Push for Heathrow Expansion Remains

Ruth Cadbury aims for a better not bigger airport

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This Council has had cross-party support for many years, for policies to protect the interests of borough residents in the face of continuing pressure to expand Heathrow.

In recent years we have joined with other boroughs in 2M, and by the Environment lobby of Greenpeace and WWF, and as a result of our work, one of the first announcements of the Coalition Government was to stop the building of Runway 3, and retain runway alternation at Heathrow.

But make no mistake, we cannot sit back and relax. BAA were devastated by that decision, and have been working tirelessly and expensively to get it reversed. They are lobbying, they are seeking relaxation of the alternation regime with the first trials in November, and they are attempting to soften up the business sector by such means as placing articles in the Telegraph last weekend.

Most of our residents suffer the noise of plane noise every 60 seconds for half the day when the airport is operating on Westerlies, and those within a couple of miles of the perimeter fence have noise almost continuously irrespective of the wind direction. We have around 16 747s arriving every morning before 6am. Surely the noisiest environment in the UK, yet Heathrow provides the worst noise insulation schemes of any UK airport.

Whilst we know residents who say they don’t notice the planes overhead, I have never had any doubts about the insidious effects of continuous plane noise and of night flights. Remember, in the UK, only Heathrow has communities living in a built up area right up to the perimeter. And there is a growing body of knowledge of the health impacts of living close to a busy airport and Heathrow in particular. Cardio/respiratory, mental health, children’s learning, not to mention the long-term effects of living in an area of very poor air quality

In November we will see the first trials of the "Operational freedoms" – we have to ensure this is not mixed mode by stealth – we are demanding proper monitoring, proper information and survey of the communities affected, and the ability to contribute to the design of the trials. They start in November, to date we have not had a proper response to our demands on this.

-This is why the respite that runway alternation brings is so important,
- This is why a ban on night noise is essential
- And this is why a proper insulation scheme that is at least as generous as the other other UK airports is only fair to our residents.

We will continue the work I started in 2002 to lobby politicians in all 3 main parties on the case for better mitigation for our residents, a decent night’s sleep, that period of peace that alternation brings, and decent insulation. I met about 15 senior Lib Dems on Sunday and yesterday at their conference and will meet many senior Labour people in Liverpool. Cllr Reid will be in Manchester talking to senior Conservatives. This work paid off off over the years but it takes time but – we are up against the million pound communication budget of BAA and BA which is used in promoting a set distorted economic arguments. Remember that in the night flights court case, they could produce no economic data to support their case.

They tell us that the UK economy will fail if there isn’t another runway in the South East to take the growing demand from the Far East – yet they fly half empty planes across the Atlantic on a daily basis and hundreds of short-haul flights that could be replaced by rail journeys.

The majority of passengers are transfer passengers, contributing little to the UK economy. And our local economy is so over-dependent on the airport that firms in other sectors struggle to compete for land, appropriately skilled staff and road space, Furthermore, as we know when ash clouds or snow close the airport, many thousands of local cleaners, baggage handlers, and catering staff are the first to lose their jobs, sometimes with a few hours notice. It is an unhealthy over-dependence on a single employment source, which has no need to expand further. But it does need to improve its offer to the local workforce;
- more local recruitment,
- better training and apprenticeships,
- supply chains with local small and medium businesses.

Hounslow sits where the Silicon Valley meets London – our economy can afford, and indeed needs, to diversify.

We seek to have as our neighbour, a better airport, not a bigger one.

Ruth Cadbury


This item is reproduced from Ruth's blog, ruthcadbury.blogspot.com

The council's draft full response (pdf) to the Government's "Aviation Scoping Document" can be read online but here is Councillor Ruth Cadbury's comment made after September's Borough Council meeting.

September 23, 2011