Government Delays Runway Decision
Residents near Heathrow could face a further nine months under threat from a third runway.
On 10th December at 7pm following an Airports Sub Committee meeting, the Government issued an online statement that it is delaying a decision on the location of a new runway for the South East to enable further assessments of the proposals to take place.
The assessments, particularly on the environmental impacts, will be for all three of the shortlisted options: a 3rd runway at Heathrow, the Heathrow Hub proposal for an extended runway and a 2nd runway at Gatwick.
As well as further consideration on environmental impacts, the Dft will be looking at the best possible mitigation measures. The government agrees with the Airports Commission that the south-east needs more runway capacity by 2030 and is working to that timetable.
The statement said that the Airports Commission published a large amount of very detailed analysis on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions for their 3 shortlisted schemes. This means the government faces a complex and challenging decision on delivering this capacity.
During summer 2016, the Airports Commission’s air quality analysis will be tested using the latest projected future concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.
It will then be looking at a package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people and the environment.
What the government fails to understand is that the destruction of villages that have developed been created over centuries is something that cannot be put right with any amount of money. One wonders what they will come up with when they refer to “a package for local communities to include compensation, maximising local economic opportunities through new jobs and apprenticeships, and measures to tackle noise.
Whatever area gets expansion, it will be changed from what it is today. Areas will have to be destroyed and covered in concrete. From the Heathrow Villages experience we know that promises of benefits are far outweighed by the enumerable negatives.
Environmental impacts will be huge. The government “expects the airports to put forward ambitious solutions” but they will almost certainly not be enough.
The Airports Sub Committee decided that the mechanism for delivering planning consents for airport expansion will be an ‘Airports national policy statement’ (NPS), following which a scheme promoter would need to apply for a development consent order.
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin has made it clear the government needs to undertake this work to keep the timetable on track. He is aware that attempting to rush through without thoroughly examining the options in light of recent developments (such as the VW scandal) is likely to lead to years of challenges in the courts.
Meanwhile, people living near Heathrow could face another nine months under threat. We hear a lot about human rights in other countries but the British government thinks nothing of putting its citizens through a repeated cycle of threat and temporary reprieve. Thousands of people will lose their homes if either option is chosen because even those whose homes are not immediately demolished will find it impossible to remain.
However, SHE knows that EU air quality targets cannot be met. Heathrow promised that by 2015, when the third runway was due to be operational under the previous proposals, the air would meet EU legal limits – because it had to. Likewise, vehicles would all be non-polluting. Heathrow showed residents diagrams with the EU standards for vehicles and said they would all comply – because they had to.
We are sick of assurances, promises and action plans. If Heathrow has been unable to solve the pollution in the area with two runways it must be ruled out for a third runway.
The next year will probably be the most important in the history of our villages.