Heathrow R3 decision – reaction

heathrow control tower sunsetThe Government has announced its support for a new runway at Heathrow – the first full length runway in the south-east since the second world war. We chart the reaction to the decision.

The plan for a new Heathrow runway will now be taken forward in the form of a draft ‘National policy statement’ (NPS) for consultation. The Government say their decision on the “preferred location” will be consulted on in 2017.

The Government believes that a new runway at Heathrow will bring economic benefits worth up to £61 billion. Up to 77,000 additional west London jobs are expected to be created over the next 14 years. The airport has committed to create 5,000 new apprenticeships over the same period. THe Government thinks that expansion at Heathrow will create more opportunities for UK business to get their goods to new markets.

Airlines, including British Airways, have suggested that the expansion costs will be paid by increased landing charges. The Government say that the capital costs will be met by the private sector – and that it will be for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), as the independent industry regulator, to work with Heathrow Airport and airlines operating at the airport, on the detailed design and costs to ensure the scheme is affordable to the ultimate consumer – the passengers – and that the aim should be to deliver a plan for expansion that keeps landing charges close to current levels.

Business generally applauded the decision, but lamented the time it has taken to get here, and the further time that they believe will be wasted in further consultation.

Andrew Dakers, CEO of West London Business, said: “This is a milestone announcement for West London’s economy and the wider UK for which we have waited a long time.  The expansion will unlock significant investment and sends a clear signal as we prepare for Brexit that West London, the UK’s second largest economic powerhouse, remains open for business.

“As we seek to grow UK exports we should remember that 95% of Heathrow’s freight travels in the belly-hold of passenger aircraft, making Heathrow Britain’s largest port by value. In 2015, Heathrow handled imports and exports valued at over £130bn, making up over 30% of total UK trade and more than the UK’s two biggest shipping ports – Felixstowe and Southampton – combined.”

“We look forward to working with Heathrow and our local communities to ensure that the third runway is delivered quickly, that the local employment benefits are realised and environmental impacts managed.”

Stephen Fry, of Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, said: “Hounslow Chamber is delighted that Government has at last made a decision.

“It now means businesses in west London can plan for a post brexit economy secure that we will have a global player in Heathrow that will now be able to deliver a global reach.

“The UK government has sent a clear signal to our existing and future markets by agreeing to allow huge infrastructure projects like Heathrow; a post brexit UK is open for business, come and trade with us.”

London First enthusiastically welcomed the government’s announcement, saying: “This decision sends a message to business that the government has heeded calls for improved and increased international air links.”

But they also want quick action, continuing: “Now that a decision has been made, the debate must shift to how we ensure the Heathrow runway is constructed swiftly.”

They also demand action on surface connections, saying: “The government shouldn’t stop here. We need to improve rail links to all our airports, make better use of our airspace to reduce delays and improve the experience for travellers at our borders. Most importantly, other airports with strong cases for expansion should be able to come forward with proposals for future growth in a more timely and functional way than in the past.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it was “absolutely vital for Britain”, while CBI chief Paul Drechsler said it would create jobs and boost economic growth.

Andrew Ward from Brunel Unversity London said: ‘The expansion of Heathrow provides an unrivalled opportunity for the airport and Brunel University London and other partners to adopt a completely new approach to meeting the skills needs of Heathrow and local businesses, and to provide great job opportunities for local people.  We also look forward to developing further the links between Brunel and other universities and Heathrow to ensure that the airport accesses the cutting-edge research needed to drive next generation sustainability improvements in airports and aviation.  We are convinced that expansion provides a once in a lifetime opportunity that will be a game-changer for what business-education partnerships can achieve”.

Richard Robinson, CEO of EMEA Civils at AECOM said: “”This is a welcome fillip for the UK’s infrastructure sector and the businesses that rely on it. The focus now must be on accelerating delivery.”

James Silver, development director at Landid, said:  “With significant investments in Reading, Slough, Uxbridge and Hammersmith, we are delighted to hear that Heathrow will gain a new runway. The Western Corridor is one of the most uniquely connected regions of the country – with Heathrow, the Western Rail Link, and the forthcoming Elizabeth Line – and this decision reinforces that as a priority.

“Large infrastructure additions and improvements almost always lead to a demand for more amenities and vibrant redevelopment in nearby areas, which often mean greater access and opportunities for growing companies in the region, and those attracted by its many benefits. Among the new runway’s greatest effects, experts estimate that with this decision an £211bn in economic benefits that could be pumped into the UK thanks to increased travel, tourism and jobs (up to 180,000). Businesses, residents and indeed investors in the region are likely to see the benefits sooner rather than later.”

Jackie Sadek, of UK Regeneration, and Chair of the Northern Gateway, said: “Hallelujah, praise the Lord …. we have finally got the right result. Today’s announcement  will give tremendous cheer to anyone involved in building the UK’s economy.

“A tap has been turned on and a torrent must be allowed to flow.  As well as the new runway providing better connectivity from the regions to London and then to the world, we all need to work with the government and its National Infrastructure Commission to publish a draft infrastructure policy statement as soon as possible so that all the UK’s airports and the airlines which they serve can see a clear strategy ahead, the rail network (particularly HS2) is properly linked in, and we begin to make serious sense of our roads.  And, most of all, so that local authorities and growth partnerships (just like the Northern Gateway) can plan properly for growth”.

She also felt that “in places like Heston there will be welcome additional opportunities created for employment, skills training, and education over a long-term period”, and concluded: “The whole of the UK should benefit from this decision.  This doesn’t quite make up for Brexit, but it is the very best news we have had in years.”

London First’s lobby group – Let Britain Fly – said: “Yesterday’s announcement by the government backing expansion at Heathrow Airport was hugely welcome, and a tremendous boost to British business.

“Building new runway capacity will enable us to achieve an additional £9.5 billion of trade a year, particularly with emerging economies. Most importantly, it will allow the entire country to benefit from increased international connectivity.”

Local politicians gave a predictably mixed response. Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge, and long time opponent of Heathrow, described the plan as undeliverable, and “likely to be stopped”. Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, described the decision as “wrong”. Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, resigned in protest.

However, Councillor Sohail Munawar, leader of Slough Borough Council, said: “We are extremely pleased with the government’s decision to support a third runway at Heathrow.

“Around 18,000 of our residents rely on Heathrow for a job and 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.

“We believe expansion will not only secure the long-term prosperity of Slough but also that of the Thames Valley region and the UK.”

Harrow Council were also positive. Cllr Sachin Shah, Leader of Harrow Council, said: “As a North-West London Council leader – I’ve supported Heathrow’s expansion from the very beginning. Heathrow’s been giving our local economy a huge boost for generations and this expansion will bring even more jobs and growth to our borough, improve our status as a global hub for trade and travel, and bring huge benefits for small businesses too. Harrow’s the best borough in London for small businesses, and everyone from our construction companies to our caterers will benefit from Heathrow’s expansion.”

Councillor Steve Curran, Leader of Hounslow Council, sounded a vaguely conciliatory note without changing policy, saying: “The announcement by the government to support expansion at Heathrow Airport … will have significant long term implications for our borough. Our position as a Council has not changed, we want a better, not bigger Heathrow Airport.”

“We will however, work with Heathrow on behalf of our residents and businesses, many of whom are employed directly at Heathrow or are part of the supply chain, to ensure the best possible outcome.”

Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, was less welcoming. He said: “When you already live next door to a notoriously loud party house the last thing you want to see is a van delivering gigantic speakers.

“While we welcome the jobs and economic benefits of Heathrow, a third runway will inevitably cause more noise, pollution and traffic that will damage the quality of life of local people.”

Leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia was unhappy. He said the Government’s decision to back Heathrow expansion is “wrong on every level, legally undeliverable and will end in failure after years of wasted effort”.

Wandsworth Council say that solicitors jointly appointed by the council and Greenpeace, as well as Hillingdon, Richmond, and Windsor and Maidenhead councils are now examining the Government’s aviation announcement with a view to bringing legal action to obstruct the decision, including applying for a judicial review.

Cllr Govindia said: “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 chaotic and repeatedly fudged process leading up to the Government’s announcement is also wide open to challenge on multiple grounds. There has been no meaningful consultation and key information like the location of new flightpaths remain a secret even now. The work of the Airports Commission was also profoundly flawed and doesn’t not provide a sound basis for Government policy.

“It looks like we’re heading back to the courts just as we did in 2010 after the Brown Government backed Heathrow’s third runway. We overturned that decision in the High Court and nothing has changed since then to make expanding this airport any less damaging.”

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, was blunter than his Wandsworth ally against Heathrow, saying: “There is more chance of pigs flying out of Heathrow than a third runway being built. I am more confident now than in 2010, when the High Court put the health and wellbeing of people ahead of politics and profit, that the proposal is going nowhere.”

However, Louise Ellman, Labour MP and chair of the all party Transport Committee said: “This decision will boost business, create training opportunities and new jobs and open the UK to new markets.

“We recognise it won’t be an easy journey … We urge the Government to have the courage of their convictions and press ahead so that the timetable to deliver the additional capacity by 2030 can be delivered.”

Gatwick Airport showed their disappointment. Chief Executive Stewart Wingate, said: “We do not believe this is the right answer for Britain. Gatwick has put forward a credible financeable and deliverable plan for expansion.

“It is a plan that can guarantee growth and guarantee certainty for Britain. The challenges facing Heathrow have not changed.  Our message today is that Gatwick stands ready to proceed when the time comes.”

Heathrow Hub, the independent proposal to expand Heathrow by extending the northern runway, said that they thought the Government has selected the right location but the wrong scheme.

They said: “Our proposal is cheaper, simpler, less disruptive and quicker to construct than Heathrow Airport’s 3rd Runway. The decision will result in substantially higher passenger charges and opposition from airlines, passengers and those affected in the Heathrow area”.

Anthony Clake, principal investor in the Heathrow Hub scheme, acknowledging defeat, said: “While we have been unsuccessful in our quest to apply the design to help solve the UK’s airport capacity problem, we look forward to promoting our concept around the world.”

Captain William ‘Jock’ Lowe, Director of Heathrow Hub, found the positive in the announcement, saying: “Our economy, our national transport infrastructure and our international connectivity will be much improved by the expansion of Heathrow Airport rather than Gatwick. While we obviously believe that our own concept to extend the northern runway remains vastly superior to Heathrow Airport Ltd.’s third runway option, we congratulate John Holland-Kaye and his team.

“We are relieved that the Government has made the correct decision in terms of location. Heathrow is where the airlines want to be; it’s where the demand is.”

London Stansted Airport’s CEO, Andrew Cowan, seemed less unhappy, saying: “Today’s announcement highlights the important role that aviation plays in connecting Britain to the world.

”Airports such as London Stansted are critical in supporting economic growth and increasing the UK’s global competitiveness and we have been clear that making the most of existing capacity at Stansted over the next 10-15 years is our priority and a vital precursor to the building of new capacity in the south-east.

“With the decision on Heathrow now made, Government must commit to developing a new aviation policy and we urge them to work closely with us to make the most of the opportunities that already exist at Stansted by investing in the rail access to the airport.

“In addition, by relaxing current planning constraints, Stansted will be able to serve up to an extra 20 million passengers from its single runway, almost twice as many as it does today.

“Making use of Stansted’s spare capacity will benefit not only the dynamic and fast growing east of England region we serve but also the UK as a whole and has the potential to generate an extra 10,000 on-site jobs and £4.6 billion in additional economic activity.

“Competition between London’s airports over the last few years has shown just how much consumers stand to benefit from a market-driven approach. We must learn the lessons from the Airports Commission process and develop a new aviation policy that will provide a clear framework for airports to compete with each other on a level playing field and meet future passenger demand in the most sustainable, economic and efficient way possible.”

Meanwhile, Essex County Council, host to Stansted, welcomed the decision to expand Heathrow, issuing a statement saying: “A third runway at the West London airport is the most affordable and deliverable option. Now the Council is calling for the decision process to proceed at pace.

“In the meantime, the Council believes Stansted Airport can help to alleviate capacity issues through natural growth using the current runway”.

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Partnerships, said: “It is good news that Government has taken the decision that expansion at Heathrow is the best way forward. It really is the most viable option as well as the option business leaders have called for all along.

“What is needed now is swift action to ensure the UK can continue to lay claim to the world’s most successful airport and expansion plans can really take off.

“Increased airport capacity is vital to economic growth and this option will take more than a decade to complete. Investment in rail links to Stansted Airport could help drive natural growth and alleviate capacity issues in the short-term.”

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