Heathrow decision delay: reaction

The government yesterday announced that a final decision on the proposed expansion of Heathrow airport has been delayed by at least six months. Planning will be collating reaction to the news as it comes in.

Heathrow: fresh delay on expansion decision
Heathrow: fresh delay on expansion decision

Shadow housing and planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods said she was "very disappointed" by the announcement. She said: "It seems to me that the long-term infrastructure needs of the country are being stymied by decisions that are political. But in this particular instance it’s about the mayoral election in London. I think we have to come up with a much better system for delivering infrastructure that means that big important decisions can’t be delayed or derailed by individual elections like this. Theoretically, the Airports Commission should have made it much easier for a decision to be made because they came up with a clear recommendation, they came up with what needed to be done to have mitigation for the environmental consequences and also the community impacts of that recommendation. Then, really all that was necessary was for the government to agree the outcome of their own commission. I’m almost at a loss to know why they haven’t done that."

Cllr Carwyn Cox, cabinet member for environmental services, at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead said: "It is disappointing that the government has delayed making a decision as our residents have been waiting for a long time and are seeking clarity over the situation. That said, we understand that time needs to be taken in order to ensure the right outcome for both the areas affected and the country as a whole. We continue to believe that Gatwick has presented a stronger economic case and we are extremely concerned about the negative impact expansion at Heathrow would have on our residents. Environmentally, we believe that the Gatwick proposals would have less impact than those for expansion at Heathrow and have lobbied the government with our concerns, along with the 2M group of councils which are against Heathrow expansion. We hope the government looks closely at the environmental concerns that we feel are particularly valid. We will continue to call upon the government to choose plans for expansion at Gatwick Airport and we will continue to make the strongest case possible against the Heathrow expansion plans."

Infrastructure experts, including Angus Walker, partner at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, said that the government's announcement shows that it is unrealistic to expect independent expert panels can take the politics out of planning. More. 

Cllr Steve Curran, leader of Hounslow Council said: "Whilst we welcome more research into the impact of expanding Heathrow on the environment and the local infrastructure, we urge the government to complete any further studies and consultation and come to a final decision as quickly as possible. The uncertainty has gone on long enough and our residents and businesses want to know what is going to happen. We have a positive and productive relationship with Heathrow, which has resulted in many improvements for local people – both in terms of noise protection and employment opportunities. Whatever the outcome of this next stage, we hope this will continue."

Members of the 2M group - a cross-party local authority campaign group, which includes Richmond, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham and Hillingdon - said the delay  was "pointless as no amount of additional analysis can make this highly polluting scheme comply with environmental legislation." Lord True, Leader of Richmond Council and a 2M group spokesman, said: "The third runway should never have been called from the grave to which David Cameron wisely consigned it in 2010. Now David Cameron’s government should have the courage to drive a stake into its heart. It is wrong to limit the deferred decision to the narrow issue of air quality, troubling though that is, and impossible though Heathrow will find it to comply. Issues of noise, competition, economics, transport and security remain decisively stacked against Heathrow and should not be left out of the final reckoning."

Stephen Joseph, chief executive, Campaign for Better Transport said: "While the government is right to consider properly the impact of airport expansion on pollution and the environment, we are disappointed that it has accepted the case in principle for a new runway without looking at alternatives, including a frequent flyer levy that would avoid the need for expansion at all. The cost of sufficiently improving surface access to avoid unacceptable congestion and pollution would be so high as to make airport expansion unaffordable. If the government were truly serious about emissions and noise, it would abandon these plans for a new runway in the South East."

Nick Baveystock, director general at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) said: "Government commissioned a comprehensive review to establish the best expansion option for the UK, and this resulted in a clear recommendation. It is right that Heathrow responds to the Commission’s recommendation for a package of measures to address its environmental impacts, but this does not warrant a delay in government’s decision. What was needed was a bold, strategic decision on the country’s future hub capacity. Disappointingly we now face yet more delay and uncertainty."

Richard Robinson, chief executive, civil infrastructure, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa at consultancy AECOM said: "Business needed an unequivocal green light from government. Instead, after much dithering, delay and inaction, industry has been hit with yet another deferred decision, further numbing the pace of progress. Short-term political gain has taken precedence over what is right for the country. This is no way to plan critical infrastructure of national importance. Years of political procrastination have impeded many firms’ ability to plan for their future in the UK.

"The country is already lagging behind global rivals with nearly double our aviation capacity and far more nimble mechanisms for delivering new infrastructure. Further postponement could cripple the country’s competitiveness. The 2015 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey found that 50% of firms in London have been negatively impacted by the ongoing failure to tackle aviation capacity. Without the ability to better connect to growing economies, the UK’s own growth could be constrained for generations to come. Industry looks to government to end decades of decision paralysis over a new runway in the South East so that economic growth is not further stifled."

Anti-Heathrow expansion group HACAN said: "This delay shows once again just how difficult it will be to build a third runway at Heathrow. The last Labour government tried and failed. And now this government has run into real obstacles. Heathrow would require almost 1,000 homes to be demolished and part of the M25 to be moved and put in a tunnel. It would mean a quarter of a million more planes flying over the city with the biggest aircraft noise problem in Europe and could cause air pollution to exceed the EU legal limits. Many of these problems won’t go away however long the final decision is delayed. The government should face up to the reality that a third runway is unlikely ever to see the light of day. Although there are party political reasons for this delay, these should not obscure the fact that the real problem with a third runway is its impact on the area London and its people."

Matthew Samuel-Camps, partner and chief executive officer at Vail Williams, said: "The government needs to stop procrastinating and make a decision. This uncertainty is making it almost impossible for businesses at both Heathrow and Gatwick to plan ahead. Whichever location is eventually chosen to expand, for many companies it will come as a relief simply because at long last they will be able to start planning for the future with more confidence. This dithering leaves a huge variety of issues in the air, including business rates, infrastructure developments, property and land values, and of course the matter of where there will be forced relocations. Our expert teams from both regions know of deals worth millions of pounds which have stalled while waiting for a judgement. This may get even worse as investors and companies despair at a decision ever being made. It’s such a frustrating situation because the opportunities that would finally be unlocked are huge – whatever the result. This is an important decision but this delay now runs the risk of harming businesses. It must be settled soon."

Christine Taylor, committee member at campaign group Stop Heathrow Expansion, said: "We are not surprised that the government has delayed making a decision. The fact that Gatwick has not been ruled out indicates that they know they cannot meet pollution targets at Heathrow. We are confident that a third runway will never be built but it is devastating for many residents that we have more months of delay and blight."

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