Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - KATHER­INE CLE­MEN­TINE by kather­ine.cle­men­tine@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @KC_Journo

THE man be­hind a res­i­dents’ pro­third run­way cam­paign group has bagged a top job at Heathrow Air­port – in charge of en­gag­ing with the those who will lose their homes over the ex­pan­sion.

Rob Gray’s tran­si­tion from di­rec­tor at Back Heathrow, to di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity and stake­holder re­la­tions at Heathrow Air­port, has an­gered both lo­cal res­i­dents and op­po­si­tion groups.

Ac­cord­ing to the air­port, this new po­si­tion ‘recog­nises the im­por­tance to Heathrow of work­ing with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in de­liv­er­ing an ex­panded air­port’.

Cam­paign group Stop Heathrow Ex­pan­sion, and res­i­dents of the nearby vil­lages ear­marked for de­mo­li­tion, were left “dumb­founded” af­ter the an­nounce­ment on Tues­day April 25.

Back Heathrow has con­sis­tently dis­agreed with Stop Heathrow Ex­pan­sion, ar­gu­ing the air­port should be re­moved from the Hayes and Har­ling­ton con­stituency be­cause MP John McDon­nell op­poses ex­pan­sion, and dis­agree­ing with each other’s protests re­peat­edly over the years.

Chris­tine Tay­lor, whose home in Har­ling­ton will be se­verely im­pacted by a third run­way, said: “I can’t imag­ine a worse ap­point­ment than Rob Gray, who has spent the past four years work­ing hard to de­stroy our homes, our health and our liveli­hoods. I’m shocked.”

Un­der Mr Gray’s four-year lead­er­ship, Back Heathrow was the sub­ject of con­tro­versy when an ad­vert for theirs was banned for mak­ing false claims that the lo­cal com­mu­nity “sup­ports ex­pan­sion”.

Op­po­si­tion group Stop Heathrow Ex­pan­sion high­lighted how Mr Gray also over­saw a mis­man­age­ment, whereby peo­ple re­ply­ing to their cam­paign ma­te­ri­als were au­to­mat­i­cally reg­is­tered as sup­port­ers.

Rob Barn­stone, cam­paign co­or­di­na­tor for Stop Heathrow Ex­pan­sion, said: “Heathrow are tak­ing a back­ward step in com­mu­nity en­gage­ment with this ap­point­ment.

“Many peo­ple are scep­ti­cal enough about en­gag­ing with the com­mu­nity re­la­tions team al­ready.

“The fact that some­body who headed up such a con­tro­ver­sial and tainted com­pany, mas­querad­ing as a grass­roots res­i­dents group, is now to be deal­ing with the very peo­ple whose homes he has spent four years try­ing to de­stroy. “Is it April Fool’s Day again?” Heathrow Air­port claim it is com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing an air­port that is qui­eter and cleaner and con­tin­ues to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for its neigh­bours and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

In mak­ing the an­nounce­ment, the air­port boasts that “Rob brings first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence of the area from his time run­ning the com­mu­nity cam­paign group Back Heathrow”.

Mr Gray said: “I have al­ways been an ad­vo­cate of Heathrow be­cause of the huge op­por­tu­ni­ties it of­fers lo­cal res­i­dents. I also recog­nise lo­cal con­cerns and the need for Heathrow to de­liver on the com­mit­ments it has made to mit­i­gate the im­pacts of ex­pan­sion.

“Heathrow has demon­strated its will­ing­ness to lis­ten and change its plans based on feed­back.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to work­ing with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to en­sure our plans re­flect their views.”

Mr Gray will take up the new role this month, work­ing un­der ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for ex­pan­sion, Emma Gilthorpe.

Tak­ing over from Mr Gray will be Labour MP, Par­mjit Dhanda, who held a par­lia­men­tary seat in Glouces­ter from 2001 to 2010.

Mr Dhanda, who was born in Southall, went to school in Hayes and later served as a Hilling­don coun­cil­lor, said: “As some­one who knows the Heathrow patch very well, I am de­lighted to lead this vi­tal cam­paign.

“Ex­pand­ing Heathrow of­fers a golden op­por­tu­nity for many lo­cal peo­ple and for the coun­try, so we will make that case strongly.

“Yet ex­pan­sion can­not come at any cost, which means we need to be sen­si­tive to the needs of res­i­dents for qual­ity air, con­trolled noise and fair com­pen­sa­tion to those di­rectly af­fected.

“I know from ex­pe­ri­ence that there is a gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple who are proud of the pros­per­ity that Heathrow has brought to tens of thou­sands of lo­cal res­i­dents.”

Rob Gray

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