Fighting spirit at the SHE AGM
A determination to end the threat of a third runway for good was evident at the packed SHE AGM on Friday, 10th November, which was held in St Mary's church hall in Harmondsworth village.
Many local residents have been opposing Heathrow expansion for decades because they've known that each proposal leads to another, regardless of the negative impact on local areas. Guest Speaker John McDonnell MP told the meeting that he had attended his first anti-runway meeting in 1982 in the old Harlington Secondary School. Incidentally, the school site in New Road is now a hotel car park. The replacement school, built further away from the airport, could be unusable due to noise and pollution if a third runway is built.
Talking about the fight against expansion the Hayes and Harlington MP said: "Each time we have forced them back. This time it is probably the final battle. The investors will know that too."
Christine Taylor, SHE committee member and former Deputy Chair of the No Third Runway Action Group (NoTRAG) told the attendees that she had been fighting the runway since 2002 and felt that the campaign and reasons to oppose expansion were stronger than they'd ever been. "This time we have to end the runway threat for good. Another generation should not have to fight for years to save their homes."
The re-elected Chair, Jackie Clarke Basten, gave an overview of the work being carried out by SHE, which was now a key member of the new No 3rd Runway Coalition of campaign groups.
Treasurer, Justine Bayley, distributed a summary of the accounts and explained how funding is being spent and how donations can be made easily through the website. Expenditure has increased in the past year and reflects the amount of work being done. As a member of the audience pointed out, SHE's expenditure is a spit in the ocean compared with the millions Heathrow is spending to lobby and smooze to get another runway.
SHE was delighted that Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) accepted its invitation to speak at the AGM.
She said that air quality is one of the big topics that has forced the government to reopen its NPS consultation and is a key test for Labour. She recently celebrated 10 years with AEF and said that when AEF was looking at the last proposal the big hurdle was air pollution. At that time it published a report called "Emissions Impossible". Shortly afterwards Panorama showed that modeling made speculative assumptions about technology and concluded that we were gambling with people’s health. Client Earth has been pursuing the government through the courts and, having won in the court on two occasions, it has just announced that it is going to court for a third time as pollution is still above legal limits in many areas. AEF will continue to work on key environmental issues.
Cait told the audience that the impact of the construction has not been properly addressed and the National Emissions Ceiling Directive is another thing we won't be able to comply with by 2020. The NPS is weak on air pollution and there is no meaningful provision for enforcement action.
Harmondsworth resident Armelle Thomas, who reports to the SHE committee on health matters, pointed out that there is a report from Denmark on Air Pollution at Airports. It talks about poor air quality exposing staff to high levels. There is a list of health problems caused by airports and Denmark is doing all it can to save its staff. Armelle said that there is also a report in the pipeline from the local Clinical Commissioning Group that looks at respiratory diseases in Hillingdon Borough.
Cait warned that Heathrow would only have to demonstrate that air pollution limits could be met but they would be using modelling and making lots of assumptions, such as mass electrificiation of vehicles.
The government's Air Quality Action Plan is riddled with holes, according to John McDonnell MP, and he didn't think the Government would ever meet the air quality targets.
Air quality is a focus but there are numerous other reasons. For example, there is resentment in the North about the fact that improvements to transport infrastructure are focussed in the South East.
Meanwhile, people in the South East are expressing concerns that Green Belt land is under threat from development. John McDonnell MP is in regular contact with the Grundon Waste Plant at Colnbrook, which would have to be moved if there were a third runway. To move the massive incinerator would cost far more than the £40m proposed but the big problem is finding a suitable alternative site. All the possibilities that have been explored are on Green Belt land.
A man in the audience interjected that an underestimation of the costs of moving businesses is the same as with residential properties. The third runway is simply going to cost far more than any of the current estimates and bring misery to people over a wide area.