busy and eventful day, with Extinction Rebellion protesters at Gatwick Airport, others provoking an ugly looking brawl at Canning Town DLR station, which dominated social media and newspapers the next day.
We believe you can have sustainable airport growth and tackle climate change too. Our message is simple: We want to see a new runway delivered with tight regulations: mitigating noise, protect air quality, cutting carbon and enshrined in law.
Likewise, the message from our friends among the trade unions at Heathrow airport is equally straight forward: Joe McGowan from Unite said: “Expansion will make a massive difference to the west London economy. We are campaigning for quality new jobs alongside tough regulations to protect our environment. At Heathrow we can have both."
Perry Phillips GMB’s Aviation Officer added: "We know it’s in the interests of current and future GMB members to expand the airport. This is a crucial project for London and the whole UK."
Job, opportunities and sustainability. That’s what the country needs.
See the pictures from the event here.
Back Heathrow team members attended the recent Hounslow Regeneration 2.0 Conference, skilfully and ably hosted by Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, where a range of business, political and educational stakeholders gave presentations on their roles in the future of the borough. It was fantastic to see so many people and businesses committed to making Hounslow a better place for both residents and businesses.
One of the presentations that really caught our attention was by Janet Rowson, head of Apprenticeships at the University of West London (UWL). Apprenticeships have long been one of the core pillars of the expansion promise, offering 10,000 apprenticeships to help young people locally into work.
At Back Heathrow we have often made reference to this offer as part of the wider Heathrow proposal, but what do we really know about the technicalities of what a modern apprenticeship looks like? In order to better understand this issue we listened with interest as Janet gave her presentation.
She introduced the topic by asking the audience how many of us knew that you could get a degree level qualification from an apprenticeship? Not many! Through the employer levy that was introduced in 2017, any company with a turnover of £3million or more can engage with the programme.
The employer must pay a salary, provide all the standard benefits of work and allow at least 20% time off for the apprentice to learn. If the employer is not eligible to pay the levy the apprentice is co-funded with the government.
From April 2019, for a non-levy-paying employer, the government covers 95% of the cost of training and assessing an apprentice. If an employer does pay the levy, it will also be able to transfer up to 25% of unused annual funds to other organisations.
UWL offers approximately 15 higher and degree apprenticeships starting at Level 4 intermediate to Level 7 masters level.
Across the wider UK, the number of apprenticeships starters has doubled from 20,000 to nearly 50,000 Since 2014-15. This includes a sharp increase in Level 6 and 7 apprenticeships at degree and master level.
The proximity of Heathrow means a strong relationship and the proposed new runway brings the potential for 5,000 new apprenticeship on top of the existing 5,000 already provided by the airport.
Heathrow CEO John Holland Kaye later told the conference that Heathrow airport had forged close links over decades with the local community and many Hounslow residents have had long and successful careers at the airport.
Heathrow says that to ensure sustainable, long-term employment for Heathrow’s current and future workforce it has launched a new Apprenticeships and Careers Show. It will give attendees the chance to explore future skills and apply for live vacancies and apprenticeships. It focuses on three main groups:
- Employers offering current job opportunities and apprenticeships
- School and college groups of Year 11, 12 and 13 students who can visit exclusively on the first day of the event to find out about their future career options
- Active job seekers of all ages and abilities who are looking to join Heathrow immediately.
In the interests of fairness, there are other Apprenticeship schemes available in the colleges and universities across west London and the Thames Valley. However, Janet’s presentation gave us a real insight into what modern apprenticeships let you achieve and how the apprenticeship pathway can work for all and everyone.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about the apprenticeship pathway on offer at UWL, you can find out more at - https://www.uwl.ac.uk/for-business/apprenticeships