Public Meeting Held on Heathrow Expansion

Lively debate held about the local impact of a third runway



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Tuesday night say over 150 people attend a meeting at Brentford Free church to discuss Heathrow expansion. Ruth Cadbury MP, Dave Waller of BASHR3, Maggie Thorburn of Friends of the Earth and John Stewart of HACAN were on the panel.

Dave Waller talked about setting up BASHR3 to fight noise pollution, the most frequently raised issue and air pollution which results not just from the planes themselves but also from the ground traffic to and from Heathrow.

John Stewart explained the long procedure before anybody starts building a third runway. Once the current consultation is closed the Transport Select Committee will look at the proposal this summer. Then the government will decide whether to proceed, followed by a vote in parliament. Currently the majority of MPs appear to be in favour. After a vote in favour Heathrow have to draw up detailed plans for a planning application which will go to a planning enquiry about 2019 which would not be decided until 2020-2021. So there's a long way to go. It's not a done deal by any means.

Ruth Cadbury MP, Maggie Thorburn, Dave Waller, John Stewart
Ruth Cadbury MP, Maggie Thorburn, Dave Waller, John Stewart

Ruth Cadbury MP said she'd been campaigning with John for over fifteen years against various expansions at Heathrow. She believes that Heathrow can do a lot better without the need for additional flights and raised a number of issues:

  • Noise is the biggest issue that impacts on daily life and will affect hundreds of thousands more at Heathrow compared to tens of thousands at Gatwick. Some people are more aware of noise than others but it does affect your brain functions whether or not you are conscious of it. There are an increasing number of health studies on this.
  • We are already in breach of air quality limits and expanding an airport is only going to make this worse.
  • Heathrow have committed that there will be no increase in road traffic if expanded. How then will extra freight get to and from Heathrow? Who will pay for the transport improvements to roads as Heathrow aren't keen.
  • British Airways are no longer campaigning jointly with Heathrow for a third runway.
  • A Health and Safety report last year said the additional flight traffic would cause minimal extra risk of accident, most of which happen on landing. There was no analysis on the impact of such an event, however unlikely.
  • Colnbrook incinerator will have to be moved.
  • The current 8 hours respite will be cut by a third. There should be an absolute ban on night flights and the day does not start at 5am.
  • There is no guarantee that Heathrow will not pursue a fourth runway.
  • Even the Department of Transport say expanding Gatwick will be simpler.
  • Although some people can afford to move away from the flight path, many can not exercise that choice.

Maggie Thorburn of Friends of Earth spoke last. She talked about the many voices coming together in opposition to Heathrow. They may differ in the details or their reasons, but everyone comes together to fight the pollution. There is a whole cocktail of pollutants that result from flying planes. Heathrow's promises to keep within limits are not realistic. There are currently high levels of nitrogen oxide and particle pollution that have health impact [see Clean Air in London's quick guide to air pollution]. It's not just the damage to us humans, but also to animals and the environment. Flights produce gas emissions that contribute directly to climate change. FoE argue strongly that pursuit of unrestrained growth is not a sustainable solution. Heathrow's sole plan for meeting air quality limits is for all other industry to become clean so they can carry on.

The panel then took questions from the audience, not all of which were answered.

  • The Cranford agreement no longer applies and in itself this will increase take offs over Brentford (and permit increased capacity at Heathrow).
  • Heathrow's freight objectives are to be "the preferred trans-Atlantic gateway for Europe" and their projections show an increase in air-truck freight from 2014 to 2040 by 245%, or 2 1/2 times. This nothing to do with UK exports or imports and is instead by truck around the M25 to and from the Channel Tunnel, a route that is already severely congested.
  • The economic benefits calculated in the DfT report that informs the consultation doesn't include the costs of expansion, from construction to health. By the time you factor in all the costs the economic benefits are close to zero after 60 years.
  • People don't trust any promises Heathrow make as they've broken them before.
  • Hounslow Council is not one of the local authorities signed up to take legal action to oppose expansion but Council policy remains "Better not Bigger".  However a significant proportion of residents, particularly in the West of the borough, work at Heathrow and are less inclined to oppose expansion (despite the fact that no current jobs are at risk as Heathrow will remain as the UK's biggest airport.) There was a lot of mistrust in Hounslow council being expressed from the floor.
  • MPs from the rest of the country need to be persuaded of the damage Heathrow expansion will do to other regional economies. This is the economic argument that will persuade them. Pollution, night flights, noise are only relevant to the local areas.
  • Theresa May campaigned vigorously against Heathrow expansion, once upon a time.
  • There is apparently no civil defence plan in case of a mid air collision or terrorist incident.

What to do? Once you've responded to the consultation (which you can do on a postcard or a short email, no need to fill in the lengthy and complicated forum) encourage other people to do the same. Talk to your councillors. Cllr Guy Lambert said that no one had ever written to him about Heathrow. Email your councillors and your council leader and your MP. Join local groups like BASHR3. You can also complain about the format of the consultation. Ask Hounslow for a proper consultation that all residents may respond to.

Many groups have been set up to fight expansion who represent different areas in and around London, who are working together to oppose expansion and now part of the Stop Runway 3 Coalition.

See BASHR3 online: website, Facebook and on Twitter at @bashrunway3 

Residents can get copies of the Government documents by calling 0800 6894968. There are 3 ways to respond to the consultation document:
Respond online or Complete a response form and either email to
Runway or write to Freepost RUNWAY CONSULTATION. The consultation closes at 11:45pm on 25 May 2017.

Download the poster/leaflet from BASHR3.

March 24, 2017

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