City air­port plea be­fore MPs back Heathrow ex­pan­sion

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Jonathan Walker Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

AMAJORITY of MPs have voted to back con­tro­ver­sial plans for a third run­way at Heathrow Air­port, but West Mid­lands MPs were split on the pro­pos­als.

Birm­ing­ham Air­port warned be­fore the vote that its busi­ness might suf­fer if Heathrow ex­pan­sion went ahead.

And a group of coun­cils and cam­paign­ers against the plans are prepar­ing to take the Gov­ern­ment to court to block the move.

A ju­di­cial re­view against the de­ci­sion is be­ing launched by four London lo­cal au­thor­i­ties af­fected by the ex­pan­sion – Wandsworth, Rich­mond, Hilling­don and Ham­mer­smith and Ful­ham – in part­ner­ship with Green­peace and mayor Sadiq Khan.

The Gov­ern­ment’s mo­tion back­ing a third run­way at Heathrow was ap­proved by 415 votes to 119, a ma­jor­ity of 296 on Mon­day evening. It means that the air­port will find it much eas­ier to gain plan­ning per­mis­sion for the project, and although there are likely to be le­gal bat­tles, the third run­way is now al­most cer­tain to go ahead.

But be­fore the vote, Birm­ing­ham Air­port is­sued a state­ment urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to help it grow by im­prov­ing trans­port links in the West Mid­lands re­gion, rather than “fo­cus­ing nar­rowly on con­nec­tiv­ity to Heathrow”.

Birm­ing­ham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne said that in­stead of build­ing a third run­way at Heathrow, the Gov­ern­ment should in­stead en­sure Birm­ing­ham Air­port was di­rectly con­nected to Heathrow via the HS2 high speed rail line.

He said Birm­ing­ham Air­port was ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing more pas­sen­gers with­out need­ing to build a new run­way, so it was more sen­si­ble to make use of the spare ca­pac­ity here than to ex­pand Heathrow in London.

Mr Byrne said: “Birm­ing­ham Air­port could take 17 mil­lion ex­tra flights now on the ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture, and that ca­pac­ity could be un­locked... should we not look again at us­ing high-speed rail to un­lock ca­pac­ity we al­ready have rather than bring for­ward a pro­posal that will drain 43,000 flights from our air­port?”

An hour be­fore MPs voted, en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists staged a lie-in just

Birm­ing­ham Air­port could take 17 mil­lion ex­tra flights now on the ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture MP Liam Byrne

me­tres away cham­ber.

Po­lice locked down the Cen­tral Lobby area af­ter the 12 pro­test­ers, who de­scribed them­selves as from a “pop-up” Vote No Heathrow cam­paign, sprawled across the floor while chant­ing.

The plans have been met by pock­ets of strong op­po­si­tion within both Labour and the Con­ser­va­tives.

Former North­ern Ire­land Sec­re­tary Theresa Vil­liers was one of eight Con­ser­va­tive MPs to rebel against the Gov­ern­ment, as well as Greg Hands, who quit as a min­is­ter ahead of the vote so he could op­pose the plans. from the Com­mons

Boris John­son, a long-time op­po­nent of ex­pan­sion, missed the vote as he was in Afghanistan.

The For­eign Sec­re­tary, who could have been forced to quit the Gov­ern­ment if he had voted against the Gov­ern­ment, was mocked for fail­ing to ap­pear with MPs shout­ing “where’s Boris?”.

Labour is of­fi­cially op­posed to the move but al­lowed a free vote on the mea­sure.

Some se­nior Labour MPs, in­clud­ing Chief Whip Nick Brown, went against the of­fi­cial line and voted in favour of Heathrow ex­pan­sion. The plans will cre­ate 114,000 ex­tra jobs in the area around the air­port by 2030, with an ex­tra 16 mil­lion long-haul seats by 2040, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials.

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