Heathrow runway decision expected this week

12 Jan 2009 by Mark Caswell

UK business leaders, trade unionists and airline executives have again come out strongly in favour of building a third runway at London Heathrow Airport.

Under the banner of Future Heathrow, they launched a major advertising campaign in the British national press and held a press conference in London today (January 12) to demand the Labour government gives the controversial project the go ahead.

But as the industry leaders promoted their views, about 3,000 people were gathering to take part in a week long demonstration at the airport opposing its expansion.  

The opponents cited climate change and CO2 emissions as the main reasons why the third runway should be scrapped.

More than 50 Labour MPs, many with constituents in the West London where Heathrow is based, have also come out against expansion.

In their advertising campaign, the industry and trade union leaders said the third runway was “vital for jobs, economic growth, investment and the long-term competitiveness of the UK’s economy.”

The leaders added in a statement: “Only a major international hub airport like Heathrow can provide the direct flights that the UK needs to important long haul business destinations like China and India – the world’s fastest growing major economies.

 “Whilst other countries are investing in their airport infrastructure, Heathrow is full with its two runways operating at 99% capacity.  Heathrow’s European competitors will have four runways or more.”

Colin Stanbridge, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s ceo, said: “Business people are crying out for a third runway at Heathrow, with no fewer than 97% of London firms considering the airport to be important or very important to the economy.”

Frances O’Grady, Deputy General Secretary, TUC said: “Aviation is key to the UK economy and the unions are committed to supporting the sustainable development of Heathrow – not only leading to the creation of many more quality jobs but also meeting local noise and air quality standards, and ensuring that CO2 emissions from aviation growth are consistent with the UK’s new carbon budgets.”

Willie Walsh, BA’s CEO, said: “A third runway would be fantastic news for jobs and investment in Britain. The rest of Europe has already built extra capacity at its hub airports and will be ready to benefit when the economic recovery comes. Britain cannot afford to slip further behind.”

The protesters are setting up their week long camp, called the Camp for Climate Action, near the airport and claiming that 3,000 people will move in.

They are planning a peaceful demonstration and BAA, owners of Heathrow, said the airport would operate normally.

The protesters say that CO2 emissions from aviation are growing and an extra runway will increase these emissions and damaging the campaign to combat climate change.  

BAA has secured a High Court ruling ahead of the protest banning members of named groups taking part, but failed to stop the Camp for Climate Action from going ahead.

The Government is expected to approve the plans for the third runway this week despite the opposition of the Labour MPs and reported uneasiness of two cabinet ministers, Ed Miliband, the secretary for climate change and Hilary Benn, the environment food and rural affairs secretary.

The government has indicated approval might be announced as part of a transport package which would include moves to build a high speed train network in Britain and a major rail station at Heathrow.

Plans for a third runway are opposed by Britain’s two other leading political parties, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Report by Stanley Slaughter

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