Councils react to Davies

heathrow control tower sunsetReaction to the interim report from the Airports Commission from West London councils has been mixed.

Hounslow expressed relief that none of the shortlisted options involve the closure of Heathrow, which they oppose on economic grounds – although officially the inner estuary Isle of Grain site is still in the picture, with Sir Howard Davies asking for more work to be done on the option for evaluation during 2014.

Hounslow remain focussed on the noise agenda though. Cllr Colin Ellar, Deputy Leader of Hounslow Council, said: “None of the options outlined today by the Airports Commission involve the closure of Heathrow, which would have resulted in catastrophic job losses in Hounslow and across west London.

“The options outlined for Heathrow’s expansion, however, have deep and far reaching negative implications for our quality of life, particularly in terms of aircraft noise. We are against a third runway and we have drawn a line in the sand over the ending of runway alternation, which provides a precious period of peace for our residents.”

Cllr Ellar also had cautious words on plans to improve surface access, saying: “We need to ensure that the Commission’s ideas on improving Heathrow’s connectivity with other airports, central London and other locations help our local transport networks, not worsen the current congestion.”

Cllr Jagdish Sharma, Leader of Hounslow Council, added: “The Davies Commission’s initial report provides reassurance that the immediate threat of losing Heathrow and the economic and employment benefits it provides has been lifted.

“If the airport does expand, then this council will continue to fight for a vastly improved deal for local residents, schools and businesses on aircraft noise, which has a hugely detrimental affect on our quality of life.”

Wandsworth were unhappy any form of expansion of capacity at Heathrow was still on the agenda. They lead the 2M Group of local councils, who say the commission’s recommendations would maximise noise pollution levels for existing flightpath communities and expose large swathes of London to new disruption.

The local authorities say flights during the early morning period are by far the most disruptive and point to mounting evidence of the serious affects they have on peoples’ health and quality of life.

Leader of Wandsworth Council and 2M spokesman Ravi Govindia said: “This is about as bad as it could be.”

He continued: “Davies points the way to more night flights, then mixed mode, then a third and fourth runway. This would add up to a serious deterioration in the quality of life for communities surrounding the airport.”

2M say their aviation experts are now examining the report in detail and will release further analysis later this week.

Meanwhile Hillingdon Council, the planning authority for the airport, who have previously said they would prefer Heathrow to close, putting noise above the economic loss their borough would sustain in that eventuality, called on the government to reject the report.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said: “When David Cameron said “The third runway at Heathrow is not going ahead no ifs or buts” he was not lying any more than Nick Clegg was when he said “My position is very clear – we are not going to give the go ahead to a third runway”.

He described the idea of expanding Heathrow as “not realistic, or credible”, and went on to say: “The Prime Minister …. should show clear leadership now and ditch the Davies Commission otherwise he will be seen to be supporting a third runway at Heathrow and just kicking the issue past the next General Election.”

London First, representing business in the capital, had a different perspective, issuing a statement which called for guarantees on delivery: “This is the first step to delivery. The government must now act on the Commission’s short term recommendations and all parties must back this process to its conclusion. The Commission must not join a long line of technocratic exercises spanning 50 years of inaction. Political leadership will be required to stay the course. The options for new runways must now be worked up so they can be compared, judged on a like-for-like basis and put to public consultation before the General Election.”

Also representing businesses, Frank Wingate, CEO of West London Business, said: “We are particularly pleased to note that the Commission has identified two Heathrow options among the three shortlisted – the new northwest runway and the extended runway. These choices recognise the strength and logic of the argument for expanding Heathrow as the UK’s main hub airport. This is the most affordable, quickest and most practical solution to meet the need for additional airport capacity to cater for the UK’s continued economic wellbeing.”

Stephen Fry, CEO of Hounslow Chamber of Commerce said: “In our recent survey of local firms, 77% who responded were in favour of expanding Heathrow and some 55% were only located here because of the airport.  As the voice of business in Hounslow, we are clearly in favour of the expansion of Heathrow and recognise that failure to do so would be disastrous for business and for jobs in Hounslow, in the wider region and very likely for the UK as a whole. As such we could not support Heathrow’s closure to accommodate a new hub airport in the East of London.”

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