Heathrow latest

For almost 50 years, the aviation industry and its lobbyists have argued for a new runway in the Southeast. Since then, successive governments have oscillated between wanting to press ahead with expansion and putting it into the ‘too difficult’ box because of social and environmental impacts. But following the reports of the Airports Commission, the government decided it wanted a new runway at Heathrow.

The runway would lead to very serious direct impacts: homes demolished, communities destroyed and Green Belt devastated. But the biggest effects would arise not from the runway itself, but from the massive increase in aircraft and passengers proposed: 260,000 flights and 45 million passengers a year. The aircraft and extra road traffic would generate noise, air pollution, congestion on road and rail and, last but not least, a huge increase in climate-changing emissions. These effects would spread well away from Heathrow to Ealing and beyond.

We have been subject to a huge public relations exercise by Heathrow Airport, which claims a third runway would bring significant economic and employment benefits. The claims are utterly misleading. The official estimate of ‘net economic benefit’ to the whole UK ranges from minus £2.2bn to plus £3.3bn. Compared with the UK’s economy of about £2 trillion a year, the impact of Heathrow expansion is at worst negative and at best negligible.

Following government consultations, Heathrow has started its own. This is not an official consultation but rather a public relations exercise, designed to make people think that a third runway has been decided and to divert their attention to details of the scheme. But a third runway is not a foregone conclusion – there has to be a vote in the House of Commons, probably in the summer, before it is approved.

In the meantime, we are advising people either not to respond to Heathrow’s consultation or to take advice first on how to respond so as not to fall into the trap whereby answers given to the questions could be construed as support for expansion.