Councils call for swift decision on airports report

Published: 1 July 2015

Councils around Heathrow and across West London have called on the Government to rule out a third runway at the airport and dismiss the UK Airport Commission’s final report.

The local authorities say the legal, political and environmental barriers to expansion are insurmountable and that communities around the airport should be spared the anxiety of a long drawn out process.

The report was published today and ministers have promised to respond ‘by the end of the year’.

The councils have also criticised the commission for suggesting a ban on night flights should follow the delivery of a new runway, instead of being imposed straight away. They argue that the airport and airlines have to prove they can actually deliver a night flying curfew before it’s used as a bargaining chip.

Other key weaknesses highlighted by the councils include:

  • Air pollution – the report says new runway capacity would only be ‘released’ if air pollution targets are met. This means a runway could be built at a huge cost to taxpayers but with no guarantee it can be used. This is a ludicrous gamble.
  • New flight paths – the commission has ducked the politically toxic issue of new flight paths which it says will be decided after a further review of airspace. The councils say it is unacceptable that after £20million and three years of work the commission cannot confirm which communities will be affected by its preferred option.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said:

"The Airports Commission has spent three years and £20million to come up with a list of "ifs and buts" required before a third runway at Heathrow could be considered.

"Whilst I appreciate that they have tried to make the best of a poor job, it is very disappointing that the pursuit of economic growth and profit for the foreign owners of Heathrow, whilst accepted as important, is given priority over the effects on the environment and the lives and health and wellbeing of residents of the West of London.

"It will take some time to read through the report in detail but from the headlines it is clear to me that expansion at Heathrow will never happen - no ifs or buts.”

Cllr Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, said:

“A third runway would inevitably push Heathrow’s world leading noise and pollution impacts to new highs and severely damage the quality of life across the UK’s most densely populated region. The environmental controls Davies suggests are inadequate would inevitably be watered down leaving millions of people unprotected. Already Heathrow's leadership has refused to endorse them.

“Of course Londoners want to see night flights abolished but not in exchange for new flight paths across our city and thousands more planes flying over our homes every day. If the commission was serious about this it would have banned them now.  

"Expecting passengers to pay a new noise levy is another major disappointment which would push up ticket prices and penalise the travelling public. This cost should clearly be met by the airport and airlines but the commission is letting them off the hook."

Lord True, Leader of Richmond Council, said:

“This report is bad news for West Londoners - disastrous news at every level, the result of a deeply cynical manoeuvre to delay a decision for five years to enable a promise everyone in West London believed to be dropped.

“This report is a cunning trade-off, which is aimed to appease local residents, as it is well known that we are bitterly opposed to night flights. We have long maintained that there should be a night ban, yet we also realise that there is a catch. The easy bit is for the commission to say “there should be a ban” – yet it is not in the gift of the  government to stop them; at least not without a severe penalty.  If it tries to stop them it may well have to pay the airlines many millions in compensation for their ‘grandfather rights’ – which has not been priced in the financial calculations. 

“If the government accept this recommendation there would be a major issue of personal credibility. I believe the Prime Minister will stand by his word. Together with our partner local authorities, we will fight this recommendation with every means at our disposal.”

Cllr Carwyn Cox, cabinet member for environmental services at Windsor and Maidenhead Council, said:

“I’m extremely disappointed that the Airports Commission has backed proposals to expand Heathrow despite all the evidence that this is not the best option.  

“A final decision has not yet been made and we will continue to make the strongest case possible against the Heathrow expansion plans.”

Leader of Kingston Council Cllr Kevin Davis said:

"We are obviously disappointed with the recommendation of the Davies commission to expand Heathrow - we think that is the wrong option.

"However we also believe that there are so many caveats tied to this recommendation, especially around the stopping of night flights, the noise levy and particularly my grave concerns on air quality, that it effectively renders a Heathrow option as unworkable.

"Davies talks about 'Heathrow being a good neighbour'.  But we believe that the cost of doing that, even if it could be done, would saddle Heathrow with a massive competitive disadvantage and would be a step backwards for UK aviation - not a step forward.

"I will now redouble our efforts to convince the government of that case."