We’ve been here before…
Villagers taking on the might of Heathrow Airport and succeeding. It sounds like an impossible task, but everything seems impossible until someone does it.
Whilst the issue of runway expansion has raised its ugly head again, this time we know the score. We need to make sure that this time we push for firm commitments, not vague promises. “No Ifs, No Buts” must mean “Never, Ever”.
The Heathrow Villages were part of the famous campaign that stopped the last Government's plan for a third runway. Residents formed the No Third Runway Action Group (NoTRAG), which worked closely with anti-noise group HACAN during the 2002-2010 campaign which stopped the last Government’s plan for a third runway. (This time round, HACAN has taken a back seat. SHE has joined a coalition of other groups opposed to Heathrow expansion to form the No Third Runway Coalition.)
Forming bonds with residents across London worked well during the last battle. Concerned residents and environmentalists and were backed by MPs from all parties, including all three MPs in Hillingdon. They were also backed by a huge number of councils including Hillingdon and Hounslow. That campaign demonstrated to people around the world that politicians can be made to listen to the arguments so that common sense and justice can prevail.
The Government set up the Airports Commission in 2012 to recommend where expansion should take place in London and the South East. In July 2015 it recommended a 3rd runway at Heathrow as its preferred option. In December 2015 the Government said it would announce its preferred location for a new runway in 2016, confirmed by new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in July 2016. The Department for Transport says both Heathrow and Gatwick Airports remain contenders in this process.
We are not waiting to see what the new Government decides regarding airport expansion: the fight has already begun. Even if the government opts to expand Gatwick, Heathrow bosses are likely to still push for further expansion at Heathrow as well by claiming that the airports serve different markets. This is not just a fight by Heathrow villagers, we are joining with other groups to combine our strength. Many members of the last successful campaign are with us again and refuse to be beaten. Join us.
Campaigning together, we won before. Working together, we can do it again!
Why a 3rd runway is a bad idea.
There are so many reasons why a 3rd runway should not be built at Heathrow:
1. It would destroy at least 783 homes.
(This is the figure supplied by The Davies Commission based on Heathrow’s proposals.) Longford would be totally destroyed, and little would be left of Harmondsworth. Homes in Sipson would be unbearably close to the airport perimeter. One street of more than 60 houses is surrounded on three sides by the airport perimeter fence!
SHE believes that homes in other local areas will be unliveable. On the 1st December 2014, Heathrow announced that they would offer to buy around 3,750 homes if a third runway is given the go-ahead. However, those homeowners outside the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) area would probably have to wait until the runway was operational before they could sell to Heathrow. It is also becoming clear that the amount of money allocated for compensation and mitigation is totally insufficient.
There are no plans to rehouse any of the people displaced by airport expansion. Homeowners and tenants would have to find a property they could afford. Many realise they could be forced to live miles away. Whole communities could be dispersed around the country. Local authorities that support expansion, such as Slough and Spelthorne are not making any plans to support displaced people.
2. It would create an appalling noise climate for many people.
A new runway means a new flight path, just north of the existing flight path. Sipson, Harlington, Heston, Brentford, Bedford Park and Hammersmith would be on the front-line, as would Langley and Eton. Already 750,000 people are impacted by aircraft noise from Heathrow. Astonishingly, that is 28% of all people affected right across Europe. Just think what could happen when the number of planes increases by 250,000 a year.
3. Air pollution would be a problem.
Already, levels in some places close to Heathrow are above the legal limits set by the European Union. Even with cleaner planes coming into service, there is no guarantee that the limits will come down by the time that a third runway would expect to open in c.2026.
4. More planes = more passengers = more traffic.
The Department of Transport is pinning its hopes on existing projects like Crossrail, HS2 and the upgrading of the Piccadilly Line to alleviate the current congestion problems around Heathrow AND cope with the massive increase in traffic that would result from building a third runway. Few people believe these alone will resolve the problems or encourage the majority of passengers to travel to the airport by public transport. Airport car parking is a profitable business and there will always be traffic around the airport, including private hire vehicles, taxis, coaches and freight vehicles. While Heathrow is looking at replacing its polluting diesel vehicles with electric ones, numbers of other vehicles will probably have to be constrained. Heathrow has suggested a congestion charging scheme in the area.
Other developments will add to the vehicle traffic around West London. There is pressure on local authorities to build more housing units. These are invariably in blocks of apartments as land values mean developers want to make the most of the building's footprint. If you take a look at areas like West Drayton (various including former police station), Southall (gas works site) and Uxbridge (former RAF base), they are being transformed by the demand for housing and the resultant need for facilities like shops, supermarkets, schools, restaurants and other services and the traffic all this generates. Heathrow wants to expand its freight businesses. Residents in Colnbrook and Poyle, to the west of the airport, already complain that current freight facilities are overloaded, which forces massive trucks onto inappropriate roads and parking places.
5. It would exacerbate the risk of flooding.
A third runway would be built over 5 rivers, and would also involve concreting over Harmondsworth Moor which as part of a river basin acts somewhat like a massive sponge, soaking up excess water runoff before it reaches the rivers.
6. It would damage the climate.
If a 3rd runway was built, Heathrow Airport would become one of the biggest sources of CO2 – a major greenhouse gas – in the country.
Won’t Heathrow close down if it doesn’t get a new runway?
The answer is as firm NO. Heathrow itself is quite clear on this. Heathrow will remain as a successful and busy two-runway airport. The only threat to Heathrow would come from a big new Estuary Airport, which the Davies Commission has already ruled out. There is no other threat to it.
The only group suggesting that Heathrow will close is Back Heathrow, which has been set up and funded by the airport. Press reports stated that it received a six-figure sum for set up and running costs, including widespread mail shots, questionnaires and opinion polls. It looks as if Heathrow has set up the group to distance itself from various discredited tactics used in previous campaigns – such as making promises that can’t be kept. Back Heathrow’s assertion that the airport risks closure without expansion has led to many airport workers feeling they must support an increase in noise and pollution in order to keep their jobs. Others realise that they risk losing their homes and health with an expanded airport. Mechanisation, technology and the airport's desire for greater inefficiency means jobs in some sectors of the airport operation will be lost.
A 3rd runway – not just a local problem
A 3rd runway would destroy villages but, on a wider level, it would do nothing for the planet. Aviation is the fastest growing contributor to CO2 which causes climate change. To have any chance of stopping serious climate change we must massively cut our CO2 emissions. The Government has a target for industries to make huge cuts to the CO2 they produce by 2050. Aviation is so dependent on fossil fuels that it is treated more leniently than any other industry. A third runway would mean that aviation would struggle to meet even these targets.