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Some local Heathrow residents could drop their opposition to expansion of the airport in return for a package of concessions including an end to night flights over west London.
John Stewart, chairman of anti-Heathrow expansion protest group Hacan, told the Financial Times that some members could come to a compromise if it included generous compensation, noise mitigation and reduced emissions.
The disclosure came amid growing expectations that Sir Howard Davies’s Airports Commission will recommend an extra runway at Heathrow over Gatwick when it reports in late June.
Pressure is mounting for a rapid decision in the fiercely contested battle over airport expansion in southeast England just days after the Conservatives returned to power with an unexpected majority.
Hacan has been a vehement campaigner against the project for years and in recent weeks has held protests outside Downing Street and at Heathrow Terminal 5.
But Stewart told the FT: “If the Davies Commission goes for Heathrow there would undoubtedly be fury among many people but it is equally true that others may be tempted by a package which included conditions to improve the noise climate and particularly any proposal to end night flights.”
Heathrow has already committed to no further increase in the number of night flights. But a total ban would have to be put to the board as it would be a commercial decision, a Heathrow source said.
The majority Conservative victory has increased the chances that action over airport capacity will finally be taken.
“The worst outcome would have been a coalition in which the Liberal Democrats drew a red line,” one person close to the review process told the FT. “In that sense the election was positive for something being done.”
But London mayor and newly elected local MP Boris Johnson, appointed to David Cameron’s political cabinet, said the prospects of a third runway at Heathrow are “virtually nil” and suggested the Commission’s report should be shelved.
“The truth is Heathrow is undeliverable. I will certainly oppose it, as will other MPs in west London,” he told LBC radio.
And Gatwick chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said: “There is now more stated opposition to Heathrow expansion around the cabinet table than there has ever been. The UK needs something to happen and only choosing Gatwick guarantees that something actually will.”
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