Wide-Ranging Views At Heathrow Expansion Meeting

All speakers in agreement on the need for quieter airport


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Hounslow Lib Dems canvassed views on the pros and cons of Heathrow expansion at a public meeting in St Paul's Church Brentford on the 9th July.

Every speaker agreed on the need a quieter Heathrow with less noisy aircraft afflicting those living under the Heathrow flight-path. Three speakers  wanted no expansion at all believing that better use of existing capacity either at Heathrow or elsewhere was the answer but at least one wanted further expansion and one was neutral at present.

Peter Wilson, Richmond Heathrow Campaign, thought that more intensive use of existing capacity, in particular fuller payloads on long-distance aircraft, absorbing night flights into the daily schedules and better use of neighbouring airports would prevent the need to expand Heathrow.

But Nigel Milton, Director of Policy and Political Relations at Heathrow Airport whilst agreeing on reducing aircraft noise, (planes were in any case much quieter than those of 30-40 years ago),  said that there was plenty of spare capacity at British airports. Gatwick was only 80% used, Birmingham and Manchester each 50%. Heathrow, however, was full and was the only "hub" airport in the U.K. whilst also handling 75% of all long distance flights in the U.K. There was already insufficient hub capacity at Heathrow and if there was no expansion of that Heathrow would drop from first to fourth place by 2020 in the league table of international airports. That would impact on the UK economy because companies would no longer have their European or world headquarters here.

John Stewart, of HACAN, (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), cast doubt on Nigel Milton's views. London, not Heathrow, was the "hub" for international business. There were more terminated international flights at Heathrow than any other airport in the world. He wanted an end to all flights before 6.00 a.m. The stress caused to people living under the Heathrow flight path, and resulting costs to the NHS should also be taken into account. 20-25% of all Heathrow flights are either domestic or European. Road and rail could take those freeing up space for flights to new world markets.

Stephen Knight, GLA Assembly member and Lib Dem leader on Richmond Borough Council said that all four parties on the GLA Assembly agreed that Heathrow expansion was "not on". The U.K. was required to cut greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050. That was a very tough target especially as all airlines used kerosene - aviation fuel. If a new airport were ever constructed in the Thames estuary as advocated by Boris Johnson, Heathrow would close with devastating effects on the West London economy; half a million jobs were dependent either directly or indirectly on Heathrow Airport.

Lib Dem transport minister Norman Baker, M.P., said that the Coalition Government had agreed that there would be no expansion at Heathrow Airport. The Government had  appointed the Davies Commission to see if there could be consensus as to any future development of Heathrow. Cross-party agreement was needed for these projects as with, for example, the rail HS2. Longer term,once HS2 was built, Birmingham would only be 38 minutes away from London so it would be feasible to use the spare capacity at Birmingham for flights that would have gone to Heathrow.

In discussion with the audience Norman Baker mentioned that there would be an HS2 "spur" to Heathrow relieving, to some extent, rail and road traffic in London. Many in the meeting were concerned at the impact on health of people in West London of aircraft flights and noise. There were pockets of very high air pollution around Heathrow caused not just by aircraft but road traffic to and from the airport.

July 12, 2013

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