Fears Cameron may opt for Gatwick runway, just to avoid Cabinet rift on Heathrow
Date added: May 24, 2015
The Airports Commission is due to make its runway recommendation by the end of June, and since its recent consultation on air quality, speculation on the runway issue has become ever more feverish. The issue of air quality, in reality, prevents either runway being built – at Heathrow air quality is already too poor; at Gatwick, it would be illegal to worsen tolerable air quality for thousands of people. Speculation grows that perhaps, on some measures, the extent of the environmental damage at Gatwick might be lower than at Heathrow. It is still too high to enable a runway to be built. Now a large number of senior Tories and those in the Cabinet are personally opposed to a Heathrow runway, due to the location of their constituencies. Their constituents would not tolerate a new Heathrow runway, due to noise and pollution. So there are fears the Conservative government might try to go for Gatwick, in order to avoid internal splits within the Cabinet. Surely not a sufficient justification for devastating damage to a huge area of Sussex and Surrey, air pollution, intolerable pressure on surface transport, intolerable pressure on social infrastructure, intolerable noise burden over a wide area, huge cost to the taxpayer (not to mention raised CO2 emissions – from a government claiming to be “green”) – just to suit Cabinet members and avoid a party rift?
David Cameron ‘warming’ to Gatwick expansion plan
PM keen to boost green record as fears over Heathrow pollution grow, say sources
By Toby Helm (Observer)
David Cameron is warming to the idea of backing a second runway at Gatwick amid growing worries within government that expansion of Heathrow would cause excessive pollution and noise and would split the Tory party, according to informed sources.
A final report on how best to increase airport capacity in the south-east will be published by Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, next month or in July, and will contain a firm recommendation on which of the two airports should be developed to handle increasing demand.
The government will not be bound by the Davies recommendation, however, and with Cameron keen to re-emphasise his commitment to green issues in his second term as prime minister, there is pressure on ministers to find a solution that is both politically acceptable and which best meets legal air quality and other environmental requirements.
Davies has surprised Gatwick and Heathrow lobbyists by ordering a new consultation on implications for air quality, which will conclude this Friday and inform his final decision.
The appointment last week of green enthusiast Camilla Cavendish as head of the Downing Street policy unit has also raised the hopes of those opposing Heathrow, who argue that air quality around the airport already exceeds legal limits and would breach EU regulations if further expansion was allowed, while adding that air and noise pollution problems would be far less if Gatwick were chosen.
A source involved in the debate said Cameron was now more enthusiastic about the Gatwick option. Another key figure in the debate said he was aware that if ministers opted for Heathrow then at least two of his potential successors as Tory leader – Boris Johnson and Theresa May, who both have seats affected by the Heathrow flight path – would publicly oppose the move and could reverse the decision if they ever became PM.
Davies has already rejected Johnson’s idea of a new airport in the Thames estuary but the mayor of London, who is also now the Tory MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, has vowed to fight any expansion of Heathrow, which he says will blight the lives of millions of people in the west of the capital. While he believes a new second runway at Gatwick will not answer the capacity needs, he has focused his fire mainly on Heathrow.
May, the home secretary, Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, and Justine Greening, the international development secretary, are also on record as opposing Heathrow.
Both the Tories and Labour said before the election that they would “wait for Davies” before deciding where expansion should take place. Heathrow insists that it can add capacity while meeting air pollution limits.
In a policy paper it states: “New public transport options will provide an alternative to travelling to the airport by road. A congestion charge would provide a new mechanism for managing demand and ensuring there will be no more Heathrow-related vehicles on the roads than today. Those vehicles that are travelling to the airport will be cleaner. Combined with new aircraft technology, this means that levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) would be within EU limits.”
Gatwick maintains, on the other hand, that while Heathrow expansion would mean 320,000 more households being affected by noise, a second runway at Gatwick would affect far fewer and could be delivered at lower cost. Ministers are refusing to comment publicly before Davies reports. But another source close to the argument said: “The judgment will be made on what is politically deliverable which is partly about what is acceptable environmentally. It was issues around air pollution that prevented Heathrow expansion in 2003 and the concerns have not been answered.”
It would appear that the country’s future infrastructure decisions are to be made almost entirely on what suits the Conservative Party’s various factions then. It’s the tory way.
That’s a bit rich coming from Mr “Cut the Green Crap”.
Party first people last
I can tell you three reasons why he doesn’t want LHR expansion. Gove, Hammond and May have constituencies all affected by its expansion. Gove has been given a pasting by his constituency over LHR flight trials for the last 12 months.
“…worries within government that expansion of Heathrow would cause excessive pollution and noise and would split the Tory party, according to informed sources.”
And which of these worries does David Cameron consider most important I wonder?
The Gatwick option is the most environmentally damaging.
All expansion options are highly environmentally damaging. The false choice between Heathrow and Gatwick is simply which locality to dump the additional pollution and which people to torment with the noise.
With both May and Johnson openly against Heathrow, Gatwick is more likely to get it. Boris island is patently unworkable and even more environmentally damaging.
The only sustainable option is to end expansion.
A whole five years to go. I bet he will be warming to lots
of London based projects. Boris will have lots of ideas on
how to spend the country’s revenue and David will always
think they are good ideas. Why waste it up north.
All the extra commerce revenue and jobs?
This will mean more transit business – which is what being a “hub” is all about – no reason it should boost “commerce”. Most of then extra jobs will be minimum wage – catering and cleaning. The extra revenue will go the 1% as it always does.
If don’t know if you are familiar with Hounslow, the London borough that it home to Heathrow, but it is not an attractive place. Dirty, noisy, and for the most part quite poor. It wouldn’t be improved by more planes and more minimum wage jobs. Crawley, home to Gatwick, is a dump for similar reasons.
Has anyone ever said I could not go on holiday this year because there is not enough airport capacity in the south east.
Surely a major contributor to the “Heathrow vs Gatwick” problem is the fragmentation caused by the cut-throat competition between the privately owned airports.
With each airport competing to take as much traffic as it can from the other, they work together like Tesco and Sainsbury on opposite sides of the street, each trying to put the other out of business. From economic, social and environmental viewpoints this is insane!
A collaborative, collective system would have less need for additional runway space. With decent rail connections between airports, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Stanstead could collaborate and utilise the over-capacity in the midlands and north.
In common with the destructive nature of competitive ‘markets’ in rail transport, the NHS, education, local authority welfare and planning services, power generation, water, sewage and many other areas of ESSENTIAL national infrastructure, these vital components of our economy and society should be operated in the national interest rather than for private profit. They would be more efficient and less damaging to society and the environment.
Zac Goldsmith says Heathrow expansion would split the Cabinet with opposition from the very top
May 14, 2015
Zac Goldsmith was re-elected to his Richmond Park seat with a majority of about 23,000 – up from a 4,000 majority in 2010. He has always been very firmly against a Heathrow 3rd runway. Zac believes that if Heathrow is “chosen” for approval by the Airports Commission, it would cause a split at the very top of government, and a real problem for David Cameron: “If you look at the cabinet today, there are at least 3 heavyweight people there, Philip Hammond, Justine Greening and Boris Johnson and others, in fact, who are implacably opposed to Heathrow expansion … He’d face a split at the highest level and I don’t think a fragile government with a small majority wants to do that.” Zac also says giving the go-ahead to Heathrow would be “an off-the-scale betrayal” from David Cameron, who came to west London before the 2010 election and promised locals, “No ifs, no buts, no 3rd runway” – and that there wouldn’t be a new runway under the Conservatives. Zac has repeated his threat of resigning if the government backs a Heathrow runway. His resignation would trigger a by-election in which he could stand as an independent on that one issue. It would offer him the opportunity to get a lot of publicity for the anti- runway case
David Cameron has issued his strongest declaration that climate change is man-made when he said it was one of the most serious threats facing Britain and the rest of the world.
The prime minister, who appeared to be wary in recent weeks of drawing a direct link between the effects of industrialisation and climate change, issued his unequivocal statement after Ed Miliband suggested he was unwilling to take tough action.
Cameron replied: “I believe man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces.”
David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have signed a joint pledge to tackle climate change, which they say will protect the UK’s national security and economic prosperity.
The agreement of the three party leaders is highly unusual and comes amid a general election campaign that is becoming increasingly bitter.
…. the joint declaration states: “Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today. It is not just a threat to the environment, but also to our national and global security, to poverty eradication and economic prosperity.”
“Acting on climate change is also an opportunity for the UK to grow a stronger economy, which is more efficient and more resilient to the risks ahead ….It is in our national interest to act and ensure others act with us.”