The bat­tle of Heathrow

The Week - - News | Potics -

“In the an­nals of gov­ern­ment pro­cras­ti­na­tion, a spe­cial place is re­served for the saga of Lon­don’s air­port ex­pan­sion,” said Philip John­ston in The Daily Tele­graph. It is al­most 50 years since the idea of build­ing a third run­way at Heathrow was first se­ri­ously pro­posed. For as long as I can re­mem­ber, politi­cians – from Ted Heath to David Cameron – have “hummed and hawed around the Lon­don air­port ques­tion be­fore do­ing noth­ing at all”. But now, ac­cord­ing to Trans­port Sec­re­tary Chris Grayling, the end is in sight. The Cab­i­net has for­mally backed the plan to build a new run­way at Heathrow north­west of the ex­ist­ing two, in­creas­ing take-offs and land­ings from 480,000 per year to around 740,000. There will be a Commons vote, with a gov­ern­ment three-line whip, in the next month. Grayling de­clared it a “his­toric mo­ment”, and – stretch­ing credulity – claimed that the run­way could be com­pleted by 2026. About time too, said the Lon­don Evening Stan­dard. Heathrow is al­ready run­ning at full ca­pac­ity. And the case for ex­pand­ing it was made “over­whelm­ingly” by the Air­ports Com­mis­sion in 2015. Aviation is grow­ing rapidly. Bri­tain – par­tic­u­larly af­ter Brexit – needs to have bet­ter long-haul con­nec­tions to new ex­port mar­kets in “fast-emerg­ing Asia”. The al­ter­na­tives are much less con­vinc­ing: a new Thames Es­tu­ary air­port would be “un­fea­si­bly ex­pen­sive”; an ex­panded Gatwick would not be able to of­fer the same range of des­ti­na­tions. Many peo­ple, of course, will be ad­versely af­fected. But “hard as it is, Par­lia­ment must put the in­ter­ests of the many ahead of the ob­jec­tions of the few”. On the con­trary, the third run­way is a “ter­ri­ble idea”, said Chris Deerin in The Times. It will have “grave en­vi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences”. Heathrow is set to be­come the UK’S big­gest emit­ter of CO2. “Noise pol­lu­tion will in­crease” as new flight paths open up over Lon­don. The vil­lage of Long­ford will be razed, along with parts of Har­mondsworth and Sip­son. And while the pro­posal to ex­pand Gatwick would have been fully pri­vately funded, this plan is likely to cost tax­pay­ers bil­lions.

The run­way will cause “a de­gree of po­lit­i­cal em­bar­rass­ment” to Theresa May, said Stephen Bush in the New States­man. The plan will be “ag­gres­sively crit­i­cised” by Lon­don’s Tory MPS; Boris John­son, who promised to “lie down in front of the bull­doz­ers” at Heathrow, will re­port­edly be abroad on For­eign Of­fice busi­ness when the Commons votes. But ul­ti­mately, it’s a done deal. Labour is di­vided: its en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are op­posed, but the unions are in favour. The clincher is that the SNP has come out in sup­port (in re­turn for var­i­ous sweet­en­ers for Scot­land). Even so, “rather a lot is still up in the air”, said Alis­tair Os­borne in The Times – “such as ev­ery cru­cial de­tail”, in­clud­ing the price, the po­si­tion of the new flight paths and how the run­way will bridge the M25. There will, of course, be end­less le­gal chal­lenges ahead. “It’s a bit early for all that ‘his­toric mo­ment’ talk.”

Long­ford: set to be razed

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.