Heathrow clear for take off
A long awaited decision on airport capacity in the south east is expected tomorrow, writes Kevin Johnson.
Birmingham Airport boss Paul Kehoe will not be surprised by a decision to grant a third runway to Heathrow, but he will be one of the first to use the opportunity to press again for a more balanced aviation strategy.
Prime Minister Theresa May is likely to face opposition from a significant number of Conservative MPs if the Government gives Heathrow the green light.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, some 60 Tory MPs will line up against the move using a variety of campaign techniques in the House of Commons and during the planning process.
The Cabinet committee tasked with deciding whether to allow increased capacity at Heathrow or Gatwick is set to meet on Tuesday, with a final verdict expected shortly after.
A report published last July by the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, recommended a new runway at Heathrow. The Government is expected to accept the plan and offer a free Commons vote on it.
Birmingham Airport has continually encouraged the government not to put all “it’s eggs one basket”, arguing against a single national aviation hub.
With the arrival of HS2 in ten years’ time, including a dedicated station next to the airport, it does not believe the Davies Commission or the Government have factored in future connectivity. Given the planning and development timeline that Heathrow is expected to endure, some would place a bet on HS2 arriving first.
Birmingham Airport is currently undertaking a review of its 2030 master plan, first produced in response to a 2003 Government White Paper on transport.
The new master plan is expected to be published soon for consultation. It will focus on the airport’s status as the UK’s only HS2 connected airport, growing the catchment into London with high-speed trains and serving Birmingham from the capital in around 30 minutes.
Tory MP and former Mayor of London candidate Zac Goldsmith – a long-time opponent of Heathrow expansion – is standing firm on his pledge to trigger a by-election if Heathrow wins the battle.
Four Tory-led authorities, including Mrs May’s local council, have amassed a £200,000 war chest in preparation to fight Heathrow expansion in the courts, is is claimed.
Meanwhile, group of MPs from across the UK has called on the Prime Minister to back the building of a third runway at Heathrow Airport.
50 signatories to a letter said the west London airport was the UK’s “gateway to the world.” Those involved include Welsh Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds and Welsh Labour’s Stephen Kinnock.
Other countries are investing in and supporting their hub, or looking on enviously as they hub through other countries.
Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have our own successful and growing airports.
But Heathrow is our gateway to the world, bringing tourists to our attractions and helping our exporters reach new markets
Whether we are connected by road, rail or air, we know that connections to Heathrow are a key driver of investment decisions.
Expanding Heathrow will create nearly four times more jobs in our three nations than other options being considered.
The SNP, which holds 54 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats, have issued their backing to Heathrow expansion, with Scottish economy secretary Keith Brown saying the hub offered “the best deal for Scotland.”
The Labour party has also today indicated that it will support a new runway at Heathrow – despite the opposition of John McDonnell.
Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald wrote in a piece for the Guardian that there would need to be “overwhelming evidence” that the Davies Commission was “fundamentally flawed” for its recommendation to be overturned.
It is expected that tomorrow’s announcement will seek to offer something to Gatwick, which was presented as another option in the Davies report.
The Sunday Times reports that Gatwick has been asked by ministers what it would require as a “consolation” if Heathrow gets the go-ahead. A source told the paper: “Gatwick were asked to give some sort of compromise: ‘What would you take, other than a runway, that would smooth this over?’.”
Policies over aviation and high speed rail have proved politically challenging for successive governments. Last week, the government announced plans to place the National Infrastructure Commission on a statutory footing.
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