New Heathrow consultation tries to 'force parliament's hand'
Published: Friday 15th December 17
Councils say a decision by Heathrow bosses to press ahead with consulting on detailed expansion proposals at a time when there is growing evidence that the extra runway is unbuildable is a desperate attempt to force Parliament’s hand.
The airport’s proposals which will be published for consultation on January 17 would eventually be included in its formal planning application for a third runway.
The most recent evidence published by the Government as part of its revised consultation on a draft national policy statement (NPS) demonstrates that a third runway could not be built at the airport without causing unacceptable air and noise pollution.
The NPS is the broad planning framework. Only when the Government has considered responses to its draft policy statement can it consider formalising policy support for expansion. At that point it would be for Parliament to decide if the policy should be approved.
The evidence compiled for the draft NPS fails to show how an expanded airport could meet air quality limits in an area where pollution levels are deteriorating. This makes a third Heathrow runway unbuildable while expansion at Gatwick could go ahead without this risk.
The leader of Wandsworth Council, Cllr Ravi Govindia, said: “By rushing ahead with consultation on detailed operational arrangements for their runway Heathrow are trying to make their scheme look like the only game in town.
“Yet the evidence published by the Government in support of its draft NPS shows that if there is a need for more capacity in the South East it can be built more quickly at Gatwick.
“It shows that expansion at Gatwick would be achieved at a lower cost and within lawful pollution limits with fewer people affected by noise. It would also offer more domestic routes than Heathrow.
”It might suit Heathrow to make a decision in their favour look like a fait accompli but it will be Parliament that decides.”
The councils are also concerned that the public will be confused by the timing of the new consultation.
The Government is currently inviting responses from the public to its draft NPS. This continues until 19 December.
Cllr Govindia added: “While the Government cannot order the airport to delay its consultation there is a real risk that the public will be confused by the timing. By rushing ahead now the airport must be hoping to present the third runway as a done deal to both the Government and Parliament.
“Given the scale of the evidence now building against the Heathrow option this looks like an increasingly forlorn tactic. “
Cllr Govindia was speaking on behalf of Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils.