Colnbrook was “sold down the river for a pittance”; details of Slough Council’s secret Heathrow agreement now revealed
The people of Colnbrook, about a mile west of Heathrow’s northern runway, have been trying to find out about the deal done by their council, Slough, with the airport – if there is a 3rd runway. Slough Borough Council has been reluctant to publish details, but has now been forced to do so. As Colnbrook residents feared, though they had been given assurances by the Deputy Leader, there is no provision to look after them. People are angry at what they see as deception of Colnbrook residents by Slough Council. A ward councillor, staunchly opposed to a new runway, has now provided the full legally binding agreement signed between the council and the airport. It shows that far from providing a package of mitigation for communities closest to the airport as repeatedly claimed by the council, Colnbrook is not mentioned once. There are no benefits for them. The deal sees a boost for investment in the town from Heathrow, including secret plans to “unlock” new commercial land in the borough regardless of whether a third runway is approved or not. It commits over half of the first year’s mitigation fund to paying for a study into relocation of the Grundon incinerator. It also only contains a period of 5 hours at night with no flights. There is also a gagging clause on the Council for years.
[There are fears other councils may do deals with Heathrow, hoping to benefit if there is a new runway. Residents are unlikely to be involved in the negoatiations.]
Colnbrook was “sold down the river for a pittance” says Dexter as extent of Council’s dishonesty over secret Heathrow agreement finally revealed
The full extent of Slough Borough Council’s (SBC) dishonesty with residents can today be revealed as details of its secret agreement with Heathrow are finally exposed.
Conservative councillors both for and against a third runway have attacked Slough Borough Council for its deception of Colnbrook residents in failing to disclose the true price of its support for a Heathrow third runway.
Colnbrook ward councillor Dexter Smith, staunchly opposed to a new runway, has today provided the full agreement signed between Slough Borough Council and Heathrow Airport which the council has attempted to suppress. It makes shocking reading.
Far from providing a package of mitigation for communities closest to the airport as repeatedly claimed by the council, Colnbrook is not mentioned once. Instead the legally binding agreement sets out the details of a “love-in” between Heathrow and Slough, and what little was asked for in return for securing the council’s support.
Cllr Dexter Smith says there is “no benefit” in the agreement struck for Colnbrook residents
Cllr Wayne Strutton accused Labour of “doing a secret deal with Heathrow”.
Cllr James Swindlehurst told councillors ALL details had been made public
Cllr Smith told Colnbrook Views today:
“Colnbrook was sold down the river for a pittance; there is no benefit in this for Colnbrook residents”.
His action follows the Council’s refusal to allow Colnbrook Views to publish the agreement last week but was prompted by an angry exchange in a council meeting last night at which SBC’s deputy leader claimed that full details had already been released!
At the full Council Meeting last night fellow Conservative Cllr Strutton launched a broadside against the ruling Labour administration, accusing it of “doing a secret deal with Heathrow Airport Limited” on supporting a Third Runway, and refusing to make it publicly available.
That followed SBC’s refusal to share the document, already seen by many in Colnbrook, on Friday.
Colnbrook was sold down the river for a pittance; there is no benefit in this for Colnbrook residents
The deal sees a boost for investment in the town from Heathrow, including secret plans to “unlock” new commercial land in the borough regardless of whether a third runway is approved or not.
It commits over half of the first year’s mitigation fund to paying for a study into relocation of the Grundon incinerator!
Perhaps most contentiously, it abandons attempts to scrap night flights, with a no-fly period of just FIVE HOURS allowed.
Bizarrely Cllr Swindlehurst, the Deputy Leader replied, stating “all the details are out there; we even issued a press release at the time”. Despite clear evidence to the contrary Cllr Smith says that, the deputy leader was not corrected by anyone present, including the Leader of the Council, Cllr Anderson, the Chief Executive, Ruth Bagley, or her Chief Legal Officer.
The deliberate attempt to deceive Colnbrook residents has left Cllr Smith appalled and driven him to provide the document himself for publication:
“I see no reason why I should not be making a copy of this Agreement available to you for publication”.
In January Cllr Swindlehurst insisted to Colnbrook Views readers that “securing a robust and generous package of mitigation and protection measures” was foremost in the Cabinet-level discussions.
Today we can see that our council has not managed to fight for a single mitigation for Colnbrook. Giving away its support as cheaply as it has done the very viability of Slough Borough Council itself must be questioned.
Leaked details of the deal struck between Slough and Heathrow
Colnbrook ward councillor Dexter Smith has today provided the legal agreement between Slough Borough Council and Heathrow Airport the council never wanted you to see.
Here we publish it in full.
The three page agreeement which Slough refused to share on Friday was meant to provide details of the mitigation package for the communities most affected closest to the airport.
As announced in February Slough will receive £1.5 million from the airport over 15 years towards a ‘Strategic Partnership’ with Heathrow.
But the aims and objectives of that Partnership have changed since February when the council’s press release announced it would “lay out mitigation measures which will be put in place for the borough and its residents”.
Heathrow commits to provide the Partnership with enabling funds of at least £100,000 per annum for 15 years from the approval of the Development Consent Order to commission studies and to implement measures to address airport related issues across Slough.
While the agreement was signed on February 3, earlier this month Cllr Rob Anderson, leader of Slough Borough Council, revised that to “securing benefits for the people of the borough and ensure mitigation for residents and businesses affected by the expansion.”
In just one sentence the whole meaning of the Partnership, and with it funding to address some of the worst effects of the new runway, have changed in favour of a bias towards projects to improve Slough. Beyond an almost throwaway statement at the beginning of the document “mitigation” does not feature at all.
More worrying, the first few years’ funding for the Partnership is already allocated to projects that are as far from “mitigation” as can be imagined. Strictly speaking, since the early projects address public pledges made by Heathrow’s already – such as 50% of passengers travelling to the enlarged airport by public transport, or meeting air quality commitments, many will question why they are in the agreement at all.
The agreement between Heathrow and Slough is broken down into five areas. Here’s what it says:
Heathrow commits to:
- Fund a study on ways to encourage more cycling from Slough to Heathrow (min: £20K in 2015)
- Fund a feasibility study on relocation of Lakeside EWP (min: £50K in 2015)
- Continue to contribute to the cost of public transport between Slough and Heathrow
- Fund employability training for Slough’s JSAs (min: £100K pa from 2015)
- Support programmes to attract inward investment to Slough (min: £10K pa from 2015)
- Fund installation of, and running costs for, an air quality monitor in Slough (from 2016).
Heathrow commits to:
- Not schedule night flights for 5 hours each night. (Slough’s response to Davies submitted on the SAME day called for an outright ban between 23:00 and 06:00 yet it failed to incorporate this in its agreement).
- Provide the revised noise insulation scheme for eligible homes and schools in Slough already included in its submission to the Airports Commission (and dismissed as “not world class” by Sir Howard). The new Partnership will get to determine “the precise boundary of each zone”.
Air Quality and Transport
Heathrow commits to:
- Implement “tangible measures” to improve air quality including sustainable transport and cleaner vehicles.
- Contribute to a “reliable and affordable” surface access network.
- Continued subsidy for buses and contribution to phase two of the Slough Mass Rapid Transport (‘SMART’) direct bus service between Slough, Slough Trading Estate and Heathrow.
- Fund an air quality monitoring station at a location in Slough.
- Fund surface access survey to inform air quality mitigation measures.
Heathrow commits to:
- Recognise the importance of the Grundon incinerator to meeting Slough’s target of 0% landfill.
- Support Slough’s representations to Government that the authority should not be disadvantaged through loss of business rates.
- Fund initiatives to attract inward investment to Slough.
- Provide Slough residents with skills and training through the Heathrow Academy.
Slough commits to:
- “Unlock” potential areas of the Borough for possible designation as commercial zones.
Heathrow commits to:
- Give Slough first refusal on all homes vacated by residents due to noise disturbance, at preferential rates.
In return for the “concessions” from Heathrow, Slough Council’s Cabinet commits to publicly supporting the expansion of Heathrow Airport with immediate effect and until Heathrow is granted the Development Consent Order.
Read the Agreement for yourself in full.
Slough’s self-imposed gagging order will make it impotent in fighting for a better deal from Heathrow
Slough’s secret agreement with Heathrow reveals a relationship forged on persuading Government to back the new partners’ respective agendas. Residents didn’t get a look-in.
Cllr Swindlehurst: “Any potential support for Heathrow expansion would be predicated on securing a robust and generous package of mitigation and protection measures” (January 2015)
Slough Borough Council has accepted what amounts to a self-imposed gagging order, unable to criticise Heathrow for the next three to four years.
As well as a boost for investment in the town and improved access from central Slough to the airport, the secret agreement sees Heathrow commit to supporting the Council’s representations to Government to seek compensation for lost business rates, put by the council itself at up to £10 million earlier this year.
In return, however, Cabinet is legally bound to giving public support for the airport until final permission, is granted. A Development Consent Order is at least three years away, possibly four.
Support for Heathrow expansion would be predicated on securing a robust and generous package of mitigation and protection measures
Cabinet have accepted a gagging clause that effectively leaves the council impotent in standing up for residents while the real details of expansion are being thrashed out. Having already sold Colnbrook residents out for what most observers agree is a very bad deal for the borough, it now will walk away from its duty of care to residents and responsibility to argue the best deal.
In January, Cllr Swindlehurst sent this message to Colnbrook Views readers just before Cabinet signed off on its support for a Colnbrook runway:
“The discussions at the last Cabinet made quite plain that any potential support for Heathrow expansion would be predicated on securing a robust and generous package of mitigation and protection measures, so we are absolutely where you suggest we should be in seeking this.
The discussions at tonight’s Cabinet will undoubtedly flesh this out more obviously.”
Rest assured the quality of life for Colnbrook residents has been a central issue in the discussions currently underway
For or against a Colnbrook runway, that compensation and mitigation should be the best possible – “world class” as Sir Howard Davies as put it – to help residents through the transition, whether they stay or forced to leave, is a matter that everybody can agree on.
Cllr Swindlehurst, and Slough’s entire leadership, have shown that their priorities are in other areas. It is doubtful whether Cllr Swindlehust will ever be trusted again in Colnbrook having broken such a big and important promise so blatantly.
No wonder he pretended there was no secret agreement.
A day earlier:
Colnbrook residents complain Slough refuses to reveal details of secret agreement with Heathrow
Colnbrook Views has submitted an FoI request after Slough Borough Council refused to allow publication of its agreement with Heathrow, made in February. Slough and Spelthorne are the only two councils openly backing a 3rd Heathrow runway. While the Council’s CEO is telling business leaders that Slough will be the premier place for businesses to relocate by 2019, there is a veil of secrecy over the nature of its agreement with the Airport , though some bits have been made public. Heathrow has apparently agreed on various conditions including a guaranteed £100,000 annual contribution by the airport for 15 years toward a new “strategic partnership”. Communities in Colnbook and nearby are not persuaded that they will get much benefit, though the Council CEO has said there will be more noise insulation, some “improved infrastructure, roads, bus services” etc. There appears to be little on mitigation for those most affected. However, the heads of agreement from February sets out a commitment to a range of measures to boost the wider Slough economy, improve access to the airport from Slough town centre, and support airport-related expansion beyond Heathrow’s extended perimeter and existing commercial zones in the borough.
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