Taking the fight against Heathrow Expansion to the seaside

Today saw the TUC bring their conference to Brighton where senior Trade Union officials and their members meet to discuss policy matters and campaigns ahead.

With the Trade Unions split on whether to oppose or support a Third Runway at Heathrow, my friends at Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE) decided to run a coach full of campaigners from Harmondsworth to the seaside to put their side of the story and convince the Unions that opposition is the best course of action.

Leaving the Village at 9.30am, we arrived in a wet and windswept Brighton just before 11 and formed up outside the conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were joined shortly for a briefing on the latest developments by Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell, who posed with the team from SHE for photos afterwards (Below)

 

With the wind whipping up, the two of us holding the long banner were struggling to hang on to it – after John McDonnell commented on the weather, I joked that we were about to get some impromptu kite surfing in at this rate. His response was to quip, ‘ what’s that, the UKIP air force?’ – he obviously hasn’t heard the news! Whilst it was strange to be joking with a man who I have locked horns with politically for many years (Some of it quite unpleasant), it shows the strength of feeling against the runway that such diametrically opposed characters can come together and work alongside people of all backgrounds and political views on a subject that transcends politics and affects so many.

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Davies Commission recommends Heathrow Expansion

UKIP Hillingdon Press Release – 1st July 2015

 aeroplane

For immediate release

 

Davies Commission recommends Heathrow Expansion

 

The long awaited Davies Commission report in to aviation in the South East has been released this morning and recommends expansion at Heathrow.

UKIP Hillingdon reject the need to build an additional runway at Heathrow based on a flawed business case which is all about the profits of big overseas investors and not the needs of the UK economy and local people.

 

CD leaflet image jpegCommenting on the news, Hillingdon Chairman and spokesman for Hayes & Harlington Cliff Dixon said, “The figures show that both business and ‘hub’ flight numbers are in decline as new aircraft enable longer distance point to point flights with the trend moving from business to leisure travel.

The case for one ‘super airport’ when we already have excess capacity in the South East at Stansted, Southend and Luton and a runway that can be re-activated at Manston for larger aircraft is unproven. Indeed, the old BAA was broken up to stop one company having a monopoly on air travel around the capital yet expanding Heathrow will effectively reinforce the dominance of one site.

New York is a similar city to London and operates with multiple airports yet the Davies Commission was instructed to look at a single airport expansion only rather than consider upgrades across the South East that would put less strain on surface infrastructure and the communities that have to live around an expanded Heathrow”

Bryan sensibleUKIP Heathrow Villages spokesman Bryan Tomlinson stated, “Our community in the Villages has suffered blight, noise and pollution from Heathrow with the two runways, adding a third will make our environment impossible to live in.

Air pollution is already double the maximum safe limits – On a bad day it can be up to nine times that limit with many people suffering adverse health conditions because of the aircraft emissions and the increased traffic levels that the airport brings.

To add a third runway to benefit the pockets of rich overseas investors at the expense of our historic local area is unacceptable”

 

Press release ends….

 

Heathrow Villages – History on your doorstep

With the sun shining brightly this morning, I decided to show my wife around some of the landmarks in Heathrow Villages

With the ongoing fight against the new runway and the rubbish and pothole issues that are frequently highlighted by our representatives in The Villages, it is good to highlight some of the positive aspects of life in the area and to take some time to look around the sites of historic interest that Heathrow Expansion would blight

The Great Barn, Harmondsworth

Great Barn internal shotReferred to as ‘The Cathedral of Middlesex’, the Barn was constructed in the 16th century and was still a working building up until the late 1970’s.

Restored by English Heritage in conjunction with The Friends of the Great Barn, it was re-opened to the public in April and can now be viewed on the second and fourth Sunday of each month between April and October.

Situated behind the historic St Mary’s Church, my wife and I were treated to a tour by local expert Justine Bayley, who pointed out a number of facts about both the building and it’s reconstruction that highlighted the level of craftsmanship that has enabled the structure to survive for centuries with hopefully many more to come.

For more details on The Barn please visit http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/harmondsworth-barn/

The next days available to view are 14th and 28th June

 

 

The Barnes Wallis memorial

Barnes Wallis memorial

Just around the corner from The Great Barn is the relatively recent memorial to the famous inventor Barnes Wallis, who developed the revolutionary ‘bouncing bomb’ that RAF Lancasters of 617 squadron used to destroy the Ruhr dams in 1943. The leader of the raid, Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, was one of my boyhood heroes so it was good to see the architect of the raid remembered in this way. Barnes Wallis had previously designed the Wellington bomber, the mainstay of RAF Bomber Command in the early years of World War 2 and went on to play a key role in the development of the Tallboy and Grand Slam weapons that were used to sink the battleship Tirpitz and wreck well fortified underground weapons factories in Germany respectively.

The immaculate state of the memorial is a tribute to local resident Armelle Thomas, who was instrumental in its construction and spends time making sure it is always well kept.

Cranford Park

Cranford Country park sign

Cranford Park is a haven for wildlife and one of the prettiest walks in Hillingdon. Amongst the numerous plant and insect life, the park is also home to such birds as the Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Nuthatch along with birds of prey such as the Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

We kept to the pathways whilst visiting in order to not disturb the nests of the Skylarks, which they build on the ground and are very busy at this time of year.

A number of them were noticeable in the air with their distinctive calls, drowned out only by the noise of the Greater Airbus and Boeing that were in evidence on the flightpath in to Heathrow on a regular basis!

Heathrow Villages have been local communities for centuries, with settlements at the ground where the park now sits dating back to The Bronze Age. Seeing the beauty and the history today makes me more convinced than ever that a Third Runway at Heathrow must be stopped to preserve the area for many generations yet to come.

 

Communities unite to fight the Third Runway

hacanrallyLast night saw a coming together of politicians of all parties, Trade unionists and environmental campaigners at Church House Conference Centre in Westminster for the Rally against the Runway, organised by independent campaign group HACAN Clearskies. (As previously reported on our site by Heathrow Villages ward representative, Bryan Tomlinson)

Chaired by HACAN’s John Stewart, this was a community reply to the significant financial muscle of Heathrow Airport Ltd and their ‘astroturfing’* propaganda arm, Back Heathrow, who have spent millions plastering adverts over newspapers, the internet and just about any billboard in London they can find. Go on any tube train currently and you will see those ad’s, usually with a modified Union flag, telling you how the country needs this expansion – Ironic when none of the investors in the airport are actually British!

 

It was a rare showing of political unity but totally justified when out of 27 surrounding boroughs, only 2 actually support expansion (Hang your heads in shame Spelthorne and Slough!)

Many valid points were raised by the speakers – Destruction of housing, pollution, noise, the lack of infrastructure to support additional traffic around the airport, the flawed business case and the madness of allowing an increase in numbers of aircraft flying across the densely populated urban sprawl of London to name just a few.

3rd runway John RandallThere were veterans of the previous campaign – Outgoing Uxbridge Conservative MP John Randall (Left) was third up to the podium, with the final speaker being Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell – He repeated his call from the recent public meeting that ‘you can’t trust any of the politicians from any of the party’s on this ‘, no doubt mindful that despite his own stated aim to stop the Runway that neither his own Labour party or The Conservatives will say where they stand on expansion before the election, preferring to wait on the recommendations of The Davies Commission that has been postponed until after May 7th.

 

Former Conservative transport minister, Steven Norris (Below),  spoke of the calls in the seventies to make urban freeways on flyovers through London, and that at the time the prevailing wisdom that we needed to be ‘more like Detroit’ in order to get cars around London is similar to the flawed case being put forward that we need more aircraft capacity at Heathrow to deal with increased ‘hub’ traffic.

3rd runway Steven Norris

Headline speaker Vince Cable MP (below left), the current secretary of state for Business, Innovation and Skills, spoke of the flawed projections of ‘hub’ passenger numbers that are being put forward, arguing that the biggest hub of the future will be in Dubai and that Heathrow’s best option for growth is to embrace the switch to more short haul traffic and direct flights to long haul destinations.

3rd runway Vince Cable3rd runway Adam Afriyie

MP’s Zac Goldsmith and Adam Afriyie spoke of their determination to beat the runway, with Mr Afriyie (Right) speaking of his childhood in South London teaching him how to fight and if the airport wanted a fight he would give it to them.

Andy Atkins of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace’s John Sauven gave the environmental viewpoint, talking of pollution and the effects on climate, whilst Chris Baugh of the PCS Union  dispelled the notion that the Trade Union movement are solidly behind expansion despite what the airport would have you believe (Manuel Cortes of the TSSA was also scheduled to speak, but was called away on urgent business before he could do so)

Further speeches were also heard from Lib-Dem GLA leader Caroline Pidgeon, Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia and MP’s Mary Macleod and Andy Slaughter.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett also spoke after waiting patiently just before John McDonnell’s closing speech and seemed to be getting over the cold that had hampered her TV performances in the previous week (Below)

3rd Runway Natalie Bennett

UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour MEP was due to attend the event, but due to unforeseen circumstances was unable to show up on the night – With trepidation, I stepped in to represent UKIP and my speech can be viewed below –

 

Cliff Dixon speech to Rally against the Runway

I’m sorry that Jill Seymour MEP, UKIP’s National Transport spokesperson, is unable to be here tonight but as UKIP’s candidate in the constituency that includes the airport and a Hillingdon borough resident I hope I can speak from the heart and tell you why UKIP is firmly against another runway at Heathrow.

With a life long interest in aircraft, I can see the idea of a third runway for what it is – Not an essential requirement for the UK economy, but a cash cow for the investors in Heathrow Airport to swell the coffers of their bank accounts.

cliffdixonrostrumThey care not for our local communities affected by noise and pollution on the flightpaths in to the airport – Indeed, Akbar Al-Baker of Qatar Holdings, a major stakeholder in the airport, has been quoted in the national press as saying that locals enjoyed ‘excessive freedom’ and ‘made too much fuss’ about noise, which they would ‘soon get used to’.

It may be fun to visit an airshow for a day, but it’s not much fun for Heathrow Villagers who see aircraft flying over their houses every couple of minutes – Some of whom have been in those houses for generations before the expansion of Heathrow in to the airport that is has become today. People I have been fortunate to meet and class as friends who stand to lose those homes if expansion goes ahead and will see a community they have been a part of torn asunder.

This is to say nothing of the pollution that increased aircraft activity will bring. My mother was a Hillingdon resident who suffered with breathing problems which have now mysteriously disappeared since moving out of the area . How many of our children in Cranford, Sipson, Harlington and Harmondsworth are suffering similarly today?

We hear from Heathrow Airport Ltd that newer aircraft are less noisy and less polluting. That might be so, but if there are more of them then those benefits will be negated by sheer numbers.

I have stood close to an Airbus A380 at Farnborough Airshow and it is indeed an improvement noise wise on take off, but that same almost empty plane sounds somewhat different with a full load taking off from a runway at Heathrow – Those here from Harlington will know what I mean.

They also neglect to mention that their proposed steeper glide paths to offset noise in the outer boroughs will require faster deceleration on final approach, meaning more ‘reverse thrust’ and increased airframe sound – You can only do so much because of the sheer physics of aircraft design and those closest to the airport, our community in Hillingdon, are likely to see increased disruption from these measures.

3rd runway audience

So, what can be done?

Heathrow is a major employer in the area and has been here for many years. It has become a part of our daily lives.

However, it can be a better neighbour to us all by engaging with the local community over improved noise mitigation.

Heathrow can improve operations by looking at the flights that operate out of it – For a ‘hub’ airport, there are a disproportionate amount of short haul point to point flights versus long haul.

There also needs to be a radical rethink of the ‘grandfather rights’ that allow airlines that have traditionally had landing and take off slots to use under occupied or empty flights to block out new routes from coming to the airport and making better use of the existing runways. By doing this, it will preserve and create jobs that Back Heathrow have been scaremongering will be lost whilst improving relations with those of us who live daily in its shadow.

Whatever people’s view on whether we actually need to increase aviation capacity in the South East of England, there is no convincing argument for building a third, and possibly fourth, runway at  Heathrow particularly when weighed up against all the arguments against it.

lies

If we do indeed need to increase aviation capacity in the South East of England then we need to be smarter in our use of the existing airports in concert with Heathrow. In London, we have 7 runways spread around 6 airports. We also have an unused large runway at Manston in Kent that can be re-opened if necessary and would not require the decimation of housing nor bring the noise and pollution issues we would see at Heathrow.

Finally, improving our communications networks should be a priority and would do away with the need for some of the business flights.

I stand here tonight alongside our community and members of all political parties and none who oppose a Third Runway at Heathrow.

Whilst this is a non-politically aligned event, it will ultimately be politicians who make the final decision on whether the runway gets built.

I can relay a message from Jill Seymour MEP, that UKIP stand with you in opposing the Third Runway at both a national and local level.

Make sure that those who seek your mandate at the General Election can say the same with their national party’s support and hold them to account at the ballot box.

The future of our local communities depend on it.

Thank you very much

Last night’s event showed that local communities and those who represent them will not be bullied in to an expansion plan that benefits the corporate interest of the Airport at the expense of  our area. The Third Runway has been beaten before – Through unity, it will be beaten again.

* ‘Astroturfing’ is a term for a fake grass roots campaign propped up by vested interests

 

 

 

 

Labour MP slams his own party as opposition to 3rd Runway grows

Last week saw the culmination of the Airports Commission Consultation in to expansion at Heathrow Airport and with it increased activity from those who oppose construction of the Third Runway.

Airbus A380 on ground Farnborough 2014

The Commission is currently looking at three options to increase aviation capacity in the south of England – A new Northern Runway at Heathrow, an extension to one of the existing runways at Heathrow to enable it to operate as two, or a second runway at Gatwick.

With the deadline for submissions to the Commission being 3rd February, Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell called a public meeting in Sipson on the evening of 29th January to lay out what the proposals on the table were and how to respond to the consultation.

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The Airports Commission Comes to Town

 

heathrows300_s960_aircraftI was fortunate enough to get a ticket to the Airports Commission roadshow a couple of weeks ago, where local people listened to the arguments for and against Heathrow Expansion and were allowed to ask questions from the floor, hosted by Sir Howard Davies.

The day was broken in to 4 sessions, with MP’s up first, Community groups speaking late morning, Local Authority Leaders just after lunch and Business representatives on last in the afternoon.

 

 

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Airports Commission sets out it’s interim report

Howard Davies has given his interim report in to airport expansion in the south of England, with two Heathrow and one Gatwick proposal on the table.

Here is an overview of the proposals put together by John Stewart of HACAN Clearskies which gives a snapshot of the findings for those who have an interest in Heathrow Expansion

Airbus A380 in flight

 

Airports Commission Consultation

 

The Commission argues that one new runway is required in London and the South East by 2030 to cater for demand and enable the economy to remain competitive. It accepts that a runway at any of the three options would do the job.

 

Davies says that hubs are important but says that does not imply he is arguing, at this stage, that only a bigger hub at Heathrow is required. He leaves open the question of whether a two-hub system could be equally as effective.

 

He repeats his earlier view that, because the demand will be from the South East, expanding airports in the regions instead of a new runway in the SE is not an option. Future demand projections suggest he is correct.

 

He also repeats his view that one new runway can be built without breaching the UK’s CO2 (climate change targets). Again, the figures support his assertion. It would, though, as organizations like the Aviation Environment Federation have pointed out, curtail the ability of other airports to expand.

 

Davies acknowledges that he has not factored the cost of carbon into his calculations at this stage. It appears he intends to do so. That might well reduce the net economic benefit of a new runway.

 

He assesses each of the airports against key criteria

 

  1. Benefits to the wider economy

 

Heathrow Third Runway: £112bn – £211bn

 

Heathrow Hub: £101bn – £214bn

 

Gatwick: £42bn – £127bn

 

Comment: Although the economic benefits of Gatwick are lower, they are still substantial. Gatwick can no longer be regarded as a ‘bucket and spade’ airport. Davies has, in effect, ‘mainstreamed’ it. A second runway at Gatwick could deliver substantial benefits to the UK economy.

 

  1. Jobs

The Commission has produced out a very wide rage of estimates for each airport. For example, it says a 3rd runway at Heathrow could create anything from 47,000 – 112,000 jobs by 2050 (a lower number than the 120,000 Heathrow has claimed). Davies says Gatwick could create as many as 63,000 and Heathrow Hub up to 92,000.

 

Comment:   Given the hugely different range of estimates about the number of jobs that would be created, Davies needs to do more work on this and we need to take Heathrow’s claims about job creation with a pinch of salt until further work has been done.

 

Heathrow terminal 5

 

  1. Cost of the new Runway

Davies estimates a 2nd runway at Gatwick would cost £9.3bn (the promoter, £7.4bn). Davies puts the cost of a 3rd runway at Heathrow at £18.6bn (Heathrow, £14.8bn); Davies puts the cost of the Heathrow Hub £13.5bn (the promoter (£10.1bn). Of course, all these costs would be paid by the airports themselves, probably requiring higher landing charges.

 

  1. Public Cost

The cost of the associated works to the public purse would be £6.3bn for Heathrow Hub; £5.7 bn for Heathrow; and £787,000 for Gatwick. The Heathrow options are high because both would involve extensive work to the surrounding motorway networking including tunneling part of the M25.

 

Comment: Is the public really going to accept the taxpayer forking out over £5bn to facilitate a new runway at Heathrow?

  1. Noise

 

For the Heathrow Hub option, Davies says there will be a ‘significant increase in the number of people affected by noise’ – as many as 900,000 within the 55Lden contour (the metric used by the EU) as compared to 760,000 today. Davies does, though, say that there is the possibility the 900,000 could be cut if different flight paths were used.

 

For the Heathrow Third Runway Option, Davies says that the numbers affected would fall from 760,000 to just under 600,000 if no new runway were to be built. He is taking on board some of Heathrow’s arguments about the impact of quieter planes, steeper descents and more respite. If a third runway was built the numbers affected would be just under 700,000.

 

For Gatwick, the numbers would rise from 10,000 today to around 35,000

 

Comment: Noise is the area where Gatwick wins hands down

 

  1. Air Pollution

Davis argues that either of the Heathrow options will have a real problem of staying within the EU legal limits. It all depends what sort of measures can be taken to deal with motorways and roads in the area but Davies says there could be a ‘significant’ risk the EU targets will not be met. At Gatwick, he says, there is a ‘potential’ risk but lower than at Heathrow.

 

  1. Homes

Heathrow would require 783 properties to go); Heathrow Hub, 242 homes; Gatwick 186

 

Comment: Most people in the immediate Heathrow area would argue that more than 8783 properties would need to go to make way for a third runway. 783 would leave a lot of people unrealistically close to a new runway.

 

Airbus A380 on ground Farnborough 2014

 

  1. The influx of workers

Either of the Heathrow options could require as many as 70,000 extra homes which Davies believes may be ‘challenging’ for the local authorities. He doesn’t, though, buy the idea that the Sussex countryside will be flooded by new homes if a second runway is built at Gatwick. It is worth quoting him in some detail here: “[There]could be between zero and 18,400 [homes] (dependant on the scenario). This housing would typically be provided in a phased manner and across the entire assessment area, and therefore the demands on any individual local authority are likely to be relatively small. For example, if we assume these properties are provided over a 10 year period (2020-2030) and split evenly across the 14 local authorities, then the additional housing need for each LA would be only 130 houses per year at the highest end of the range. There are also many reasons the additional housing required is unlikely to be as high as these figures, depending on assumptions about population growth, net migration, unemployment and commuting”

 

Comment: Boroughs such as Croydon support a second runway at Gatwick because they believe that a lot of their residents will commute to the new jobs on offer. Davies would seem to back this view.

 

  1. Surface Access

He’s surprisingly relaxed about surface access at both airports as he argues the public transport schemes, plus some road widenings, should do the trick.

 

 Miscellaneous

 

Davies acknowledges there are concerns about flooding around Heathrow. He says it could be ‘problematic’.

 

He argues that the deliverability risks of Gatwick are low and that the opening date of 2025 is ‘achievable’

John Stewart

 

3rd runway consultation CD

 

After reading John’s paper, a few problems spring instantly to mind

 

The flaws in Davies’ proposals

 

1 – The Single Hub – Davies does not answer the lynchpin of Heathrow’s argument that a single hub is needed to be competitive. Indeed, he pointedly does not answer whether a two hub system could work just as well.

New York is a similar city to London, and runs with two international hub airports (JFK and Newark). In Australia, they are building a second airport to service Sydney rather than expanding the current one.

The argument that Schiphol in Holland, Charles De Gaulle in France and Frankfurt in Germany have a single, large hub airport misses the fact that London already has additional airports servicing the capital at Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Southend, rather than just one super site. With the density of London’s population and the difficulty traversing the capital because of it, it could be argued that having a series of airports that passengers can approach the city from in different directions  takes some of the strain off of the road and rail infrastructure. Also, from that viewpoint, if Heathrow is a hub airport where long haul passengers just change for domestic and European flights, it would not matter where it is situated – Indeed, I have already taken up with representatives of Heathrow Airport Ltd that they accommodate too many short haul flights for a supposed hub airport and are taking up valuable long distance slots with smaller aircraft.

2 – Jobs and increased financial benefit – The amount of jobs and economic benefits of a third runway are unproven and may not bear up to scrutiny.

A report published in September 2011 by Optimal Economics Found that Heathrow delivered 114,000 jobs locally with a benefit to the economy of £5.3 billion. If we expand that to London, we are looking at 137,000 jobs and £7 billion, whilst UK wide they estimate 206.000 jobs and £9.7 billion.

 

With those figures in mind, how can an additional runway generate such an exponential increase in both jobs and profits as claimed by Third Runway supporters?

A380 take off rear view

3 – Public cost and housing – With the government driving cuts to balance the books, where is the money for additional infrastructure coming from? The M25 and surrounding motorways creak with the pressure at the moment, despite some parts of the orbital route having 5 lanes for traffic. In Hillingdon, we have massive issues surrounding housing and the projected figures for additional need would break an already dysfunctional social housing system as well as piling pressure on to take more of the green belt – Land that needs to be our natural lung to take the sting out of the pollution being put in to the air by ever increasing air and road traffic.

 

4 – Noise – The claim that there would be more respite periods is out of the hands of the airport, and in the hands of the prevailing winds. If you view the HACAN Facebook page, you will see many people posting about increased traffic over their houses caused by the airport having to switch approaches based on which way the wind blows, which is a fundamental of how an aircraft’s lift system works. Many reports have come in from people previously unaffected by aircraft noise about how they are now affected based on recent trials for new flightpaths, and the National Air Traffic Service cannot say where the aircraft will go and how the noise will be distributed until they have solid proposals of which expansion programme will be put in to practice.

 

The new ‘quieter aircraft’ line is also misleading – I have stood within a few hundred yards of an A380 taking off at Farnborough during the airshow, and it is indeed a lot quieter than a 747 – However, the display aircraft is not loaded down with passengers and baggage, which requires more thrust for takeoff as can be heard if you stand next to an A380 on a departure runway at Heathrow. They are quieter, but there is still a lot of noise and there will be more of them with a 3rd runway

 

5- Influx of workers – Davies claims this would be ‘staged’, but the reality is that a new runway opening would need additional support and service workers immediately and would drive a huge spike at opening. That would put additional pressure on local housing and services in a short space of time at opening.

 

6 – Surface access – The M25 around the airport is at 5 lanes and can’t cope at peak, likewise the M4. Rail services are expensive and currently packed out at certain times of the day. Road widening hasn’t worked with a 2 runway airport and Heathrow Villages are overrun with off airport parking because of the prices that Heathrow Airport Ltd currently charge. Davies needs to see the situation on the ground before glossing over it so lightly.