Lib Dems Chair Heathrow Debate

Agreement on need for a quieter Heathrow


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Tuesday evening saw a group of over 40 gathering at St Paul's for a debate on expansion at Heathrow or elsewhere. Submissions to the Airports Commission are to be published next week on the 17th July

Five speakers gave brief presentations followed by a short Q&A session. Full notes can be downloaded (pdf). All agreed on the need for a quieter Heathrow although there was very little time given to air pollution and its health effects.

Peter Willian, Chair of the Richmond Heathrow Campaign explained that the primary aim of his organisation was to reduce noise levels over Rchmond. Their research and submission shows they think the London 5 airports can meet demand by 2050 without an additional runway. This will be achieved by larger planes, minimising international transfers (which bring no economic benefit) and fairer taxes on aviation. Transit passengers are exempt from Air Passenger Duty. He disagrees with Heathrow as a hub and made the suggestion that each of the London airports could focus on a particular world region to spread the load. Lastly he fully advocates a night ban from11pm-7am saying the economic case is not met.

Nigel Milton, Director of Policy and Political Relations at Heathrow Airport championed Heathrow as one of the worlds few "mega-hubs", combining local demand and transfers to maximise the number of viable destinations. Their submission will look at three options: doing nothing, expanding Heathrow, and moving airport. Heathrow is vital for UK being competitive in global market. See "One hub or none" and "Best Placed for Britain".

John Stewart, of HACAN supports a ban on night flights before 6am having produced research that considers that any economic benefits are outweighed by the costs of poorer health, lowered productivity etc. of those under flightpath. According to EU 725,000 people live under Heathrow flight paths, representing 28% of all people adversely affected by aircraft noise right across Europe. He suggested that London is the hub rather than Heathrow and that the economy would not be adversely affected. Rail needs to improve to take away short haul flights.

Stephen Knight, Liberal Democrat Assembly Member emphasised the issue of climate change as the major long term impact from aviation. Carbon emissions need to be cut by 80% by 2050 and there is no alternative to aviation fuel so aviation growth must be limited and short haul flights must be minimised.

Norman Baker MP (Liberal Democrats) Under Secretary for Transport added that cross party consensus is needed for these long term investments so that they are not affected by changes in government. HS2 would help shift people from air to rail, with Birmingham being 38 minutes away from central London on completion. He emphasised the future addition of a spur from HS2 to Heathrow that could also be extended to Gatwick.

There followed a number of questions focusing on the difficulty of travelling elsewhere in UK from Heathrow, the need for a comprehensive health impact assessment and the fact that Heathrow's Noise Insulation scheme would not be implemented until the future of Heathrow was secure and that the impact of air pollution, whether by flight or road traffic still needs research.

It was a shame this meeting wasn't better attended so it could have proved more beneficial. Maybe the party political bias put off some people. There was too much time given to presentations and not enough to questions. The Lib Dem chair of the meeting was a bit nonplussed on being asked what the point of the meeting was but no-one said anything that hadn't been said before. However it would be nice to see more informed public debates on local issues.

July 11, 2013

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