Sunday, 25 March 2012

Heathrow third runway back on

The Government has been busily briefing Sunday journalists this week about a possible u-turn on their opposition to a third runway at Heathrow airport, which formed a key plank of their campaign to win votes here in West London.

At the time local Tories in H&F lampooned Andy Slaughter MP for having been a member of a Government who were committed to the introduction of a new runway and the extra flights and flying hours that would come with it. This is despite the fact that he had actually resigned his Ministerial position in order to fight the scheme. 

Our Council too produced leaflets and other materials in opposition to the Heathrow plans and pleged to die in the ditches before the runway came to pass. Leader of the Opposition David Cameron promised voters in Hammersmith that he would never let the runway pass. Boris Johnson, characteristically, came up with some new scheme involving a random island he’d found in the Thames Estuary which was immediately christened “Boris Island” – yielding acres of personal PR which was presumably the aim of the scheme. At the time I praised our Council 

How times change.

The stories that appeared in today’s Observer and Independent were placed there by Tory spin doctors acting as a classic “softening up” strategy from what I can see. The aim is to get people used to the possibility, see what sort of reaction they get and then press ahead with further announcements that will probably seek to blame the recession on having little option but to open London to other markets.

In the wake of today’s revelations the Conservative MP Greg Hands, of the neighbouring Chelsea constituency, has been uncharacteristically silent on the issue. He is normally the quickest to tweet and comment on local issues, but comment there has come none. Could this have something to do with the fact that as a Government Whip he has to support the idea or resign? Something tells me Mr Hands isn’t minded to resign.

But the real victim of all of this may well be Boris. As Ken Livingstone’s campaign descends into shambolic in-fighting in the wake of revelations about his own tax affairs we have now seen not just the Cash for Cameron affair on the national stage but now questions about whether or not Boris supports the idea of expanding Heathrow – and the worse thing about that for him is that he has to provide the answer before polling day.

Voters living under the flight path may wish to pay special attention, and vote accordingly.

MONDAY UPDATE - Late yesterday afternoon I received a response from both Greg Hands MP and Cllr Harry Phibbs from our Council, and also Boris Johnsons' camp on this story. Boris appears to be unequivocal while Mr Hands is a little bit on the fence but here they are -

Speaking to me on Twitter Mr Hands said:

Hmm - doesn't answer why George Osborne's media people decided to brief journalists that there was perhaps a case for the third runway after all.

Also speaking on social media Councillor Harry Phibbs re-iterated H&F Council's firm opposition:

But then, intriguingly, he added:

Meanwhile Boris Johnson's own camp weighed in with a very firm riposte indeed, with a spokesman releasing this statement to the same media that had been briefed by others in the Tory ranks that a third runway was a possibility:
"Boris Johnson said: ‘Heathrow has a great future as a key UK airport. But we cannot endlessly expand it, and cram a quart into a pint pot. 
A third runway would be an environmental disaster. It would mean a huge increase in plans over London, and intolerable traffic and fumes in the west of the city – and it will not be built as long as I am Mayor of London. 
That is why the Government is right to look at all new solutions for extra aviation capacity except the third runway at Heathrow. I look forward to engaging with Justine Greening’s consultation this summer. 
By contrast, Ken Livingstone’s useless anti-business policies would mean no extra aviation capacity anywhere in the south east. 
He offers no hope to British business that needs direct flights to Asia and Latin America.
His delusional programme seems to mean grounding the business community in London – but spending huge sums of taxpayers’ money for himself and his cronies to visit Hugo Chavez. That is no way to grow the London economy."
Note - 'while I am Mayor of London' - even if the scheme was given absolute go ahead within Boris' second term it would not, of course, be built while he was Mayor of London. So, as ever with Boris, when you look beneath the bluster all is not quite as it seems. 


  1. The Tory elected by LBH&F's neighbours, the constituency of Brenford & Isleworth, made opposition to the Third Runway the cornerstone of her 2010 campaign: "Mary and the Conservative Party will say NO to a third runway at Heathrow".

    "Conservatives promised it in their manifesto and it proves we deliver on our promises. This is just confirmation that we will not support a third runway and it was put in the coalition agreement to confirm that as the truth".

    David Cameron: "No ifs, no buts, no third runway".

  2. london thames global airport ....the ffuture .....located on the 2000 acre + potential to expand brownfield dpworld london gateway port site which is currently under construction in thurrock, essex and due to open end of 2013......ongoing research into feasibility by TFL since nov 2010.....endorsed by farrell and partners....further info @jbarkermarine on twitter

  3. Fact is that even if they shift the whole hub to Thames Estuary, it will take decades. Businesses who want to get at China and S America etc need capacity in the next few years if not to be "left behind" the rest of the world economically.
    Gatwick has existing capacity, with no new runway needed. High Speed train along side M25 would take 20 mins (which is what it takes to get from one terminal to another at Heathrow now anyway!)
    JFK has a brilliant elevated train over the Highway that shoots straight into Manhattan.

    1. As a New York resident there is no direct train from Kennedy to Manhattan. There is the Air Train that leaves you off in the middle of Queens (Jamaica) and then you have to take a subway or commuter railroad into Manhattan. It is not as convenient as it's made out to be.

  4. The fact is we probably need both the third runway at Heathrow and, in the longer term, an additional airport which has the room for expansion Heathrow lacks. Unless a country which is completely dependent on trade for its prosperity decides it wants to commit commercial suicide.

  5. There is plenty of capacity already at heathrow if you take out mainland UK flights.Also more slots could be used when direct train links from London To Germany and Amsterdam begin within the next few years.

    Borris island seems far fetched in the short term and very expensive but they managed to build a similar airport in Hong Kong over 20 years ago with British technical knowledge

    The same may happen to general aviation as happened to Concorde by the time it is built unless there is a revolution to the design of aircraft.