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, No Third Runway” must mean “No Third Runway, Never, Ever”.
Residents in the Heathrow Villages to the north of the airport formed their first campaign group opposing Heathrow expansion in 2002. The No Third Runway Action Group (NoTRAG) was a key part of the famous campaign and legal challenge that in 2010 forced the runway plans to be scrapped.
Then, in the run-up to the 2010 General Election, Conservative party leader David Cameron made his often-quoted pledge that if his party came to power the third runway would not be built - no ifs, no buts.
While some residents celebrated, NoTRAG was mothballed but not completely wound up. Residents had been lied to about expansion of the airport for decades so it was hard to believe that Heathrow wouldn’t try to re-hash its plans and try again.
After intense lobbying of politicians to reconsider Heathrow expansion, in 2012 the Government set up the Airports Commission to look at options for airport expansion in London and the South East. In July 2015 it recommended a new north-west runway at Heathrow. On 25th October 2016 this was approved by the Government.
Meanwhile, opposition to Heathrow expansion has continued to grow and in 2017 the No Third Runway Coalition was created to bring together anti-expansion and environmental campaign groups, primarily in London and surrounding areas. SHE is an important part of that coalition.
Forming bonds with other groups, supportive politicians and local authorities worked well during the last battle. 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.
On 26th June 2018, the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) was designated following a House of Commons vote the previous day in favour of the third runway.
This triggered the start of the timetable for judicial review of the NPS, which will take place on 11 March 2019.
Those challenging the NPS in the High Court include local councils, led by Hillingdon Borough, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Plan B and Heathrow Hub.
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 third 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 would be surrounded by airport development - so effectively inside the airport!
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 might 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 sites 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 Airports Commission ruled out.
Back Heathrow, a company that was set up and is funded by Heathrow, has tried to convince airport workers that a third runway is essential - it isn’t. While the airport cuts workers’ pay packages, it is spending millions promoting a third runway (it admitted to more than £30 million) and yet more on “community engagement” like Back Heathrow.
Airport workers shouldn’t feel they must support an increase in noise and pollution and accept a greater risk to their health and wellbeing.
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.