Heathrow closure “devastating” say councils

Up to 70,000 jobs across three boroughs neighbouring Heathrow would vanish, with devastating economic consequences, if the airport were to close in favour of a new hub airport elsewhere, says a report commissioned by three councils.

The research, commissioned by the London boroughs of Hounslow, Ealing and Slough Borough Council, concludes that other recent studies, including one by Heathrow Airport Limited itself, have underestimated the employment impacts of a scenario in which Heathrow closes.

The three local authorities, all of which have differing policy positions on the future of Heathrow, were concerned that the local impact of any decision was not being given sufficient weight in the deliberations into how to increase airport capacity in the south east.

The independent research, carried out by Parsons Brinkerhof and Berkeley Hanover Consulting, offers a comprehensive analysis of the impact on the economies in the three boroughs of the most likely longer-term options for future airport capacity in London and the south east in the period to 2030.

It sets out six possible scenarios for the airport, based on likely options the Davies Commission will consider in its imminent initial report. The final scenario, the closure of Heathrow in favour of a new hub in the Thames Estuary or elsewhere, sets out the cataclysmic impact of the airport’s closure on the three boroughs, risking some 70,000 jobs.

The ‘catalytic’ impacts (employment from attraction, retention or economic activity attributable to Heathrow’s international connectivity) could amount to as many as 250,000 jobs across a swathe of south west London, west London and surrounding areas, and are crucial to the debate about the future of Heathrow.

The data in the tables below shows the overall ‘Heathrow Effect’ and the extent of local workforce dependency within each borough. This combines recent estimates of direct, indirect and induced employment with the catalytic impacts.



Ealing      Hounslow      Slough

Direct/indirect/induced                                      8,572         16,014            6,087

Catalytic low                                                          4,097          13,395            9,092

Catalytic mid                                                         8,195           20,093           10,911

Catalytic high                                                        12,292         26,790           12,729

Total mid (rounded)                                            16,800        36,100            17,000

Percentage of borough workforce (midpoint)   10%            28%                29%


The study also contends that Heathrow’s hub status and transport links remain critical to the location decisions of many major corporate global headquarters and internationally-oriented UK companies.

This situation is particularly sensitive with regards to several business clusters located in proximity to Heathrow. For example, the IT/telecommunications cluster within Slough, Hounslow and in neighbouring local authorities would need to relocate and whether this cluster would move near to the new hub is highly debatable. It concludes: “There must remain a possibility that this cluster would relocate outside of the UK.”

Cllr Colin Ellar, Deputy Leader of Hounslow Council, said: “Losing Heathrow would be disastrous for jobs in Hounslow, for our neighbours in Ealing and Slough and as the report states, very likely for UK PLC.

“Sir Howard Davies and his commission colleagues need to take into account the economic wasteland they would create for employment if they go with the nuclear option of a brand new estuary hub. At a time when the UK’s economic recovery is in its fragile infancy and needs to be nurtured, it would plunge West London into a new recession from which it might never fully recover. The Commission has to sit up and take notice of the dire consequences for our local economy, as well as regional and national impacts.”

Cllr Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Council, said: “Thousands of local families depend on Heathrow for their livelihoods and the airport plays a critical role in the local economy. Closing it should not be contemplated. The Davies Commission should take into account the economic impact of each of the options that are being considered and pay particular attention to this report which makes clear Heathrow’s importance to the success of Ealing and west London.”

Councillor James Swindlehurst, Deputy Leader, Slough Borough Council said “Slough’s prosperous local economy is heavily reliant on the connectivity provided by Heathrow, with between a quarter and a third of our local population relying on jobs here because of the airport.

“Slough sits at the heart of the UK’s most prosperous region outside of London, and any threat to Heathrow as an international hub airport would be a reckless act; putting jobs at all levels and from all sectors in our town at risk.”

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