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Julian Bray aviation expert writes: A final decision on building a new runway at Londons' Heathrow Airport has now been put off until at least summer 2016 at the very earliest.
If it does go ahead (conveniently after the London Mayoral elections in May 2016), any decision will be held “subject to further consideration on environmental impacts and the best possible mitigation measures”, as it stands 'environmental measures' have been addressed say officials, but air pollution, air quality checks should have been completed and results formally lodged. Nothing so far has appeared.
Late last night, additional Security/ terrorist concerns about the Heathrow bid were being aired. A reliable source claimed that security chiefs were concerned at the high number of 'foreign' construction workers that would be involved, and living in a 'shanty town' of caravans on site. "This project is akin to building 20 Olympic parks, and uprooting several densely populated ethnic neighbourhoods. No one has really thought through, the huge security implications and the human cost of the Heathrow bid."
The transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said government would “continue work on all the shortlisted locations, so that the timetable for more capacity as set out by Sir Howard Davies is met”.
He continued: "The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come. We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon. We must develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people. At the first opportunity I will make a statement to the House to make clear our plans."
In reality, this is a major setback and the continued delays, which at face value seems to be pure party political dithering in nature, and likely to bring the government into acute conflict and before the Supreme Court over 'highly dangerous' pollution and toxicity levels. In addition any delay gives strength to the many anti Heathrow expansion lobby groups, who have already taken on the Government in the courts, and won. David Cameron did after all promise a firm decision by the end of this year, a promise unlikely to be kept.
It has also emerged that 'GATWICK is still an option,' The Transport Secretary speaking to ITN, claimed any delay would still see an airport expansion programme fully in place by 2030, in line with the timetable suggested by the Airport Commission. However the smart money seems to suggest Gatwick may get a go ahead but Heathrow plans deferred for several years at the least.
The full government statement is as follows:
The government will undertake a package of further work and we anticipate that it will conclude over the summer.
The government will do this quickly so that the timetable for delivering capacity set out by the Airports Commission can be met.
The Airports Commission published a large amount of very detailed analysis on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions for their 3 shortlisted schemes. The government faces a complex and challenging decision on delivering this capacity.
The Airports Commission’s air quality analysis will be tested using the latest projected future concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.
The next step is to continue to develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people and the environment. This will include a package for local communities to include compensation, maximising local economic opportunities through new jobs and apprenticeships, and measures to tackle noise.
More work will be done on environmental impacts. The government expects the airports to put forward ambitious solutions.
The mechanism for delivering planning consents for airport expansion will be an ‘Airports national policy statement’ (NPS), following which a scheme promoter would need to apply for a development consent order.
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said:
"The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come. We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon. We must develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people. We will continue work on all the shortlisted locations, so that the timetable for more capacity set out by Sir Howard is met. At the first opportunity I will make a statement to the House to make clear our plans."
Heathrow were quick off the mark with their response:
John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport said: “The Airports Commission, announced by the Prime Minister three years ago, made a unanimous and unambiguous recommendation in June for Heathrow expansion.”
“Our new plan will connect the whole nation to global growth while providing opportunities for the local community and making Heathrow the most environmentally responsible hub airport in the world. I am confident we can meet tough environmental standards.”
“We have support locally and nationally from politicians, business, trade unions and the aviation industry for Heathrow expansion. Let’s get on and build a better future for Britain.”
Gatwick countered a short time later:
Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate said: “This is a defining moment in the expansion debate. There is now a clear choice facing Britain: growth with Gatwick or inertia at Heathrow with an illegal scheme that has failed time and time again.
“We have always maintained that this decision is about balancing the economy and the environment. Expansion at Gatwick would give the country the economic benefit it needs at a dramatically lower environmental cost.
“We are glad that the Government recognises that more work on environmental impact needs to be done. Air quality, for example, is a public health priority and obviously the legal safeguards around it cannot be wished away.
“Even Heathrow’s most vocal supporters must now realise a third runway at Heathrow will never take off as the environmental hurdles are just too high. If they want Britain to have the benefits of expansion and competition they should now look to Gatwick. Expansion has been in a holding pattern for decades. Momentum is now behind Gatwick as it becomes ever clearer that it is the obvious solution. We will continue to work closely with Government to take forward our plan which is legal, affordable, and can actually deliver for Britain. Gatwick’s second runway will deliver the UK the same number of passengers, the same number of long haul routes, better UK and regional connections, and the economic boost the UK needs, all at a dramatically lower environmental impact, at less than half the cost of Heathrow, and with no public subsidy."
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Aviation Expert, Journalist, Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Expert, Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 (ALL CODECS) e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 iPhone 0743 530 3145 www.aviationcomment.com Contrib. Account #104764 53 FEED: http://feeds.feedburner.com/BraysDuckhouseBlog