Since the High Court kicked out the Government’s Heathrow policy a couple of weeks ago I have had time to reflect on what this momentous decision reveals about the power of an active local community.
Quite simply it shows that the will and determination of a big society can take on – and beat – the arrogance of Government.
It’s not every day you get to take on the combined forces of the UK Government, BAA, the aviation industry and the UNITE trade union and win.
But that is what our 2M campaign did.
I’m proud of what we achieved. It offers the clearest possible insight into what Conservative councils are about. We stand up for our people. We judge what is in the best interests of our communities – and we
For thirteen years Labour has done nothing about the problems of growing noise and air pollution at Heathrow.
This is the Government that set the benchmark for measuring progress on noise reduction as the last year when Concorde was flying. This is the Government that was exposed inventing fantasy planes to prove that
future noise levels from an expanded airport could be met.
That’s why so many people, from all sections of society, joined our campaign. It started with Wandsworth, Richmond, Hounslow and Hillingdon – and then it grew to include 24 councils of all colours.
And then it grew even more to include organisations like Greenpeace, the RSPB, the World Wildlife Fund, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. The list goes on.
And what drove us all on was the sheer arrogance of a government that failed at every stage to protect the interests of the communities affected by the airport. And the sheer deceit of a government that fitted the figures at every turn to suit its case.
The expansion plan would have made a three-runway Heathrow into the single largest emitter of CO2 in the UK. And this at a time when the Government was meant to be cutting emissions.
Labour masked a cosy backroom deal with his mates in the aviation industry and the airport trade unions by whispering sweet nothings on climate change.
The Government tried to cover up, to deceive to rig the debate in its favour – against the will of the people affected by the plans.
Lord Justice Carnwath – a senior Appeal Court judge and one of the most powerful judges in the land – came to the same conclusion as us.
He showed that by insisting that a policy decision taken as far back as 2003 was set in stone, ministers were deliberately squeezing out climate change from the equation.
The Government did not want a third runway tested against its carbon impacts – why? – because they knew the costs would be so high as to undermine the whole case for expansion.
And on the transport Lord Justice Carnwath showed that ministers did not know if the system could cope with an expanded airport.
The transport costs were as damaging as the Climate Change Act to the economic case. Put together they reduced the economic benefit from expansion to zero.
That is why this runway is dead in the water. That is why we have won this campaign.
When the public is given a fair opportunity to look at the whole case for expansion, it falls apart.
Our Prime Minister acts as if nothing has changed. Either he has not read the judgment or he does not expect to be around to deal with its consequences.
Thankfully our environment is in much safer hands. David Cameron and Theresa Villiers stood up for what they believed in.
There were plenty of industry voices telling them they were on the wrong side of the argument.
Our campaign does not stop here – we will continue to campaign for better protection for our residents.
The ruling opens the door to real progress in other areas such as reductions in night flights and improvements in air quality.
And it strengthens our case for a credible noise action plan at Heathrow that actually seeks to make the quality of life better for residents.
Last week we were elated that we had won and that the lives of our residents would not be blighted by a third runway at Heathrow. Having reflected this last week, I have come to an even more optimistic, even
more profound conclusion. And that is, when a big, active and organised society takes on Government, it can win.