Pro-ex­pan­sion group snubs funds re­quest

Back Heathrow said ‘it would not be fair to re­veal amount’

Uxbridge Gazette - - NEWS - By Alexan­der Ballinger alexan­der.ballinger@trin­i­tymir­

THE pro-third run­way cam­paign group Back Heathrow has re­fused to re­veal how much money it re­ceives from Heathrow Air­port af­ter it pub­lished fig­ures show­ing Hilling­don Coun­cil had spent £150,000 on its cam­paign since 2015.

Back Heathrow re­leased fig­ures in De­cem­ber which re­vealed Hilling­don Coun­cil had spent £154,219 on cam­paign­ing against the air­port’s ex­pan­sion be­tween Jan­uary 2015 and Au­gust 2016.

The money spent by the coun­cil in­cluded £50,000 to fund anti-ex­pan­sion group HACAN (Heathrow As­so­ci­a­tion for the Con­trol of Air­craft Noise) and £45,800 for Stop Heathrow Ex­pan­sion.

Back Heathrow slammed the coun­cil for us­ing tax­pay­ers’ money but has now de­clined to re­veal how much money it re­ceived from the air­port.

A spokesman for Back Heathrow said: “We are very grate­ful for the sup­port we have re­ceived from Heathrow and also from in­di­vid­ual res­i­dents and lo­cal busi­nesses.

“It would not be fair to pub­lish the amounts given by those who have cho­sen to help our cam­paign since our launch in 2013.”

The Hilling­don Coun­cil fig­ures, ob­tained by Back Heathrow us­ing a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest, also showed that the coun­cil spent £602,860 on lob­by­ing against Heathrow ex­pan­sion be­tween Jan­uary and De­cem­ber 2014.

Hilling­don Coun­cil has launched ac­tion to be­gin the ju­di­cial re­view pro­ce­dure in an at­tempt to over­turn the gov­ern­ment’s back­ing of the Heathrow ex­pan­sion, which was re­vealed in Oc­to­ber 2016.

Back Heathrow has once again crit­i­cised Hilling­don Coun­cil for its use of the pub­lic’s money, and says it has not spent tax­pay­ers’ money it­self.

A spokesman from the group said: “Un­like Hilling­don Coun­cil and its un­nec­es­sary le­gal chal­lenge against Heathrow, we have not spent a sin­gle penny of tax­pay­ers’ money and our fund­ing has only come from peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions that share our aims.

“Thou­sands of 2007 lo­cal res­i­dents have had no choice but to fi­nance the coun­cil’s ab­surdly ex­pen­sive anti-ex­pan­sion cam­paign, even if they dis­agree with it.”

Heathrow Air­port has de­clined to re­veal how much money it con­trib­utes to Back Heathrow.

Back Heathrow was ini­tially launched through fund­ing from the air­port but says it now has more than 100,000 sup­port­ers.

Cam­paign group Stop Heathrow Ex­pan­sion has now crit­i­cised Back Heathrow for fail­ing to make its fund­ing pub­lic.

Co­or­di­na­tor for Stop Heathrow Ex­pan­sion, Robert Barn­stone said: “Back Heathrow is an as­tro­turf or­gan­i­sa­tion – pre­tend­ing to be a grass­roots cam­paign group when, in fact, it is bankrolled by Heathrow Air­port’s cof­fers.

“Given Heathrow Air­port are em­bark­ing on a PR charm of­fen­sive with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and politi­cians alike, why wouldn’t they want to be as open and hon­est as pos­si­ble with the amount of money they’re spend­ing?

“What have they got to hide?”

Hilling­don Coun­cil has de­fended its cam­paign­ing, say­ing it is rep­re­sent­ing the views of res­i­dents.

A state­ment from the coun­cil said: “Hilling­don res­i­dents have re­peat­edly voiced their op­po­si­tion to any ex­pan­sion at Heathrow, and our job is to rep­re­sent their views and chal­lenge this de­ci­sion by the gov­ern­ment to back a third run­way.

“Res­i­dents are al­ready breath­ing il­le­gal lev­els of air pollution, and fur­ther ex­pan­sion would ex­ac­er­bate this along with wors­en­ing air­craft noise, pres­sure on pub­lic trans­port and a myr­iad of other prob­lems it would bring.

“The gov­ern­ment has gone back on its prom­ise that Heathrow would not be ex­panded, no ifs no buts, and we have been left with no choice but to fight this in the courts.”

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