“If a third runway was given the go-ahead we could expect to see the biggest environment protest in Europe”
Not the words of a direct action campaigner but of a civil servant at the heart of the aviation debate in Whitehall.
When the last Labour Government tried to build a 3rd runway, it failed, defeated by a coalition of residents, environmentalists, local authorities, trade unions, business people and politicians from across the political spectrum. Read about the famous victory: Victory Against All The Odds
A third runway is as politically undeliverable in 2015 as it was in 2010. Despite all the millions spent by Heathrow Airport on PR and advertising, over a million people across London and the South East remain opposed to a third runway. Polls show that attitudes to Heathrow expansion have hardly changed over the last decade: support for expansion has always hovered around 50%, with a stubborn one third of people remaining opposed. And that’s according to Populus, Heathrow favourite pollster. Check out the results: http://hacan.org.uk/blog/?p=281
We outline the reasons why Heathrow will be so hard to deliver.
1. The Cabinet is split on the issue. The Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary are amongst those opposed. Read about the cabinet opponents: HACAN website Cabinet split on 3rd runway
2. It will cause trouble within the Conservative Party. Ministers like Justine Greening may well resign from the Cabinet. The London Mayor Boris Johnson has vowed to fight any decision by ‘lying don on the runway’ if necessary; Zac Goldsmith has promised to resign his seat and fight a by-election on the issue. Other MPs such as Adam Afyrie will rebel.
3. The Government faces the prospect of pictures being beamed around the world of thousands of people being evicted from their homes as hundreds of houses go under the bulldozer.
The last time hundreds of homes were demolished in London – to make way for the M11 Link Road, 20 years ago – protests on a scale rarely seen in the UK erupted.
This moving video centres on Dolly, a 93 year old woman who was evicted from the home she was born in. It starts with scenes from her funeral, attended by hundreds of the thousands of protesters who barricaded themselves inside the homes that were threatened with demolition. https://youtu.be/UJp-Q0V6gyA
This video follows the local residents and the environmental protesters as they barricade their homes, dig tunnels underground and lock themselves onto trees to stop the demolition. https://youtu.be/stDKsHyhVeM
The protests cost the Government millions of pounds. Efforts to demolish Harmondsworth and the surrounding areas to make way for a third runway could attract similar protests. Is any Government willing to see a repeat of the scenes that occurred in East London 20 years ago.
4. Simply too many people are affected by noise. According to the European Commission, 766, 00 people live under the Heathrow flight paths; that is, 28% of all people impacted by aircraft noise across Europe. These people – many of them Conservative voters – fear what it will be like with another 250,000 flights using the airport.
5. The cost of the associated road works is difficult to justify in recessionary times. The Airports Commission estimates the cost of the road works associated with a new runway, including putting part of the M25, would be over £5 billion. Some of those might be required anyway but a new runway would add immeasurably to the cost.
6. Business will not hang around forever. Many big businesses want a third runway in London and the SE. A lot back a third runway. But they won’t wait. Business needs certainty. Any risk that a third runway could not be delivered would mean they would plan their businesses accordingly. Former British Airways chief, Willie Walsh, now the boss of the airline company IAG (which includes British Airports) has expanded operation in Madrid and Dublin simply because he believes a third runway at Heathrow cannot be built.