Ravi Govindia: Heathrow “fight far from over”

Published: 25 October 2016

The Government’s decision to back Heathrow expansion is “wrong on every level, legally undeliverable and will end in failure after years of wasted effort”, according to the leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia.

The Government has today backed a third runway despite the west London airport already being by far the worst noise polluter in Europe and responsible for illegal pollution levels.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has benched the rival scheme to expand Gatwick which offers a similar economic benefit to Heathrow, but with a fraction of the environmental damage.

Solicitors jointly appointed by Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, Windsor and Maidenhead councils and Greenpeace UK are now examining the Government’s aviation announcement in detail and a legal strategy will be developed over the coming days. 

The campaigners have been preparing for a potential judicial review for the last 8 months as ministers have repeatedly refused to rule out the project despite clear evidence of the unlawful impact on surrounding communities.

Cllr Govindia said: “This is deeply distressing news for the communities around this airport but this fight is far from over. Ultimately it will be for the courts to decide if this project goes ahead and the law is on our side.

“The airport boasts illegal levels of air pollution, woefully inadequate transport capacity and has Europe’s worst noise footprint, and that’s with just two runways. Expansion will make all of these severely damaging issues worse. It’s wrong on every level, legally undeliverable and will end in failure after years of wasted effort.

“The chaotic and repeatedly fudged process leading up to the Government’s announcement is also wide open to challenge on multiple grounds. There has been no meaningful consultation and key information like the location of new flightpaths remain a secret even now. The work of the Airports Commission was also profoundly flawed and doesn’t not provide a sound basis for Government policy.

“It looks like we’re heading back to the courts just as we did in 2010 after the Brown Government backed Heathrow’s third runway. We overturned that decision in the High Court and nothing has changed since then to make expanding this airport any less damaging.”

Heathrow expansion is expected to have a major impact on Wandsworth by creating new flight paths across parts of the borough which have never experienced aircraft noise before.

Expansion at Heathrow could cost taxpayers between £15 and £20bn according to Transport for London. Councillors argue that this vast sum could draw funding away from other valuable growth projects such as Crossrail 2 or extending the Northern Line to Clapham Junction.

By contrast, Gatwick expansion is a self-funding project which would cost taxpayers nothing, while allowing them to reap the rewards of growth across the South London region. The flightpaths would run across more sparsely populated areas affecting far fewer people.

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