The first fruits of the new Strategic Partnership between Slough Borough Council and Heathrow Airport are starting to emerge – but even the Council has put the new relationship at “amber” status.
The Strategic Partnership agreed in February last year between Slough Borough Council and Heathrow appears to have disappointed Council bosses, a new status report shows.
In a report presented to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on Thursday (4th February) councillors were told that the new relationship is delivering some benefits to the town but is, overall, at “amber” status. The ‘Heads of Terms working group’ has so far secured (unspecified) funding for business start-up, air quality monitoring, and employment training, but little else.
Last quarter the Partnership saw joint traffic surveys paid for by Heathrow, saving the Council a claimed £50,000, and funding for an extension of the 7 series bus service, the main link for many of the 7,000 Slough residents working at Heathrow.
Developing a more “mutually beneficial relationship” with Heathrow Airport is now one of the key outcomes from Slough’s 5 Year Plan and has been routinely monitored on the Council’s Corporate Balanced Scorecard since 2015. However, far from delivering a programme of migitation to offset the effects of the airport for the communities most impacted as set out in the agreement last February, the Partnership – so far – is nothing more than a new funding stream for the Council.
Given the Council’s measure of success for the Partnership is simply “no net loss of business rates as a result of Heathrow displacement” that, perhaps, is not surprising.
Last August, after its agreement with Heathrow was leaked, Cllr Swindlehurst told Colnbrook Viewsthat the Council’s Heads of Terms agreement left its committment to residents unchanged. He said Cabinet remained “determined to secure mitigation measures and benefit for our affected communities as part of any support for Heathrow’s expansion”. Significantly, a promise from Deputy Leader Cllr Swindlehurst that he would use the Partnership to drive forward improvements for Colnbrook in the Heathrow North West Master Plan has, so far, gone nowhere.
Insisting the Partnerhip provided a forum for seeking a better deal for Colnbrook he committed to raise proposed mitigations to the airport’s plans for a Colnbrook runway through the Partnership, including the possibility that the new by-pass behind Pippins School might be tunnelled. He promised at the same time that there would be a new dialogue with residents:
SBC will also be working over the coming months and years to engage more deeply with the local community in Colnbrook and the other wards affected by expansion
In contrast to the promises of greater openness there is little transparency about the new Strategic Partnership. Meetings are not advertised, not open to the public, and minutes are not published.
Councillors were told on Thursday the focus for the next quarter remains on continuing negotiations to secure further funding for additional bicycle hire docking stations, electric car charging at Heathrow car parks and “improvements to Slough’s gateway”.
Cabinet will receive the same report on Monday.
The Slough/Heathrow Strategic Partnership – living up to expectations?
Prior even to approval of a Development Consent Order to start construction of a third runway the Heads of Terms agreement with Heathrow signed a year ago on Wednesday committed the new Partnership to:
- Address and mitigate issues faced by those communities in the Borough which are closest to the airport.
- Investigate how any further improvements to the airport’s Masterplan could be made which would benefit Slough
- Publicly support the expansion of Heathrow Airport
Slough Borough Council lists its financial demands on Heathrow, if it gets a 3rd runway
Slough Borough Council is supportive of a 3rd runway at Heathrow. With Spelthorne, they are the only two councils near Heathrow that do back a new runway. Slough has now submitted their council response to the Airports Commission consultation, but it includes many points on which the council wants extra funding, if there is a new runway. Slough Council expects to be compensated for loss of council tax from residential properties, loss of business rates from commercial land lost; and loss of business rates from closure of the Colnbrook incinerator. They want Heathrow to pay for insulation of public buildings, especially schools, throughout the whole of Slough; fixed noise monitoring stations across all affected areas of Slough, with the airport paying for their operation; and replacement of the Grundon incinerator, with no break in service, all at Heathrow’s expanse. They also expect extension of the Slough Mass Rapid Transit bus system to Heathrow, which has been halted due to lack of money. And Slough wants Heathrow to contribute towards the cost of air quality monitoring, recognising much is due to the airport. And the list continues …
Slough’s £1.5 million deal with Heathrow “unlocked funding denied to other councils” like Hillingdon
Slough Council has backed Heathrow’s runway plans, and entered into a deal with Heathrow to try and get the maximum benefits. Slough Council says its deal will “unlock £1.5 million in direct financial support denied to neighbouring councils.” Slough’s Deputy Leader James Swindlehurst has refuted suggestions that its partnership with Heathrow is anything less than the strong package he promised in January to mitigate the worst impact of airport expansion for communities closest to Heathrow. This has meant that Slough has secured funds for mitigation while neighbouring councils have been left with nothing. “Councils like Hillingdon, who have not negotiated with the airport, have no funds being allocated to them.”
Cllr Swindlehurst says the agreement provides a guaranteed minimum of £100,000 per year for 15 years where Heathrow and the Council will allocate the money to fund specific improvement projects in selected wards. That would only follow approval of the Development Consent Order for a 3rd runway, but Cllr Swindelhurst says additional funding pledges specifically mentioned in the agreement are in addition. Hounslow is now in talks with Heathrow, to get a financial deal. Hilliingdon has refused to enter into financial negotiations.
Slough Council secret deal with Heathrow includes gagging order, making it impotent in fighting for a better deal from Heathrow for 3 – 4 years
Residents of Colnbrook, close to Heathrow and due to be badly affected by a 3rd runway, submitted a FoI request to get the details for the secret, but legally binding, deal done between Slough Borough Council and Heathrow airport. The details of the deal are worrying. As well as finding out that Colnbrook, and help for the residents, do not feature in the deal, it has emerged that Slough Council has accepted what amounts to a self-imposed gagging order, unable to criticise Heathrow for the next 3 to 4 years, until Heathrow is granted a Development Consent Order (DCO). 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. Residents expected that their council would have argued for “world class” compensation and mitigation. Read the Agreement for yourself in full.