Amidst some muddled briefings to the Sunday newspapers that the next Conservative manifesto might back a third runway at Heathrow there comes a very clear statement of opposition from the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
‘Heathrow has a great future as a key UK airport. But we cannot endlessly expand it, and cram a quart into a pint pot.
‘A third runway would be an environmental disaster. It would mean a huge increase in plans over London, and intolerable traffic and fumes in the west of the city – and it will not be built as long as I am Mayor of London.
‘That is why the Government is right to look at all new solutions for extra aviation capacity except the third runway at Heathrow.
‘I look forward to engaging with Justine Greening’s consultation this summer.
‘By contrast, Ken Livingstone’s useless anti-business policies would mean no extra aviation capacity anywhere in the south east.
‘He offers no hope to British business that needs direct flights to Asia and Latin America.
‘His delusional programme seems to mean grounding the business community in London – but spending huge sums of taxpayers’ money for himself and his cronies to visit Hugo Chavez.
“That is no way to grow the London economy.’
What those west Londoners currently being woken at 5am or unable to enjoy sitting in their gardens, want is less noise not more. The economic case for expanding Heathrow ignores the economic costs of the people of west London either spending a fortune on double glazing or being denied a proper sleep night after night, thus with their productivity duly impaired.
The Labour Government said the third runway was essential for business. But what does business say? Only 1% of members of the Institute of Directors think airport expansion is a priority. 78% of London firms are against expansion at Heathrow as shown by a survey for the London Chamber of Commerce.
What is more reasonable is the suggestion from London First that more flights be allowed (they suggest 10% or 15% more would be possible without a third runway) in return for quieter planes. They say technological advance makes this possible. The planes could also fly higher over west London and have a sharper descent in the immediate vicinity of Heathrow.
The Institute of Directors and the London Chamber of Commerce have both been in touch to suggest their members are now more enthusiastic about a third runway. The IOD figure was from their Transport Matters Survey in 2007.
But in August 2011, the IoD polled 1,245 IoD members on transport issues:
Two fifths (40%) of directors think that an increase in airport capacity in London and the South East, either by building new runways or through ‘mixed-mode’ runway use, would have a positive impact on the productivity of their business, compared with 4% thinking it would have a negative impact.
The London Chamber of Commerce survey quoted showing 78% opposition was from 2006. But they now say:
In our most recent survey 56% of London’s businesses thought a third runway was very important or very important. Only 25% thought it not important.