by John Stewart
We don’t know yet what will happen with the third runway at Heathrow. But whether or not it is dropped, it is important that one aspect of the process remains: the depth of community engagement Heathrow has undertaken as part of its efforts to secure a third runway. It has been way beyond anything I have seen in 20 years as chair of HACAN. Of course it was not perfect, with many communities frustrated that it has not resulted in some of the short-term improvements they are looking for, but it has exceeded the depth of engagement at other UK airports and at most European airports.
If the third runway disappears, we don’t want to lose it this sort of engagement.
Some of it was undertaken voluntarily; some was mandated by the National Policy Statement (Heathrow would not get a third runway unless it had shown it had engaged with its local community).
The proposal in this short blog is that future expansion at any airport across the country should be conditional on quality community engagement. It should become a key criterion in determining whether the expansion is given the go-ahead.
If a third runway is dropped, the Government will be encouraging growth at other airports. Yet many of them are very poor at engaging with their communities. It was clear at a recent Aviation Communities Forum conference, which brought together campaigners from across the country, that most airports just do not have adequate engagement procedures in place.
ICCAN, the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise, is planning to publish a best practice guide later this year. That will be very welcome. But isn’t there a case for the Department for Transport in its forthcoming Aviation White Paper to go one step further and make expansion or growth conditional on first-rate community engagement?