No Resignation from Justine Greening as Third Runway Approved

Wandsworth Council warns that 'fight far from over' and promises legal battle

Anti-airport demonstration outside Heathrow
Anti-airport expansion campaigners outside Westminster today

The third runway at Heathrow has been given the go ahead by a cabinet committee. It is to be the first full length runway built in the south-east since the second world war.

Justine Greening, MP for Putney has described herself as being 'extremely disappointed' with the decision but has given no indication that she will stand down from the cabinet as a result.

She stated on her web site, "Along with many people in my local community, I am extremely disappointed with the decision to push ahead with a third runway at Heathrow.

“My views against expanding Heathrow, particularly on the impact of noise and air pollution on local residents and the weak economic case, are long-held and well-known.

“I will continue to represent the views of my constituents, not least during the forthcoming public consultation on the draft National Policy Statement announced by the Secretary of State for Transport today.”

Conservative MP for Richmond Park Zac Goldsmith has informed his local constituency association of his intention to resign to force a by election and has called the 'catastrophic'. He said he would be meeting with his constituents later today before making an announcement.

The government said the decision to expand Heathrow would be a major boost to the UK economy. They are claiming that the new runway at Heathrow will bring economic benefits worth up to £61 billion. They say as many as 77,000 additional local jobs will be created over the next 14 years and the airport has committed to create 5,000 new apprenticeships over the same period.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said, "A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the UK itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities. This isn’t just a great deal for business, it’s a great deal for passengers who will also benefit from access to more airlines, destinations and flights.

"This is an important issue for the whole country. That is why the government’s preferred scheme will be subject to full and fair public consultation. Of course it is also hugely important for those living near the airport. That is why we have made clear that expansion will only be allowed to proceed on the basis of a world class package of compensation and mitigation worth up to £2.6 billion, including community support, insulation, and respite from noise – balancing the benefits and the impacts of expansion."

The government will propose that a six-and-a-half hour ban on scheduled night flights will be introduced for the first time at Heathrow and they say this will make more stringent night noise restrictions a requirement of expansion. The timing of this ban will be determined through consultation.

Furthermore, the government proposes new legally binding noise targets, encouraging the use of quieter planes, and a more predictable timetable of respite for those living under the final flight path. The airport has also pledged to provide over £700 million for noise insulation for residential properties.

A Heathrow spokesperson said, “We welcome the news that Heathrow is Government’s preferred site for a new runway and look forward to hearing the full details later from the Transport Secretary. Expansion of Heathrow is the only option that will connect all of the UK to global growth, helping to build a stronger and fairer economy".

The decision was not made by a full cabinet but by a sub-committee and MPs will not be voting on the matter for over a year. With the Foreign Secretary and Justine Greening the Education Secretary opposed to the expansion of Heathrow, the Prime Minister has departed from protocol by allowing Cabinet Ministers to voice their personal views. They are forbidden from criticising the process by which the decision is made.

Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia said the fight is far from over, “This is deeply distressing news for the communities around this airport but this fight is far from over. Ultimately it will be for the courts to decide if this project goes ahead and the law is on our side.

“The airport boasts illegal levels of air pollution, woefully inadequate transport capacity and has Europe’s worst noise footprint, and that’s with just two runways. Expansion will make all of these severely damaging issues worse. It’s wrong on every level, legally undeliverable and will end in failure after years of wasted of effort.”

Pressure groups do not see this as the end of the fight but the start of legal challenges to the decision. HACAN chair John Stewart said, “Real doubts must remain whether this new runway will ever see the light of day. The hurdles it faces remain: costs, noise, air pollution and widespread opposition including an expected legal challenge from the local authorities.”

Stewart added: “As expected, permission for a new runway has been made dependent on certain legal conditions being met. HACAN will fight for the implementation of these measures whether we get a third runway or Heathrow ultimately remains a two runway airport.”

The National Policy Statement (NPS) on Aviation will be put to parliament in winter 2017/18. Assuming the NPS is approved by parliament Heathrow will then be required to draw up an Environmental Impact Assessment to form part of its detailed proposals for a new runway which will need to go to a Planning Inquiry. The completion of this process on schedule would mean that construction on the runway would start in 2020 or 2021.

This morning (25 October), 40 Activists including members of Plane Stupid and Reclaim the Power locked together using ‘arm tubes’ on a mock runway outside Parliament to signal their intent to continue fighting airport expansion. Air traffic controllers with “STOP” paddles lined the runway. Other campaigners and local residents held a banner reading “Climate Change Kills, No New Runways.”

Shona Kealey spokesperson for Plane Stupid, said, "..with today’s announcement, our government proclaims to the world that we’re a dishonest and unreliable nation who can’t be trusted to keep to our international agreements or even follow our own laws, just as we’re about to renegotiate trade agreements with the whole world. Obedience to this government is suicide. If they think we’re going to quietly follow them over the cliff, they’re dreaming."

A new direct action network Rising Up is expected to announce escalating direct action against airport expansion following the government announcement.

October 25, 2016