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Government Heathrow plan survives parliamentary vote but uncertainty about delivery remains

Contact: Tim Johnson tim@aef.org.uk // Cait Hewitt cait@aef.org.uk // 0203 859 9371 (Out of office hours 07710 381742)

AEF is disappointed by the outcome. We can only assume that a lot of MPs were won over by the Heathrow PR machine, and by its grossly exaggerated claims of regional jobs and national benefits.

Both Heathrow and the Government have distorted the evidence about the impacts of expansion in order to get this scheme though parliament. The truth is that Heathrow has no power to deliver its promises of benefits for the regions[1], while the Government’s own figures show passenger growth falling at almost every other airport if Heathrow expands[2].

There are plenty of obstacles still to overcome. We are expecting several judicial reviews to be launched, so it will be for the courts to decide whether or not the claims made in the National Policy Statement stand up to scrutiny. 

Does the Government have good grounds for claiming that expansion won’t breach air quality law? Is it fair for people who believed earlier promises from the airport that there would be no third runway to now have to deal with the extra noise that expansion will cause? Can the Government justify giving the go-ahead to carbon intensive infrastructure in the absence of any policy on how to square this with climate change legislation?   

In 2008 a judge ruled that it would be “untenable in law and common sense” for Heathrow expansion to proceed without a plan for reconciling it with the UK’s Climate Change Act[3]. More recently, the Government has lost case after case against ClientEarth for failure to uphold air quality law.

Even if the proposal survives the courts, when Heathrow submits its Development Consent Order, not expected until 2020, it will still need to convince the Planning Inspectorate that it has met the expectations of the NPS, and will require sign off from the Secretary of State at the time. And it will need to convince its investors that this project really is a safe bet. 

We’re still a long way from the Heathrow question being done and dusted.

—ENDS—

Contact: Tim Johnson tim@aef.org.uk // Cait Hewitt cait@aef.org.uk // 0203 859 9371 (Out of office hours 07710 381742)

Notes to editor:

[1] It will be for airlines to decide which routes they operate, and Heathrow’s estimates of new jobs outside London were based on an “innovative” economic model that makes a vast estimate of wider UK benefits linked to expansion and then converts that into new jobs.

[2] In addition, Government forecasts also show the number of domestic connections falling from 8 today to 5 by 2050 if Heathrow expands.

[3] http://wwf.panda.org/?191864/Heathrow-airport-expansion-in-tatters-as-judge-slams-3rd-runway-plans

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