Rob Gray explains why
he is leading a new local community campaign – Back Heathrow – to give a voice
to the thousands of residents who support Heathrow expansion.
The debate over Heathrow expansion is too often seen through
the prism of national vs. local – the national economic interest colliding with
the views of local residents who are often painted as a uniform block opposing
expansion at the UK’s international hub airport.
Recent polling from Populus gives the lie to this
caricature. The poll of a representative
sample of more than 6,000 local residents showed more people in the communities
around the airport back Heathrow than oppose it. It showed that 60 per cent of residents feel positive
towards Heathrow compared to just 6 per cent who feel negatively. Two-thirds of the local residents polled said
that the benefits of Heathrow outweigh the disadvantages for their community.
For too long, these voices – the local residents who support
Heathrow – have been the silent majority in the debate on Heathrow’s
total of 114,000 jobs are dependent on Heathrow airport – jobs that are now at
risk from the Mayor’s plans for a new hub airport to the east. This threat is real and growing. Boris Johnson has himself admitted that his
plans would mean the closure of Heathrow – an outcome that would be devastating
for the West London economy and for the businesses and residents who rely on
Heathrow for their livelihoods. People have compared this threat to Britain’s worst ever mass
redundancies with job losses greater than the closure of our car factories and
the pit closures put together.
Under the Mayor’s plans, the choice is not between a third
runway at Heathrow or no third runway.
It’s between a third runway at Heathrow or no Heathrow at all.
It is why now is the time for a more balanced local debate
on Heathrow’s future. This week a new
community campaign to give a voice to the hundreds of thousands of residents whose
jobs and businesses depend on Heathrow has got off the ground.
Voices like local businessman, Neil Martin, from Parker Car
Service in Isleworth who says:
“Everybody in this area benefits from the
airport whether it be a local greengrocer or a big company. Where I was born in Feltham, everybody worked
at the airport whether they worked for a cleaning company, a catering company,
a transport company or for one of the airlines.
It means so much for the local economy.”
Voices like Sarita Sudera, a Security Officer at the
airport, who has added her voice to the campaign, saying:
“I have many friends at the airport and a lot of friends whose children
or parents work there so it’s a lot about generations. Heathrow is our community, I can’t imagine
what would happen if it wasn’t there.”
These are the voices that have been overlooked in the
current aviation debate and which the Back Heathrow campaign has been
established to mobilise. A new website,
BackHeathrow.org, has been launched for the campaign, and over 400,000
tabloid-style newspapers are being delivered to local communities, surrounding
The national case for Heathrow has always been clear. A third runway at Heathrow is the quickest
and most cost-effective route to solve the challenge of the UK’s hub
capacity. Capacity constraints at
Heathrow – which has been virtually full for a decade – are cutting the UK off
from the global growth opportunities in emerging markets. We are missing out on £14bn of lost trade as
a result. Over the next ten years
Heathrow is set to fall behind competitors hub airports in France and Germany
who do have the spare capacity. Put
simply, we are letting France and Germany eat our lunch.
The urgency of this challenge has seen a national coalition
of support – leading airlines, businesses and the trades unions – come together
to lend their support to the case for Heathrow expansion. To these national voices, we are now
beginning the process of adding the voices of the local residents who support
their hub airport.
Back Heathrow believes that local jobs
and businesses at Heathrow are worth fighting for. It’s time to give people who
agree a voice in that debate. It’s time
to back Heathrow.