On Sunday (9th of June 2018) the Telegraph ran an article titled Clearance for Heathrow's third runway is a double blow (paywall) - by Liam Halligan.
Below is our Director, Parmjit, clearing up some of the points discussed.
I am writing to point out several inaccuracies in your recently published article, ‘Clearance for Heathrow’s third runway is a double blow’.
You argue that adding another 250,000 flights a year will “make a mockery of our anti-pollution laws”. The independent Airports Commission and the Department for Transport concluded that a third runway at Heathrow can be delivered in accordance with legal obligations on air quality. Heathrow has put in place a triple-lock guarantee on air quality to bind itself to these obligations, and at Back Heathrow we expect that strong commitments will also be tied in to the detailed planning consent (the next stage in the process after a Parliamentary vote).
You mention that Heathrow should give up slots for leisure routes in favour of links to “far-flung business hotspots”. Hub airports work because of the right mix of leisure passengers, business passengers, and cargo. It’s also worth remembering that destinations are selected by airlines and not airports. In this case Heathrow has a good mix of businesses that have grown around the airport and a resident community that like to use it for holidays too.
You cite Gatwick’s financing of ‘major improvements’ and say it’s therefore ‘deeply perverse’ to expand Heathrow. Heathrow has invested over £11 billion this past decade – that’s private money that has created thousands of jobs for the local community, 76,000 people work on the site. It’s a success story that has led to Heathrow winning awards for having the best terminal in the world and has seen the airport named as the best in Western Europe.
You refer to the “astonishing” £18 billion cost of expansion. Heathrow’s latest estimate for its proposal is £14 billion. This means £14 billion worth of private investment in the UK – creating new local opportunities for work and businesses. That’s part of the reason that both the TUC and the CBI back the project.
You rightly point out that Britain’s regions need greater connectivity. A strong hub airport boosts rather than hinders other UK airports, by filling gaps in the network and connecting other regions to travel and trade with the world. That’s why over 40 airports across the UK - from Aberdeen and Belfast to Newcastle and Liverpool, support Heathrow expansion.
Finally, you claim that since the Government’s decision to back expansion in December 2016, “no progress” has been made. I agree that progress is slow in this country for major infrastructure projects. But the government has held two consultations on the draft National Policy Statement to hear a range of views, and last week they tabled the final NPS on Heathrow expansion and there has also been another raft of public consultation. If we don’t move forward with Heathrow now, the alternative will be to do nothing, as the Secretary of State has said quite clearly, there is no Plan B.
Heathrow expansion is a crucial national project which is backed by over 100,000 local residents. While it is right and to be expected that this major project should be debated, it’s important that the correct and most up to date information is used for this discussion.
Executive Director, Back Heathrow
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