Putney MP argues against further expansion of airport
Fleur Anderson with John McDonnell MP
May 26, 2023
Putney’s MPs took the lead in a Westminster debate this week into Heathrow Airport’s expansion plans.
The discussion came in the wake of comments from the outgoing Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, who stated that, “We [Heathrow] are still committed to expansion.”
Fleur Anderson had previously spoken several times in Parliament against early night flights, after residents reported having been woken as early as 4am by incoming planes to Heathrow.
She was joined in the debate by a number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs included John McDonnell, Munira Wilson, Ruth Cadbury, Grahame Morris, Christine Jardine and Battersea’s Marsha de Cordova.
The speeches focused on the claim Heathrow could, based on the Department for Transport’s own figures, actually bring a net negative impact to the UK economy once ‘disbenefits’ such as pollution are monetised. The detriment to local air quality, increases in carbon emissions, noise pollution and the associated negative health impacts were discussed, and members demanded the government withdraw any support for expansion.
The Government were also questioned on who is going to pay for all the additional costs associated with expansion beyond the actual runway itself including road and rail upgrades and tunnelling of the M25.
Expansion of the airport was found by the Court of Appeal in 2020 to be unlawful as it conflicted with the UK’s climate commitments. However, the Supreme Court subsequently concluded that the climate commitments at the time were less stringent than currently, leaving the Heathrow expansion planning on pause, with the airport still hoping to push proposals through. The recent comments suggests that the owners of the airport will be looking to resume expansion as passenger numbers continue to recover.
Heathrow says expansion at the airport would create an additional 35,000 jobs but the New Economics Foundation claims that around 27,000 of these would be relocated from the UK’s wider regions to London and the South East.
Fleur Anderson said, “There is no version of an expanded Heathrow that does not accelerate the climate emergency and spell disaster for our planet - and misery for the residents I represent in Putney, Roehampton, Southfields, and millions more across London. In the debate I will demand that the Government put the planet and residents’ quality of life first, and the pockets of shareholders second.”
Heathrow was found in 2021 to the second most polluting airport in the world and is the UK’s largest carbon emitter.
The estimated increase in additional daily trips of 175,000 would be more than the daily rail arrivals into the whole of Birmingham, and more than daily journeys for Charing Cross, Kings Cross and Paddington stations combined. The increase in size of expansion would cover an additional 950 acres, an area more than double size of the City of London.
A cross party protest against Heathrow expansion before the pandemic
Ms Anderson continued, “Expanding Heathrow Airport cannot be allowed to happen. I secured the debate in Parliament to make the clear case for why any expansion would be terrible for our environment, for pollution, and for residents in Putney who live below the Heathrow flight path, who already report being woken up as early as 4am by flights. Expanding Heathrow could mean up to 280,000 additional flights per year. Heathrow is already one of the biggest carbon emitters in Europe. Combatting the climate emergency and expanding Heathrow are simply not compatible.”
"I was very disappointed with the Minister’s reply during the debate. He agreed that the Airports National Policy Statement needs to be updated in line with new climate targets but refused to agree to actually do this. He needs to do the maths – the Government can’t reach its own Net Zero targets AND give the green light to this industrial expansion of Heathrow. I will be following up with the Minister, and with the Minister for Aviation, Baroness Vere, and ask them to stop sticking their head in the sand and be clear with Heathrow that the plans are out-dated and cannot be supported any more. This would put residents in Putney out of their misery too, we can’t take the noise and air pollution of any more flights."
Justine Bayley, Chair of Stop Heathrow Expansion, said, “The Government could have taken this opportunity to announce that it was going to review the very outdated Airports National Policy Statement on Heathrow Expansion, which is based on evidence now a decade old.
“They could’ve chosen to explain exactly what it means when it says that Heathrow will receive ‘no taxpayer funding’ to construct a third runway – does this mean just the runway itself or all the required road and rail upgrades?
“They could’ve announced that due to our requirement to meet Net Zero emissions by 2050 that they are abandoning plans for a third runway and are instead going to focus on encouraging Heathrow to become a better, not bigger airport.
“But they didn’t. Instead, minister Jesse Norman gave us a timeline of the Heathrow debate so far, which most already know, and repeated old commitments to reduce emissions at airports (but note – their Zero Emissions Airports Strategy does not include emissions from planes themselves, just those from the terminal buildings!). The Government must do better in future and reverse outdated plans to expand Heathrow.”
A spokesperson for Heathrow responded by saying, “Aviation is a force for good – boosting trade, driving investment and tourism and creating jobs across London and the UK.
“We have never been complacent about the impacts our sector has on society which is why we have some of the strictest noise restrictions of any hub in Europe and a clear, credible industry roadmap to reach net zero by 2050.”
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