Labour against 3rd runway

Labour Party policy announced today (20/6/18) is against Heathrow expansion.

The proposals in the National Policy Statement (NPS) do not meet the 4 tests that Labour established as their criteria for supporting a third runway.  See Labour’s 4 tests not met .

Nic Ferriday of West London Friends of the Earth commented: “We are pleased to see that Labour has correctly assessed the NPS and has seen that it fails on both environmental and economic grounds. Labour MPs will now be allowed to take these matters into account when voting.  The Conservatives, on the other hand, have imposed a ‘3 line whip’ in favour of a third runway, which means their MPs are forbidden from allowing noise, air pollution, climate change and government evidence of no economic benefit to  influence their vote.”

Airports National Policy Statement awaits MPs’ vote

The Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), which recommends a third runway at Heathrow, was presented to Parliament on 5th June. Transport minister Chris Grayling made a statement to the House.

We have now read the NPS. We consider it to be one of the most dishonest and misleading documents ever presented to Parliament.

Key evidence, painstakingly assembled by staff at the Department for Transport and published at the very last minute in dense supporting documents, has been excluded from the main NPS.  Meanwhile, the NPS is filled with pages of verbiage, interlaced with dubious arguments and spurious statistics.

The intent is to mislead MPs so that they will vote for a third runway. The reason for this deceit is clear. The government has set its heart on a third runway and the last thing it wants is to tell MPS and the country the truth about the impacts. And about the economic benefits, now shown to be zero or negative.

For more about these issues see our home page , with forward links to subject pages.

Heathrow’s own consultations

Alongside the official consultations, Heathrow Airport has been running its own consultations.

Two consultations are closed (ie no more responses are being taken): Heathrow Expansion Consultation 1 (closed 28th March 2018) and Heathrow Airspace Consultation 1  (also closed 28th March 2018).

The Heathrow Noise Action Plan consultation opened on 16th May (closes 26th June).

Friends of the Earth is reluctant to take part in such consultations. Being undertaken by a private company that obviously has its own agenda, the information presented to the public is inevitably biased and partial.  Unlike government consultations, standards of transparency and impartiality do not have to be met. The responses will undoubtedly be used to inform and support Heathrow’s extensive public relations campaign.

Community engagement?

The Heathrow Area Consultative Committee (HACC) has been replaced by Heathrow Community Engagement Board (HCEB).

This is explained on HCEB’s new web site:

“The creation of a community engagement board was one of the measures recommended by the Airports Commission to help ensure that all local communities can contribute effectively to the planning process for the proposed expansion of the airport.

Last year it was agreed that the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee (HACC), an existing forum for local authorities, airport users and interest groups, would take on the additional responsibilities of the engagement board. The HACC was relaunched formally as the HCEB at the start of 2018.

Over the next few months the HCEB will continue to evolve into an organisation which can represent all communities.”

West London Friends of the Earth was not invited to be a member but, as the meetings are public, we attended on 18 April.

We were struck by the report from John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow, who spent nearly 5 minutes talking about plastic cups, but barely mentioned noise, air pollution or climate change from aircraft or road traffic! If this sort ‘greenwash’ is allowed to divert attention from the real Heathrow issues, it does not bode well for the new board. We have written to the new chair of HCEB, Rachel Cerfontyne, but have had no useful response.

Transport Committee report published

The House of Commons Transport Committee has published its report (23 March). To no-one’s surprise, it supports a new runway at Heathrow.

The committee took a good deal of evidence and, at times, was challenging of the witnesses. The report contained some devastating comments and criticisms, but nonetheless the committee duly gave its support to a third runway.

There is a strong suspicion that the challenges and criticisms were made primarily to alert the government of any pitfalls (including legal challenges) to the progress of building a new runway. We do not detect much genuine concern about the huge noise, air pollution and climate impacts that a new runway would have. Or the latest work from the Department of Transport that shows no net economic benefit from a new  runway at Heathrow.

Evidence to Transport Committee

The House of Commons Transport Committee (previously a ‘Select Committee’) has been carrying out an inquiry into Heathrow expansion.

We are not particularly optimistic about what their conclusions will be because most of the MPs who sit on it have an inbuilt bias in favour of ever more transport everywhere.

However, West London Friends of the Earth has submitted evidence.  This concentrates particularly on the government’s own evidence that shows negligible economic benefit of a third runway. Evidence that had been hidden away in turgid reports and not highlighted in the top level publications that MPs and the public would be likely to see.

Our final comment is: We ask members [of the Transport Committee] to consider the actual evidence, not be swayed by hype and sound bites such “A new runway shows Britain is open for business”.

 

Transport Committee

The House of Commons Transport Committee has started hearings on the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS). Some campaigners have been invited to give evidence as have Heathrow, academics, business people, civil servants and government advisors.

On Wednesday Stephen Clark of TAG and Cait Hewitt of AEF gave an excellent account of the issues. Two professors clearly hadn’t read the DfT’s papers and hadn’t got a good grasp of the issues.