Heathrow Given The Go Ahead For Third Runway By Cabinet

Opponents warn of 'a tsunami of noise' over residential areas

plane heathrow HACAN

Controversial plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport have been given backing by the Cabinet this Tuesday (5 June). Opponents of expansion warned of "a tsunami of noise" over flight path areas and said it was "a bad day" for residents. Pro-expansion group Back Heathrow has welcomed the decision.

The Cabinet approval of a decision by the government's economic subcommittee, to give the go-ahead to the project, was described by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling as "a historic moment." Parliament will vote on the proposal within 21 days.

chris grayling
Chris Grayling

The National Policy Statement, laid before Parliament this Tuesday by Chris Grayling, also set out a number of binding conditions which Heathrow would need to adhere to. These included a six and a half hour night ban, up from five hours at present; strict air pollution limits; improved compensation for local residents; and tough powers for the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure the costs of the third runway do not become excessive.

The decision has provoked anger in the anti-airport expansion and environmental groups across the city and some local authorities have threatened to challenge it in the courts.

A leading campaign group said that many communities would face ‘a tsunami of noise’ if a third runway went ahead at Heathrow. HACAN, the long-established residents’ group which opposes Heathrow expansion, said that ‘many people’s lives would be changed forever’ as a result of the noise from the 700 extra planes a day that would use the airport if a third runway is built.

Parliament will be required to vote on the Airports National Policy Statement, which sets out plans for a third runway, within 21 days. Most Conservatives are expected to back the plans. The Labour Party is divided on the issue. A number of leading members of the shadow cabinet such as John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbot have a long history of opposing a third runway but it is backed by many MPs outside London who believe it will improve connectivity to their areas. The Liberal Democrats oppose the new runway but it is supported by the DUP and the Scottish National Party, though the latter may be reluctant to vote with the Conservatives.

Today’s updated NPS provides no additional information about which communities could be affected. The Government is still unable to provide details of flightpaths for a new runway. MPs had said that without actual flightpaths it was ‘impossible’ to know what the exact noise outcomes would be.

Wandsworth, Richmond and Windsor & Maidenhead councils believe that the decision is illegal . The councils have responded that the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) fails to address the key recommendations of the Transport Select Committee on noise and air quality. The TSC report had criticised the way the Department for Transport had understated the numbers of people likely to be affected by noise.

The Leader of Wandsworth Council, Cllr Ravi Govindia said:
“You wouldn’t buy a house without checking if it was going to be overflown or affected by toxic fumes. Now ministers expect Parliament to give a blank cheque to Heathrow for a third runway affecting more than 2.2m people without knowing where the planes will fly.”

"The Transport Select Committee (TSC) in its final report had said that a third runway could have a ‘seriously damaging effect on communities living under and adjacent to flightpaths.’ They had called on the government to define what it meant by ‘significant adverse impacts’ and to spell out what it considered to be an ‘acceptable’ number of people newly exposed to noise due to the scheme. None of these concerns have been dealt with in today’s updated NPS."

A joint statment from the four councils stats that the NPS offers no further protection for residents from worsening air pollution. The Government’s own air quality plan has been found unlawful on three occasions. The TSC report had said the proposed runway was at high risk of breaching legal levels between 2026 and 2029. The Government’s current Air Quality plan does not even provide for an expanded Heathrow.

The Committee had recommended an additional condition to ensure that a future Heathrow would be within legal limits to preserve the lives and health of London’s population. The recommendation has not been accepted, which makes the NPS illegal as well as unworkable.

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “This is a bad day for residents. Many communities will face a tsunami of noise if a third runway goes ahead. Many people who will be under new flights paths will find their lives changed forever. We will continue to oppose a new runway but, obviously, if it becomes inevitable, we will fight for the best conditions possible for residents.”

Recent airport expansion protest

A number of local authorities are expected to challenge any Parliamentary vote for a third runway in the courts.

If Parliament backs a third runway, it becomes Government policy and Heathrow will start drawing up its detailed plans. It expects these to be put out to public consultation next year and to be laid before a planning inquiry in 2020. If the plans are approved, it hopes to start building the runway in 2021 and open it in 2025.

Responding to the publication of the Airports National Policy Statement, Rob Barnstone, Coordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said, ‘By making this decision, the Government have failed people and our environment. They have failed people by subjecting over 2.2million Londoners to new aircraft noise with Heathrow expansion, failed workers by supporting a short term, low quality job creation scheme with no real long-lasting benefits and failed taxpayers by agreeing a bailout plan with Heathrow should it fail later.”

“They have failed the environment by supporting a scheme that will not only fail to meet UK air quality targets but also put at risk our climate change obligations.

“The very fact the Government chose World Environment Day to announce this scheme really sums up their true attitude to the environment.”

Pro-expansion group Back Heathrow’s Executive Director has welcomed the news and urged MPs to listen to what he said was over 100,000 local residents who are members of the Back Heathrow campaign group. Heathrow expansion enjoys 'broad support' including from trade unions such as GMB, UNITE and Community, as well as business groups such as the CBI, FSB and IOD.

Parmjit Dhanda said, “More residents living near the airport support Heathrow expansion than oppose it, so this is great news for local people who have been waiting far too long for a decision.

“This is a big deal to the people living in communities near Heathrow who are crying out for the jobs, apprenticeships and other benefits that will come from a new runway.

“We are urging MPs to listen to them and vote to approve Heathrow expansion so that we can get this project going as soon as possible and without any further delay.”

June 6, 2018