The Heathrow Expansion

The government approved a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Will the plans take off or be grounded?

Heathrow’s third runway could be operational by 2026, creating £60 billion of economic benefits across a 60 year period.

However, there is turbulence and controversy on the radar as the Heathrow expansion heats up!

The Heathrow expansion plan has been something of a hot topic recently particularly now that it has been given the nod by Theresa May. We have decided to use this post as a runway to look at how this will affect us and what to expect in the near future.

Let’s check-in to the expansion plan.

The plan consists of a 3,500m runway which is said to be the first full-length runway to be built in the south-east of the UK since the Second World War. The costs involved are estimated to be a staggering £18.6 bn. You can view the proposed plan here:

The big debate is on and for the people in the political and legal control tower, there’s an awful lot to think about.

There is a legally binding obligation for the UK to meet air pollution and climate change targets to protect public health and safety. Heathrow emits 50% of the UK’s aviation emissions. That amounts to 6% of the UK’s overall carbon contribution. With a third runway this will significantly increase by 2050 which in turn will hamper the UK’s efforts in tackling climate change.

Heathrow insist that their plans are compatible with the target and it has been argued that Heathrow’s plan “doesn’t force a choice between the environment and the economy – it will deliver for both”.

The government have stated that the decision to approve the plan is central to the economic growth of Britain – does this mean that the have placed more value upon the economic aspect of the development and completely neglected the law and the health risks imposed on Londoners?  Well, Gatwick seem to think so. Gatwick have argued that the Heathrow expansion is illegal as it is already in breach of the EU Air Quality regulations and will contribute to prolonged breaches. It therefore undermines the current law and the decision to back the proposal is “unlawful”.

Is the economic case overstated or are the environmental concerns overplayed? This is the burning question.

So, how will we be affected? Are we in for a bumpy flight if we take off?

We predict uncomfortable air pockets… Here are the negatives if a third runway is built.

Heathrow is situated in a dense urban area and therefore millions of people will be affected by the expansion.

  • Air pollution – Greater London Authority (GLA) report suggested Heathrow would breach the EU regulations on levels of Nitrous Oxide if a third runway was built. The law was put in place to protect the health and safety of the public
  • Noise pollution – Noise is already a major problem. There have been 84,000 noise complaints since January 2016!

Areas such as Richmond, Teddington and Twickenham will suffer from noise pollution. It is noted by Richmond that “Richmond upon Thames is already subjected to over 50 decibels of noise, the level the World Health Organisation considers to be problematic, and the extra runway and flights would ensure that this increased even further”

  • Destruction of communities – The entire village of Sipson is likely to be destroyed as a result of the expansion. This includes 700 houses and hundreds of acres of greenbelt land. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 people will need to be moved, the largest forced removal in over 100 years 
  • Climate change – Heathrow is one of the UK’s largest contributors of climate change. Research shows that 220,000 flights will emit more carbon than Kenya’s 40 million citizens do in a year. Many Climate Change activists have argued that the UK’s target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 now looks unrealistic. Will the rest of the economy have to make up the shortfall with extra cuts to carbon emissions? We are yet to find out

It could be the flight of a lifetime if the plans go ahead for the third runway. What’s the positives?

  • Heathrow needs more capacity – London is growing and we need to meet the needs now and for the future. Given that Heathrow runs at nearly 100% capacity, it is not feasible to continue as is if air travel doubles in a generation
  • Economic boost including more job opportunities – Chris Grayling, transport secretary, said: “A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the UK itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities…”

Richard Blyth, head of policy, RTPI, said: “Our overriding concern is that investment in new airport capacity should provide an opportunity not only to meet demands for air travel, but also to solve other pressing needs that London and the South-East face, notably land for affordable housing and additional transport capacity 

  • A potential to build zero carbon homes in place of existing buildings

Here comes the drinks trolley to help steady the nerves and soften the blow – the mitigation…

  • The airport has also pledged to provide over £700 million for noise insulation for residential properties, proposed to use quieter air crafts and made a vow to ban night flights. The question is when could it happen.

Is this going to be long haul or short haul – what should we expect now?

We can expect legal challenges from Gatwick, Green Party, Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Windsor and Maidenhead. Do keep in mind that in 2010 the expansion was successfully overturned – how does this plan differ from the 2010 plan? Given that this plan is significantly bigger, it is likely to fail the same legal tests. Is it going to take time? There could be long delays but there is also a possibility of an early landing.

Watch the UK government in the House of Commons approve a third runway for Heathrow airport, read more here.

Boris Johnson who has contested the proposal since day one vowed to lay in front of the bulldozers than let the construction go ahead – we wonder if he will retract this statement! Watch an interview with Boris where he talks about his opinion on the Heathrow Expansion. Read more here.

We will do a return flight on this topic. Watch this space!

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