Hounslow sticks to “better not bigger” Heathrow

Hounslow Council has submitted its response to Heathrow Airport’s two consultations regarding the proposal for a new Northwest Runway at Heathrow, still opposing expansion, but taking a pragmatic attitude to commenting on it, and asking for improved mitigation of noise and air quality, and looking for improved surface transport to and from the airport.

In its response, Hounslow Council said it has a long-held position that Heathrow should be “better, not bigger”. While the council has been opposed to a bigger Heathrow, either by additional flights, addition of a third runway or a relaxation on runway operations and night flights, the council says it wants “the airport to be successful as it plays a vital role in the success of the borough”.

The council also said that “the benefits of living near Heathrow need to extend to the whole community”, and that concerted efforts must be made to minimise noise, poor air quality, congestion of the transport network and loss of green space. The council’s response reiterated calls to have a ‘quality of life’ fund established to fund measures to reduce these impacts or otherwise compensate local people. They say such a fund could finance a range of measures such as investment in local infrastructure, greenspace and support for training and apprenticeships.

The council unsurprisingly says it is in favour of an approach to airspace management that minimises the number of aircraft movements that impact on Hounslow residents and that also maximises periods of predictable respite. It would therefore prefer flight paths which share noise more widely across the sub-region rather than intensifying paths across Hounslow. It also asks for a complete ban on night flights across an eight-hour period between 11pm and 7am.

In addition, the council says it thinks the surface access strategy put forward by Heathrow and in particular its ‘no more traffic pledge’, lacks credibility, and that they are “extremely disappointed” that the council’s proposal for a link to the South Western Railway network from Feltham station, including the addition of a new station at Bedfont is not included in the Airport’s proposals. They say this link was assessed by Network Rail in 2017 and “offers the best solution to dealing with increased transport requirements following expansion”.

Councillor Amrit Mann, Deputy Leader of the Council and Lead Member for Environment said: “As an international Hub of huge strategic importance to the UK economy and as our largest local employer, we want Heathrow to be successful. However, this aspiration will never be at the cost of what is best for our local communities. We have raised several issues in our response to the airport’s public consultations and we are committed to working with Heathrow to address these issues before the proposals can go any further.”

The consultations, the first on the detail of the expansion on site and the second on changes to airspace management, follow the announcement in July 2015 by the Airports Commission that the proposal for a new Northwest Runway at Heathrow presents the strongest case for delivering additional capacity in the South East of England and maintaining the UK’s position as an important aviation hub. This was followed by the publication of the Government’s draft Airport National Policy Statement (NPS) outlining its policy, details of the preferred location and the considerations that would be relevant to a future planning application for that scheme.

In addition to public consultation during the last quarter of 2017, parliamentary scrutiny of the draft NPS is ongoing. If the Government decides to proceed, a vote in the House of Commons is expected in the next few months, to formally approve the Government adopting the NPS.

Heathrow Airport’s consultations which closes on the 28 March after a 10 week duration, looks to gather views on the emerging proposals. Hounslow Council’s response was delegated as a single member decision for consideration by Councillor Mann, Lead Member for Transport & Heathrow.

The council’s full response to the consultations can be found on its website.

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