Silent majority finds its voice in favour of Heathrow expansion, and calls for talks
Over 70 local residents voiced their support for Heathrow’s expansion at Hillingdon Civic Centre last night (July 4th), at a demonstration where they were surprised and pleased to make contact with Labour and Conservative councillors on the issue.
Until now the council has refused to receive correspondence or acknowledge the Back Heathrow campaign, but at the demonstration councillors appeared to soften their line and started to engage with the pro-expansion argument for the first time.Read more
Back Heathrow, the campaign that represents over 100,00 local residents, has welcomed the launch of the airport’s biggest ever consultation which lays out the detailed plans for the proposed new runway project.
Back Heathrow executive director, Parmjit Dhanda, said: “This is a major milestone for the realisation of this critical infrastructure project. It will bring thousands of new jobs, apprenticeships for young people in local communities and boost the wider UK economy. It will also help the airport maintain its position as the UK’s only hub airport and largest port by value of its trade.Read more
An independent and representative sample of over 1,200 residents commissioned by Ealing Council has found that a large majority of its residents back a new runway at Heathrow Airport. This is despite the council voting to oppose the scheme at a meeting in December.
The survey results were welcomed by Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow, the community campaign for a new runway at Heathrow airport. He said: “In February a residents’ survey in Hounslow showed a 15% rise in support for Heathrow expansion to 59%. Now Ealing Council has confirmed this pattern of rising support, with 69% of residents backing expansion.
“Ealing Council is right to ensure that air quality is protected and noise minimised as part of this scheme, but this is a clear message from local people that the council should now wholeheartedly back the scheme and the thousands of jobs and apprenticeships it will create.”
The shift in support towards expansion follows the Parliamentary vote in June 2018, in which two of the three Ealing MPs (Steve Pound and Virendra Sharma) backed expansion (Rupa Huq voted against), in a Parliamentary majority of 296.
In February, the Hounslow residents’ survey revealed that 59% of residents supported a new runway – up from 44% in 2016, with only 22% opposing it. http://bit.ly/2JXXMRh
Last month the Royal Borough of Maidenhead and Windsor, which had been one of the leaders of the failed legal challenge against Heathrow expansion decided it would reconsider its position with a free vote at a full council meeting in June.
Mr Dhanda added: “With this new information at hand I hope Ealing Council will reconsider its formal position of opposition through a debate and free vote at a future council meeting. The position of the council should reflect the view of its residents.”
The full Ealing council survey results can be found here:http://bit.ly/2HV2tZV
Transport Minister Jesse Norman MP has revealed that costs of £625,000 from legal challenges to Heathrow expansion will be recovered from the unsuccessful claimants.
That will include substantial costs against the London Boroughs of Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond and the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead. The Mayor of London will also be liable for a portion of the costs.
The cost to the councils is in addition to over £2 million of expenditure in legal fees, PR costs and funding of local ‘anti- Heathrow’ groups over the last decade.
In response to a question asked by Justine Greening MP to the Secretary of State of Transport: “What estimate he has been made of the (a) legal (b) other costs to the public purse of the judicial review of the Airports National Policy Statement.”
The Minister stated: “The external costs to date to the Department of defending the judicial review claims are £1,608,642 for legal costs and £95,152 for other costs. Following the judgments in favour of the Secretary of State, the Department will seek to recover up to £625,000 in costs from the unsuccessful claimants.”
Executive Director of Back Heathrow, Parmjit Dhanda said: “This is embarrassing for local council leaders, who have played fast and loose with tax-payers’ money, and lost it all. They could instead have been negotiating how their boroughs would benefit from new jobs and apprenticeships.
“They should now get around the table and engage in the consultation process to help develop a regeneration project for local communities to be proud of, whilst also tackling noise and reducing our carbon footprint.”
A leading Conservative Peer and former member of the European Parliament, Lord Balfe of Dulwich, has launched a withering criticism of Conservative run councils like Hillingdon, Wandsworth, and Windsor & Maidenhead urging them not to waste any more money opposing Heathrow expansion.
The Peer supports Heathrow expansion on economic grounds and has questioned the motives of London councils, led by fellow Conservatives, that oppose the new runway.
Last week these councils had their bid to stop Heathrow expansion thrown out at the Royal Courts of Justice. However, they have threatened to appeal the decision, with further legal costs.
Lord Balfe said: “As a Conservative Peer, I am very disappointed at the attitude of London councils like Hillingdon, Wandsworth and Windsor & Maidenhead for wasting taxpayers’ money on a legal challenge against the much-needed new runway at Heathrow. I find it difficult to understand why Conservative councils do not seize the opportunities of expansion. They should invest in success, rather than play to a vocal minority.”
Lord Balfe has a long-standing interest in aviation - as a former MEP, as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation and through work with trade unions. Hence, he is well versed in the arguments about Heathrow’s expansion.
Lord Balfe added: “The majority of MPs – Conservative and Labour – voted in favour of this project. Conservatives have a reputation to uphold as the party of business. In this instance, they could be the party of business and the people.”
An independent commission and the government have set out key environmental targets which must be adhered to as part of expansion. Expansion also has the strong support of local people, as polling shows.
Lord Balfe’s intervention is a significant blow to the approach of councils involved in legal challenges against expansion in the courts, earlier in May.
Executive Director of Back Heathrow, Parmjit Dhanda echoed Lord Balfe’s criticisms. He said: “These councils have wasted over £2m of taxpayers’ money already on legal challenges fighting a project that will create thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships. They should not waste any more money by appealing a High Court decision that categorically struck out their claims. It’s time they spent council revenues on public services instead of an appeal they know they will lose.”
Back Heathrow, the campaign group which represents local businesses, trade unions and over 100,000 residents that support a new runway have welcomed the ruling in the High Court today.
Back Heathrow’s Executive Director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “No new runways have been built in London or the south-east since the Second World War.
“It was important today for the UK economy and for local jobs for the court to give expansion the green light. This decision does that, backing the views of over 100,000 local residents, the TUC and the CBI. The country has waited long enough.”
“This ruling does raise some questions about how local authorities like Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Maidenhead and Windsor have spent millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.”
Local democracy in Hillingdon has hit a low point with a ban for a petition on the council’s website which calls for an end to the use tax payers’ money on its legal challenge to Heathrow expansion.
The petition says it should start co-operating with Heathrow instead, so residents can benefit from new jobs and prosperity when the new runway is completed.
Local resident, Mx Berry submitted the petition, only for Hillingdon to tell her it fell foul of petition rules because it “seeks to directly overturn a fundamental, democratically approved policy of the council where there has been substantial consultation on the matter.”
Mx Berry said: “I am shocked that the council can use this tactic to avoid listening to what is a serious issue for residents, who are angry that the council has spent over £1m of public money on legal fees and funding anti-expansion opposition groups.
“They refuse to listen or engage - even when they know opinion has shifted and people have changed their mind. They seem to want to shut down discussion on this issue. This isn’t democracy. It feels more like 1970s Soviet Russia.”
Mx Berry contacted Back Heathrow to raise her concerns. Executive Director, Parmjit Dhanda, said: “Doesn’t Hillingdon want to hear what its residents think about Heathrow expansion or debate it? Local politicians are in danger of bringing themselves into disrepute. They are elected to engage with, not ignore, their residents. Small wonder that Mx Berry wants to take it further by formally complaining to the council. Just imagine what people would think if the government banned petitions, just because they are at odds with government policy.”
In January, council leader, Ray Puddifoot, instructed council officers to post back 1,500 Back Heathrow campaign cards rather than let councillors receive them.
Hillingdon’s own budget consultation in 2019 showed how opinion has shifted towards support for Heathrow expansion. The survey showed a spike in residents opposing the council’s hard line against the plan for a new runway.
Full Hillingdon budget survey results are here: https://modgov.hillingdon.gov.uk/documents/s40226/Appendix%2014%20-%20Budget%20Consultation%20Feedback%20from%20Residents.pdf
Back Heathrow has welcomed the Judicial Review of the decision to proceed with a new runway at Heathrow, and which began in the High Court on March 11.
Back Heathrow Executive Director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “The review is part of the democratic process. It happens with most major schemes. However, the Independent Airports Commission that proposed Heathrow's new runway was also part of that democratic process. As was the detailed scrutiny in Parliament by a select committee, and the debate on the floor of the House that delivered a cross-party majority of nearly 300 in favour of this project. Hence we can be confident that this robust process will back expansion and deliver the investment local communities need.”
The third runway project was recommended by the Davies Commission in 2015 (a £17 million independent commission). It was subject to intense analysis and debate by the Transport Select Committee in 2018, and received the overwhelming support of MPs in a parliamentary vote in June 2018 (by 415 to 119, a majority 296). The majority of Labour and Conservative MPs backed the project.
The Heathrow North West runway plans also have the backing of the TUC and the CBI. The economic benefits include a £107 billion boost to the UK economy, 40,00 new local jobs in neighbouring boroughs (up to 180,000 nationally) and 10,000 apprenticeships.
Mr Dhanda added: "The Independent Commission stated that an expanded Heathrow can be delivered whilst reducing noise and meeting all air quality obligations. That really matters to local people, and the advances in aircraft technology, and investment in public transport will help deliver those commitments."
Back Heathrow has responded to the start of the legal proceedings by several local authorities against Heathrow expansion with a clear message.
Executive Director of Back Heathrow Parmjit Dhanda said: "This project has been on the starting blocks for decades, and it’s now time to get on and build it. There have been no new runways built in London or the South-East of England since the Second World War, and our airports are full to capacity.
"The new runway project has the capacity to create up to 180,000 new jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships, as well the chance to create new prosperity at a financially challenging time for our country.
“Most importantly, we know from independent polling that more local people support the project than oppose it, and MPs from both sides have backed it by a majority of 296. The time is right and the process has been robust. We hope the courts will back democracy and back the needs of our country and let Heathrow create the jobs and prosperity the country needs."
Back Heathrow is a grassroots organisation of over 100,000 local people who want to see a bigger, better and environmentally sustainable Heathrow airport, true to the recommendations of the 2015 Independent Airport's Commission report.
Back Heathrow campaigners have reacted with anger to Hillingdon Council’s astonishing decision to ban post from residents to councillors on Heathrow expansion. Over 1,200 residents signed campaign cards which they delivered to the reception desk of the Civic Centre on January 31. The cards were addressed to named councillors by individual residents who live in their wards.
The cards should have been passed on to Hillingdon’s councillors. Instead, council leader Ray Puddifoot intervened unilaterally to block circulation to the borough’s 65 councillors. He then instructed officials to despatch them, at taxpayers’ expense, to the Back Heathrow office. Councillor Puddifoot instructed his staff to enclose a letter stating that materials from Back Heathrow supporters must not be passed on to councillors.
Local resident Ali Berry said: “I am furious. I handed in response slips to represent my views and the views of other residents from Harefield. I want to tell Councillor Puddifoot in no uncertain terms that this is an affront to local democracy. He should apologise to us at once.”
Hayes resident Keith Hendry said: “What right does Councillor Puddifoot have to steal mail from me to my local councillor? He is desperate to quash all debate on Heathrow expansion. He is out on a limb and out of touch with Hillingdon’s residents. Councillors shouldn’t be banned from receiving correspondence just because it goes against the grain of the leader’s thinking.”
Back Heathrow’s executive director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “Councillor Puddifoot has every right to oppose Heathrow expansion, but this is rather eccentric behaviour. It effectively means that locally elected councillors are banned by the council leader from receiving correspondence from their residents – correspondence that residents have signed, addressed and dated. Mr Puddifoot has just unilaterally disenfranchised over 1,200 Hillingdon residents and blocked constituents’ correspondence to local councillors. It doesn’t show local democracy in a London borough in a good light.”
The campaign cards were all signed individually by residents and span all 22 wards, including 31 in the Leader’s own ward. They declare support for a new runway and urge councillors to end the spending of taxpayers’ money to oppose the project. The spending has now exceeded £1.2m over ten years.
Residents have expressed their concern that the council has wasted taxpayers’ money on a legal challenge whilst resourcing local anti-expansion campaign groups. The council is also looking to raise council tax by 2.4% per cent this year, the first rise for ten years.
Hillingdon council has funded anti-expansion campaign groups ‘Stop Heathrow Expansion’, (£100,800), and ‘No Third Runway Coalition’, (£174,000). Between January 2007 and August 2016, Hillingdon spent £827,000 on legal services, campaigning and community engagement. Since then the council has spent £620,000, with £275,000 going towards funding anti-Heathrow campaign groups. It has received £330,000 in contributions towards these funds from other boroughs.
On January 17 in Hillingdon’s council chamber, Councillor Puddifoot pledged a further £413,000 in 2019 for anti-expansion campaigning.
Independent polling by Populus shows that more people in the 12 constituencies adjacent to Heathrow, including Hillingdon support Heathrow expansion than oppose it.