Councils that have spent £350k fighting Heathrow expansion plans ‘doing taxpayers a favour’
Local authorities that are badly affected already by Heathrow are having to spend large amounts of money, in trying to oppose a 3rd runway. The cost to the boroughs if the runway was in operation could be huge (road costs, housing, health, noise, congestion, social impacts etc etc). The councils may have to spend £350,000 on a joint legal challenge against the government’s plans for the runway. Though this may sound a lot, it is probably dong taxpayers a favour, in trying to save massive future costs. A FoI request revealed Wandsworth, Richmond and Hillingdon councils spent £300,000 from their general funds, and Windsor and Maidenhead Council spent £50,000 from its development fund. Hillingdon Council has also earmarked a contingency budget of £200,000 in case of future legal action regarding the expansion, and Wandsworth Council has set aside £25,000. The government spent £3.8 million over 18 months on consultants, working on 3rd runway plans. The anticipated cost of necessary surface access infrastructure for the runway could be £15 billion, and that is likely to have to be paid by taxpayers (across the UK, not merely in London or the south east). Robert Barnstone, co-ordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition said: “These 4 local authorities are in fact doing British taxpayers a favour trying to stop this overwhelmingly burdensome amount of money being spent.”
Councils who have spent £350k fighting Heathrow expansion plans ‘doing taxpayers a favour’
Councils’ £350k spend fighting Heathrow expansion ‘doing taxpayers a favour’
By Calum Rutter (Richmond and Twickenham Times)
Local authorities spending £350,000 fighting Heathrow’s planned third runway are ‘doing taxpayers a favour’, according to an anti-expansion campaigner.
A freedom of information request first reported by the BBC revealed Wandsworth, Richmond and Hillingdon councils spent £300,000 from their general funds, and Windsor and Maidenhead Council spent £50,000 from its development fund.
Hillingdon Council has also earmarked a contingency budget of £200,000 in case of future legal action regarding the expansion, and Wandsworth Council has set aside £25,000.
Robert Barnstone, coordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, responded to the report, saying: “Heathrow expansion will cost British taxpayers up to £18 billion in order to pay for infrastructure upgrades that would be required to deliver the project.”
Estimates of the cost of the road and rail infrastructure needed to accommodate the runway vary – the Airports Commission has put it at £5-6bn and Transport for London has put it at £18bn.
Mr Barnstone said, referring to information revealed by a freedom of information request by the Press Association in January: “We know the Government has already spent more than £10,000 per day in 2015 and 2016 on assessing Heathrow expansion, not to mention the cost of the glamourous consultation that has been running for the past two months.
“These four local authorities are in fact doing British taxpayers a favour trying to stop this overwhelmingly burdensome amount of money being spent.
“There are 470,000 households across the four boroughs – that’s just 75p per household. It is a small price to pay to fight plans that would devastate many people’s lives, not least those thousands of people that would lose their homes, but also the hundreds of thousands of people that would become exposed to Heathrow aircraft noise and the reduction in air pollution that the extra 250,000 planes per year would bring.
“Many thousands of residents are pleased that their local council is standing up for them whilst the Government is spending many millions pushing forward a project that cannot be delivered.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “Delivering new runway capacity in the south east is vital to the future of the UK, helping boost our economy and our position on the world stage.
“We want to hear everyone’s views on the consultation currently underway, which will close as planned on 25th May.
“The consultation sets out the benefits and potential impacts of expansion, and is accompanied by a world-class package of compensation and mitigation measures to support local communities.”
Government spent ‘eye-watering’ £10k a day (£3.8m so far…) on legal etc consultants over 3rd runway
The Government has been criticised for the DfT spending an average of £10,000 per day on consultants and law firms to decide if a 3rd runway should be built at Heathrow. The DfT is reported to have spent more than £3.8million on external firms since the Airport Commission published a report in July 2015, saying Heathrow was the best location for a new runway. A FoI request by the Press Association showed that the lion’s share of the money has gone to financial advisers N M Rothschild & Sons, who filed 4 invoices totalling £1.46 million, which were paid between July last year and October 2016. Law firm DLA Piper UK was also paid £1.09 million between August 2015 and October 2016, while Allen & Overy received £152,955.60 between January and September this year. Professional services firm Ernst & Young filed 2 invoices worth £138,765 for consultancy work, paid between March and August 2016. New MP for Richmond Park, Sarah Olney, said: “These are eye-watering sums, over £10,000 a day, to pay consultants for an airport people don’t want.” For this runway “the people lose out and the only gainers are highly paid consultants.” Taxpayers’ money has been wasted by the DfT despite deciding “long before it was going to be Heathrow whatever the evidence”. Far, far more public money will also be spent, if the runway went ahead.
Back Heathrow complains Hillingdon has to spend money fighting runway – refuses to say how much funding it gets from Heathrow
The “astroturf” group (not actually a real community group) Back Heathrow gets its funding from Heathrow. It refuses to say how much money it gets from the airport. John Holland-Kaye has in the past also refused to say how much it contributes. Back Heathrow is complaining that Hillingdon borough has spent a lot of money on its campaigns against the 3rd runway. This is money that the borough is being forced to spend, because of the activities of Heathrow, against which it has to defend its residents. The account for Back Heathrow show it has around £154,000 in the bank; it has assets of around £653,000; it gives its net worth as about £482,000; its current liabilities are shown as – £171,000; and it only has one employee, Rob Gray. No activity is reported, and no turnover is reported. Back in December 2014 the Sunday Times revealed that Back Heathrow had had at least £100,000 from the airport, but no details are ever given. Back Heathrow says, rather bizarrely, that ‘It would not be fair to publish the amounts given’. Their next accounts will be published on 31st March 2017. Being private companies, the sums cannot be extracted through FoI. Hillingdon Council makes its figures public, and has defended its campaigning, saying it is representing the views of residents.
Greenpeace to join with 4 councils in legal challenge against Heathrow 3rd runway
Greenpeace UK has joined forces with Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils to prepare grounds for a joint legal challenge against Heathrow expansion. More claimants could join the alliance in the coming days as media reports have suggested a final decision has now been delayed until 25th October. Greenpeace and the four local authorities say both Heathrow expansion schemes would be unlawful due to their unrivalled environmental impacts, which include exacerbating illegal levels of air pollution, increasing Europe’s worst aircraft noise footprint and stretching the local transport network beyond breaking point. The councils jointly instructed Harrison Grant Solicitors to prepare their legal strategy last year and Greenpeace will now share costs and bring new environmental expertise to the partnership. The campaigners also worked together back in 2010 to successfully overturn the Brown Government’s backing for a 3rd runway in the High Court. Later that year the scheme was emphatically ruled out by the incoming Cameron Government. Heathrow current expansion scheme is even bigger and has more severe environmental impacts than the 2010 proposal, and will fail the same legal tests. New evidence on the severe health impacts of air and noise pollution make the new scheme far less likely to pass judicial review.
Theresa May’s local council, Windsor & Maidenhead, vows court fight if she backs Heathrow runway
The Tory leader of Theresa May’s own local council, Windsor and Maidenhead, has vowed to use “all necessary financial resources” for a High Court battle to block a third runway at Heathrow. Councillor Simon Dudley, Leader of the council, pledged the legal action to protect residents “irrespective of who the Prime Minister is”. He has joined forces with Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames and Hillingdon councils for the looming court battle if the Government backs Heathrow expansion. “We have very significant financial resources,” he said. “We will put all the necessary financial resources behind a vigorous legal action.” The Council’s lawyers, Harrison Grant, wrote to David Cameron this year warning him that his “no ifs, no buts” promise before the 2010 general election to oppose a third runway had created a “legitimate expectation” among residents that the project would not go ahead. So if it were given the green light, they argued, it would be an “abuse of power correctable by the courts”. Mr Dudley said Windsor and Maidenhead had allocated £30,000 for the legal battle and signalled that this could rise to hundreds of thousands. The council’s concerns include more pollution, noise and traffic as well as extra housing needs created by a larger Heathrow. A recent poll in the areas suggested around 38% opposed the runway, with 34% in favour of it.