Airports Commission Report – the reaction

The Davies Commission has issued its final report, recommending a new North Western runway be built at Heathrow. We catalogue the reaction from West London stakeholders, and others.

Prime Minister, David Cameron promised a decision, but was wary of giving any kind of commitment, perhaps having been given legal advice on how to avoid potential Judicial Review applications. During Prime Minister’s Question Time he said: “If we say anything now before reading the report, we could endanger any decision that might be made. But I guarantee that a decision will be made by the end of the year”.

Leader of the Opposition, Harriet Harman teased him over the apparent split in his party, saying: “It looks like the PM has been overuled by the member for Uxbridge”. But Labour backed the report, with Ms Harman saying: “If he (the Prime Minister) makes a decision quickly, we will back him, and he will have a majority.”

Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin responded to the publication of the Airports Commission report with a statement in the House of Commons promising action.

He promised the Government would read and consider the “substantial and innovative evidence base” that the Commission has produced, then “decide on the best way for achieving planning consents quickly and fairly if expansion is to go ahead”, and that he would come back to Parliament “in the autumn” to provide clear direction on the government’s plans.

He described the report as “clear and reasoned”, and evidence-based.

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport said: “This debate has never been about a runway, it’s been about the future we want for Britain. Expanding Heathrow will keep Britain as one of the world’s great trading nations, right at the heart of the global economy.

“Our new plans have been designed around the needs of local communities and will meet carbon, air quality and noise targets, and provides the greatest benefit to the UK’s connectivity and its long term economic growth.

“We will create the world’s best connected, most efficient and most environmentally responsible hub airport at the heart of an integrated transport system.

“The Commission has backed a positive and ambitious vision for Britain. We will now work with Government to deliver it.”

Local political response

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and West London MP, speaking on BBC News this morning, made it clear he will work against the recommendation, saying he does not believe the third runway will ever be built. He reiterated his support for a new estuary airport, an option ruled out by Sir Howard’s Commission as too expensive, and likely to breach European environmental rules without spending billions of pounds.

He also issued a statement, saying: “This highly predictable report offers a short-termist recommendation that would be judicially reviewed from here to Kingdom come and is completely politically undeliverable. Heathrow already contributes more to noise pollution than any other airport in Europe and the Airports Commission’s pledge that noise can be reduced there is quite frankly hokum.

“The question the Government will now inevitably return to is whether we should go for an ambitious and visionary long term approach by building a new airport to the east of London, rather than a short term and environmentally catastrophic expansion of Heathrow. There are much better solutions and that is where we will end up.”

The Leader of Hillingdon Council, Cllr Ray Puddifoot was unimpressed, saying: “The Airports Commission has spent three years and £20million to come up with a list of “ifs and buts” required before a third runway at Heathrow could be considered.

“Whilst I appreciate that they have tried to make the best of a poor job, it is very disappointing that the pursuit of economic growth and profit for the foreign owners of Heathrow, whilst accepted as important, is given priority over the effects on the environment and the lives and health and wellbeing of residents of the West of London.

“It will take some time to read through the report in detail but from the headlines it is clear to me that expansion at Heathrow will never happen – no ifs or buts.”

The Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Steve Curran said: “While we have been opposed to a bigger Heathrow, either by the addition of a third runway or a relaxation on runway operations and night flights, we nevertheless want a better and successful Heathrow. But we will continue to push for the very best noise protection and pollution control measures for our residents – and in particular, our schools.

“This recommendation by the Airports Commission will obviously have a huge impact on Hounslow. We will analyse the report in detail and, in due course, consider it thoroughly at a special meeting of councillors. We will also be seeking the views of our local MPs. We will then be able to give a full response.

“What we can say now, however, is that we welcome the report’s recommendation that the new runway should come with severe restrictions to reduce the environmental and noise effects, including a noise levy, and that night flights would be banned.”

“We also want to say that we have recently developed a positive and productive relationship with Heathrow, which has resulted in many improvements for local people – both in terms of noise protection and employment opportunities. We hope this will continue.”

Councillor Rob Anderson, leader of Slough Borough Council, said: “We are delighted with the Davies Commission’s decision, which we believe secures the long-term prosperity of Slough.

“We are also pleased with endorsement of the north-west runway option, which we believe will have less impact on residents, homes and the environment in the east of the borough.”

Ruth Bagley, chief executive of Slough Borough Council, said: “Slough has a strong economy largely because of its accessibility to global markets via Heathrow.

“Our proximity to the airport is one of the main reasons why we have the highest concentration of European and UK headquarters in the country and why our prospects for inward investment are so positive.

“And Heathrow is the source of more than 6,000 jobs for Slough residents on the airport and its support businesses. We estimate a further 12,000-plus Slough residents have jobs in local businesses as a direct result of our proximity to Heathrow.”

She added: “I am delighted to see that Davies endorses the need for a western rail access to Heathrow – a project which the council has played a significant role in progressing to design stage.”

Councillor Margaret McLennan, Lead Member for Housing and Development at Brent Council said: “We welcome the Airports Commission recommendation for a new runway at Heathrow. It would bring economic benefits to the area and provide further employment opportunities for local people. It would have a positive impact on regeneration and investment in Brent and in London given its excellent existing and proposed transport links.

“However, we are disappointed that the government is unlikely to make a decision on this until the end of the year, which will add further delay to what is already a long outstanding matter.”

Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, said: “We need a long-term solution that delivers both quality of life and economic growth for west London. And, we will now consider this report in its entirety  to  better understand the commission’s findings in relation to both.”

Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said: “(Our) resident-chaired review found Heathrow expansion would have an adverse impact overall. We’re urging the government to listen to H&F’s and many other west London residents and come forward with a better option than the Davies Commission has proposed.

The Leader of Essex County Council, David Finch, called for the Government to act on the recommendations of the report. He said: “We hope the Government doesn’t kick this report into the long grass. We have always said that UK plc cannot sit on this issue for ever.

“We believe a third runway at Heathrow is the most viable option now. It’s affordable, practical and consolidates Heathrow’s position as the UK’s central airport.”

Essex County Council also labelled a number of ideas “flights of fancy” – including an island airport in the Thames or a super hub airport at Stansted and the closure of Heathrow.

Leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia expressed his disappointment at the Airport Commission’s final report, saying: “This commission has cost taxpayers more than £20million but has failed to understand the legal, political and environmental barriers that ensure Heathrow expansion will never happen.

“A third runway would inevitably push Heathrow’s world leading noise and pollution impacts to new highs and severely damage the quality of life across the UK’s most densely populated region. The environmental controls Davies suggests are inadequate, untested and in some cases undeliverable.”

However, it seems that some of these politicians may not have the local backing they think they have. Back Heathrow say that the Airports Commission public consultation received more than 72,000 responses, with 53,315 of these from local residents supporting the Back Heathrow campaign.

They say that Back Heathrow supporters comprised 86% of responses from individuals, while just 350 responses were received from anti-Heathrow expansion campaigners.

Rob Gray, Back Heathrow Campaign Co-ordinator, said: “The silent majority has spoken. Thousands of residents, community groups, MPs, businesses, airlines and unions have sent a clear message that they want the UK’s only hub airport to grow.

“Heathrow’s critics like Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith should now do the decent thing and apologize for their shameful attacks on an airport that has overwhelming majority support following an open and transparent process. Now we need action and for some politicians to catch up with public opinion on this vital issue.”

Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, said: “With half a century of indecision on airports expansion behind us, it’s time for the government to implement the recommendation and get on with a new runway at Heathrow. Anything else is now inexcusable.

“After three years of investigation, the Commission has unambiguously concluded that expanding Heathrow will boost the UK economy and reinforce London as a global hub for business.”

Frank Wingate, CEO of West London Business, welcomed the announcement saying: “This is very good news for West London and for the UK economy.

“It has consistently been our view that expanding our national hub airport is the most logical transport option of the three chosen by the Commission. It will create new jobs, boost exports and freight volumes and stimulate economic growth, while costing the public sector nothing.

“Now the Government needs to act on the Davies Commission’s recommendation, which is the result of two years’ comprehensive consideration. We need a swift and clear Government decision, with no more prevaricating, to get on with the job and build a hub airport more appropriate for the country’s economic needs”.

Andrew Ward, Director of Corporate Relations, Brunel University London, said: “We are delighted to hear that the Sir Howard Davies’ Airport Commission has recommended the option of expansion at Heathrow. This ends a period of uncertainty that has gone on for far too long. We very much hope the Government will be swift in endorsing Davies’ recommendations and bring forward as quickly as possible the necessary legislation to enable the development to commence.

“We have long been convinced that expansion at Heathrow provides the best option in economic terms for the UK and West London in particular, contributing a growth to the economy of £150 billion with 70,000 new jobs. The 40 additional destinations that expansion makes possible will ensure Heathrow’s prime position as a hub airport. We are also confident that Heathrow Airport will build on their successful track record in promoting skills development for local people and that young people and students in West London will benefit from the opportunities that expansion will bring.

“We also note that Sir Howard Davies has said that there will be no more noise at an expanded Heathrow than the airport generates today and that expansion would mean that Heathrow is a better neighbour. establishing a new balance between the interests of the economy and people living near the airport.

“Based in Uxbridge, the University’s proximity to Heathrow provides us with significant benefits, most notably the ability to attract students and staff from around the world. But also Brunel University London is committed to being truly international in our research and having Heathrow so close by enables the University to be a hub for globally important academic conferences. Furthermore, the economic vitality that the airport brings to West London is crucial to us in achieving our research and knowledge exchange aims as well as meeting our targets for the employability of our students. We therefore recognise the importance of Heathrow expansion for the regional economy and the educational and research benefits this will bring to staff and students, as well as for the new direct connections it could provide that will Brunel a more attractive place to study for overseas students, particularly those from the Far East which comprises territories that are of growing importance for us

“The Airport Commission has also recommended that there should be a ban on night flights; an airport noise levy; legal commitment on air quality; and a guarantee from the airport that there would not be a 4th runway. We have always been clear that expansion brings with it significant responsibilities for the company around noise and air pollution, easing traffic congestion, innovation, skills development and community engagement and as a proud partner of Heathrow we very much look forward to working with the company to ensure that the negative effects of expansion are mitigated and the benefits maximised.”

Hounslow Chamber CEO Stephen Fry said: “We are delighted that the Commission has realised the weight of the economic and business arguments in favour of expansion at Heathrow and supported the thousands of businesses and people working in the Heathrow Economy, it has given them confidence to grow their firms based on the continued growth of the UK Hub Airport.”

“My only concern is that the Commission’s findings and recommendations will be ignored. The main political parties promised to back Sir Howard Davies recommendations and they must now do so and honour their pledge.”

Opposing proposals

Promising a full response later, Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate said: “Gatwick is still very much in the race. The Commission’s report makes clear that expansion at Gatwick is deliverable.

“It is for the Commission to make a recommendation but it is of course for the Government to decide. So we now enter the most important stage of the process.

“We are confident that when the Government makes that decision they will choose Gatwick as the only deliverable option. For instance, this report highlights the very significant environmental challenges at Heathrow such as air quality and noise impact.

“Gatwick will give the country the economic benefits it needs and at the same time impact far less people. It is quicker simpler and quieter. Above all – after decades of delay – it can actually happen.”

Heathrow Hub, while welcoming the decision to select Heathrow Airport, say they are disappointed Sir Howard did not select their proposal.

They point to their proposal being acknowledged as £3bn cheaper, and potentially demolishing only 242 homes compared to 783 for the North West runway.

In particular they say they do not agree with his rejection of the idea for a new passenger transport hub to the north.

Captain William ‘Jock’ Lowe of Heathrow Hub, said: “Heathrow Airport is the correct location for expansion for the UK. Our economy, our national transport infrastructure and our international connectivity will be vastly improved by the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

“We recognise that the Commission has spoken but we will continue to liaise with ministers and civil servants to ensure our proposal is properly understood as a cheaper, simpler and more politically deliverable option.

“Ministers must now decide how to proceed, and we urge the Government to implement airport expansion as swiftly as possible for the sake of the UK economy.”

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