Darling leaves Heathrow ‘up in the air’ claims HACAN ClearSkies

White Paper condemns London and the Thames Valley to ‘years of uncertainty’

But campaigners ‘having won the first round’ confident of final victory

Pledge to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with campaigners at other airports

Pressure group HACAN ClearSkies has claimed there will be years of uncertainty for the people of London and the Thames Valley as a result of the Government’s refusal in today’s White Paper to rule out a 3rd runway. It claimed that the houses that would be required for a 3rd runway will remain blighted. It also expressed dismay that runway alternation may be brought to an end in West London (1).

John Stewart, Chair of HACAN ClearSkies, said, “Alistair Darling has left Heathrow up in the air. Of course, we are pleased that a third runway has been ruled out for now. But blight and uncertainty remains. We will redouble our efforts to ensure that further expansion at Heathrow is ruled out for ever and a day. We have won the first round. We are confident of final victory.”

Stewart added, “The threat to end runway alternation in West London will cause fury amongst local people. It is the only thing that makes life bearable for them. It will also be a betrayal of the Government’s promise that flight numbers at the airport would not exceed 480,000 a year (2). We will oppose mixed-mode tooth and nail.”

HACAN ClearSkies argues the no new runways in the UK would be required if the tax concessions currently enjoyed by the aviation industry were removed (3).

Stewart said, “Our battle is not with the campaigners at Stansted and Gatwick, but with the Government and the aviation industry. We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow campaigners at the other airports.”

Notes for Editors

  1. At present people living under the flight paths in West London (from Barnes to Heathrow) only get planes for half the day. One week they will land on the southern runway between 7am and 3pm (and take off from the northern runway) and on the northern runway between 3pm and 11.30pm (and take off from the southern runway). The following week they swap round. This only applies when planes land over London – they do this when the west wind is blowing (75% of the time during a typical year). There is no runway alternation when planes approach Heathrow from the west – the reason for this is that planes are not permitted to take off to the east from the northern runway because of the Cranford Agreement. The Cranford Agreement protects Cranford which is just yards from the eastern end of the northern runway. The Government has already announced it will review the Cranford Agreement in 2004.

  2. When giving permission for Terminal 5 to go ahead the Government accepted the recommendation of the Public Inquiry Inspector that there should be a cap of 480,000 on the number of flights using the airport each year. At present there are around 462,000. The introduction of mixed-mode would bring flights numbers over the 480,000 limit. To break the limit, BAA would need to get the permission of a planning inquiry.

  3. For At present the tax concessions amount to £9 billion a year, through no tax on aviation fuel and no VAT on aviation transactions. If the VAT exemptions were removed and fuel was taxed at the same rate as petrol for cars, work published by the Aviation Environment Federation shows that, although there would be growth, there would be no demand for any new runways or airports.

Further information contact John Stewart on 0207 737 6641, 07957 385650, or 0776 9838273 (Tuesday only) or Monica Robb on 0208 876 0455.