A leading political opponent to expanding Heathrow claims campaigners are “on the cusp” of winning the battle against a third runway at the London hub.
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park in west London, said: “With the election over, Heathrow’s owners know they are reaching the end of the road in their campaign to expand. This is because, first and foremost, the argument against them has been won.”
Writing in the London Evening Standard, Goldsmith suggested a “flurry of activity” ahead of the imminent final report on aviation capacity in the southeast by the Airports Commission.
“But Heathrow’s owners know, as the Airports Commission surely knows, that expanding it would be a step backwards,” Goldsmith said.
“I suspect that is why – at the 11th hour – the Commission has launched a consultation on air quality, in the full knowledge that expansion cannot be reconciled with any prospect of clean air in London.
“We have won the arguments but I’m not so naïve as to imagine rational arguments always hold sway. And so the second reason why Heathrow expansion will never happen is simply the politics.
“The cabinet for this new and fragile government includes heavyweights such as Philip Hammond, Boris Johnson and, we’re told, Justine Greening – all committed opponents of expansion.
“Only days ago, Boris vowed to stand in front of the bulldozers if need be. He will not need to. We are on the cusp of winning this battle once and for all.”
Goldsmith described Heathrow as “Europe’s biggest noise polluter,” and a third runway would increase flights from 480,000 to 740,000 a year.
“No matter how Heathrow cuts it, an extra runway would massively increase noise,” he wrote.
“Just one extra runway would lead to 25 million extra road-passenger journeys each year, and Heathrow (and the Airports Commission) has barely begun to assess the costs involved in adapting the road and rail system to cope.
“Transport for London tells me the cost has been underestimated by a staggering £15 billion – which of course would be picked up by the public.
“London will struggle to stay within its air quality targets even without Heathrow expansion. With air pollution costing 29,000 lives each year in the UK, the issue is moving fast up the political agenda.
“Advocates of expansion might dismiss all these as Nimby concerns, as if the millions affected simply do not count. But even if the only concern were the economy, the case is still wafer-thin.”
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