Pro-third runway MP opposes more flights in his own back yard
A London MP has complained about the lack of consultation on an increase in flights. He said, “This has meant a gradual worsening of quality of life and an important discussion about safety swept under the carpet.”
That complaint could have been made by someone opposing Heathrow expansion but it was made by Gareth Thomas MP who is in favour of a third runway and another 260,000 flights a year at the airport. He says we need more flights – unless it’s in his back yard.
Gareth “NIMBY” Thomas’ Harrow West constituency is home to RAF Northolt, which is about 7 miles (11km) from Heathrow. It is known as a military airport that is often used by the royal family, but it has gradually increased passenger flights to 10,000 a year.
Mr Thomas has said that local residents had not be consulted over further changes, including a proposal that would increase the number of commercial flights to 50,000 a year.
Thomas told the press that it is “increasingly apparent that it is a commercial airport in all but name”, with military status used “as a smokescreen”. That’s rather ironic as the land on which Heathrow was built was requisitioned under wartime powers to avoid a public consultation. It had been claimed that the hamlet of Heath Row was needed for a military airfield, although the intention was always to use it for civil aviation.
People living near Heathrow and under flight paths understand the misery of aircraft noise. Most would empathise with residents whose quality of life is being ruined by airport activities. It is a shame that Gareth Thomas MP cannot understand what life would be life for those living with an expanded Heathrow.
The Ministry of Defense is to spend £45m resurfacing the runway at Northolt and Mr Thomas has complained that it was approved without a public consultation.
Yet in October 2016, before the start of the DfT’s consultation in February 2017 on the government’s favoured Heathrow third runway, Gareth Thomas was one of 8 MPs who signed a letter to Theresa May pushing her to give the go-ahead. Thomas was not interested in public consultation then because he was already claiming that local residents around Heathrow wanted another runway.
Mr Thomas insists that local residents near Heathrow want the impact of a quarter of a million more flights a year, with more noise, more pollution and the destruction of homes. So why doesn’t he also believe that local residents near RAF Northolt want 10,000 commercial flights with substantially less noise and pollution than would be generated by a third runway? Unlike at Heathrow, he hasn't told those affected by Northolt that increasing flights at their local airport would be good for business, good for London and would create jobs
The Labour and Co-operative MP supports airport expansion so he is a poor advocate for Harrow West residents who want to stop expansion at Northolt. Defence Minister, Tobias Ellwood, has said that passenger flights at Northolt offset the cost of military operations and ensure value for money for taxpayers. So no matter how damaging the development may be to people's wellbeing, money will always be used as a reason to expand.
If the government is concerned about taxpayers’ money, it could save £17bn of it by scrapping a third runway with its need for improved transport infrastructure. Replacing public buildings that would be destroyed, such as schools, would also be the responsibility of the taxpayer.
As for safety, the issue that Thomas said was swept under the carpet, nobody appears to be listening - including Thomas. Skies over parts of the South East are so full of planes that there seems scarcely room for existing aircraft without adding thousands more.