Desperate Heathrow announces more pledges

With the government unable to announce a third runway at Heathrow without ignoring its own pledges, Heathrow has decided to ramp up its expansion campaign with five new pledges aimed at tempting local residents with promises that they will be better off with a bigger airport on their doorstep.

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, announced the “five new pledges” in his keynote address at the 2016 Responsible Business Summit in London on 8th June. It was the spiel of a salesman desperate to sell a dodgy product before the door is slammed in his face.

Heathrow’s latest desperate pledges are:

1. Jobs – “Up to 40,000″ of them. Although they are trying to cut the wage bill by reducing the salary packages and increasing automation and technology. Hence the words “up to”. “Locals” are considered to be people who live in boroughs around the airport but the reality is that huge numbers of people arrive in these boroughs from all over the world in search of a job. They often get a job, ahead of a long-term resident, so it is questionable whether new jobs will help the children and grandchildren of existing residents. 

“Beds in sheds” and converted garages have sprung up all over boroughs near Heathrow simply to exploit the immigrant workforce and incomers looking for employment. 

Training opportunities are promised. Surely thousands of other businesses offer training. Heathrow is the size of a town so why would residents expect anything less? 

2. Environment, noise and air quality – Heathrow says it will find new technologies “to reduce the impact of our operations”. In a nutshell, pollution from airport-related business and transport has meant that the airport has not met the legal limits on air quality. BAA (now called Heathrow Airport Limited) promised that these limits would be met by 2015 even WITH a third runway. They have not kept those promises with two runways. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from aircraft noise and will continue to do so. All Heathrow can promise is to reduce the impact and even then it will probably mean forcing some communities to accept more noise. 

Electric vehicles and charges within the airport boundary is like spitting into an ocean of filth and expecting it to purify the whole stinking sea. 

3. Traffic congestion – Heathrow wants to expand its current transport schemes, including 24-hour bus services. This highlights a problem caused by the fact that Heathrow runs a 24/7, 365 days a year operation. Even when aircraft are not flying, the airport generates noise. More buses through the night will mean more noise for those living near roads that already carry a huge amount of traffic. Take a look at the massive trucks that blight the lives of particular areas and cause congestion on local roads and motorways. Heathrow talks about a car-sharing scheme but its plans include more and more parking. A building with 150 parking spaces has just been approved within the current airport boundary. 

4. Working with local businesses – Schmoozing business groups has been a Heathrow strategy.
What genuinely local people want from business is better quality jobs with better pay that enables them to rent or buy decent housing, which is within a reasonable commuting distance. That is not necessarily what business owners want. Ask these business groups how much they intend to contribute to the rebuilding of schools and other public building or the roads and general infrastructure needed if Heathrow expansion gets the go-ahead. You will get the answer that we did – NOTHING.

5. Lasting legacy for future generations – Heathrow promises a partnership with local schools, colleges and universities. It says it will expand its current “STEM skills programmes for local primary and secondary schools and ensuring these programmes also tackle issues around social mobility and diversity for local youth”. 

Part of the problem is caused by the job market that the airport has created locally. Low paid, low grade jobs proliferate. STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) should raise the earning potential of some young people but primarily the driver is the airport’s self interest. 

The airport is keen to be seen as a good and trustworthy neighbour but Holland-Kaye has an uphill struggle with long-term residents because of the decades of lies and poor treatment of local communities.

Heathrow wants people to believe that its operations and a third runway can improve the surrounding area and the lives of its inhabitants. Yet residents, even those employed at the airport or in related businesses, are disillusioned and increasingly angry. 

Facilities for residents are decreasing, while noise and pollution continues to blight their lives. Damage to health, including that caused by the stress of continual noise and poor air quality, are still largely ignored. GPs do not want to set up their businesses (for that’s what GP surgeries have become) in locations threatened with total or partial destruction. Hospitals are stretched to cope with the existing population without encouraging more people into the area as workers or passengers, who often jump the queue to receive treatment. 

Health is just one issue that is never sufficiently addressed. Residents in the south of Hillingdon Borough live seven years less than their counterparts in the north and there is little doubt that having a busy international airport close by takes its toll. When Heathrow talks of profits, it always fails to correctly access the true cost to local residents and the wider British public.