Tainted pro-runway “Back Heathrow” director gets top job in Heathrow community relations team

Residents are dumbfounded and angry after learning that Rob Gray has been appointed as the new Director of Community and Stakeholder Relations at Heathrow. Until recently, Gray had been the Director of Back Heathrow Ltd., a company set up by Heathrow Airport Ltd., to promote a third runway.  Under his leadership, Back Heathrow was found by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) to have produced misleading adverts aimed at politicians, where they overstated support for their campaign. On a different occasion, Gray oversaw a mismanagement whereby people replying to their campaign materials were automatically registered as supporters. Gray also led the campaign using scare tactics, designed to make local residents fear that if they didn’t back a third runway, Heathrow would decline and close, causing mass unemployment across west London. Rob Gray’s new role requires him to foster good relationships with the local community and strive to make Heathrow the better neighbour it should be. Opponents of the runway believe this is an appointment that can only cause further deterioration in relations between the airport and local communities. It would especially be the case for those that would be destroyed to make way for the runway or because living in such close proximity to it would be impossible. 
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TAINTED PRO-RUNWAY CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR GETS HEATHROW JOB IN COMMUNITY RELATIONS TEAM

25 April 2017 (SHE – Stop Heathrow Expansion – press release)

 

Residents were left dumbfounded and angered on Tuesday as individuals were being contacted regarding the appointment of Rob Gray as the new Director of Community and Stakeholder Relations at Heathrow Airport. Until recently, Gray had been the Director of Back Heathrow Ltd., a company set up by Heathrow Airport Ltd., to promote a third runway at Heathrow.

Under Gray’s leadership, Back Heathrow was found by the Advertising Standards Agency to have produced misleading adverts aimed at politicians, where they overstated support for their campaign (1). On a different occasion, Gray oversaw a mismanagement whereby people replying to their campaign materials were automatically registered as supporters (2).

Gray also led the campaign into scare tactics, designed at making local residents fear that if they didn’t back a third runway, Heathrow would decline and close, causing mass unemployment across west London (3).

Gray’s new role requires him to foster good relationships with the local community and strive to make Heathrow the better neighbour it should be.

Rob Barnstone, Campaign Coordinator for Stop Heathrow Expansion, said: “Heathrow are taking a backward step in community engagement with this appointment.

“Many people are sceptical enough about engaging with the community relations team already. The fact that somebody who headed up such a controversial and tainted company, masquerading as a grassroots residents group, is now to be dealing with the very people whose homes he has spent four years trying to destroy.

“Is it April Fool’s Day again?”

Harlington resident Christine Taylor, whose home will be severely impacted by a third runway, said: “I can’t imagine a worse appointment than Rob Gray who has spent the past four years working hard to destroy our homes, our health and our livelihoods. I’m shocked.”

Stop Heathrow Expansion is a local resident-led group based in the villages around Heathrow: Harmondsworth, Longford, Sipson and Harlington. IT campaigns to protect the local area from a bigger Heathrow.

Ends.

Notes

1 – http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/west-london-news/back-heathrow-advert-banned-false-11213129

2 http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/local/11776685.Back_Heathrow_campaign_number_doubts_as_opponents_sent_supporter_emails/

3 – https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/scare-tactics-land-heathrow-in-trouble-zns99cn8c62

For more information

Rob Barnstone;  robertbarnstone@outlook.com

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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.  

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2017/01/back-heathrow-complains-hillingdon-has-to-spend-money-fighting-runway-refuses-to-say-how-much-funding-it-gets-from-heathrow/

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Extent to which “Back Heathrow” is funded by Heathrow, and is not a true community campaign, revealed

“Back Heathrow” is an industry funded pressure group, the aim of which is to drum up support for a 3rd Heathrow runway. It was set up with at least £100,000 from Heathrow airport – maybe more.  Its website just says  that it had money from Heathrow to set up. Matt Gorman from Heathrow admitted at a public meeting in Putney on 27th November than Heathrow continues to fund it, but nobody will give any figures. “Back Heathrow” is a classic astroturfing campaign (ie. making out that it is community led, when it is not). Its co-ordinator is Rob Gray, was previously a director of the Aviation Foundation, another lobbying group established by the industry. Other staff working for Back Heathrow are current or former Heathrow employees. They have recently distributed hundreds of thousands of glossy newspapers to households across west London, with no mention anywhere on these that they are paid for (at least in part) by Heathrow. They try to give the impression of being independent information.  Back Heathrow claim to have 50,000 people signed up, but this is largely due to scare tactics, implying Heathrow workers  will lose their jobs without a 3rd runway.  This has now been revealed by the Sunday Times.  

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2014/12/extent-to-which-back-heathrow-is-funded-by-heathrow-and-is-not-a-true-community-campaign-revealed/

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“BackHeathrow” (paid for by airport – not a grass roots campaign), send biased scare-mongering survey to half a million

A lobbying group – called BackHeathrow – funded by Heathrow Airport is to distribute a survey to half a million homes, to try and get some favourable views on a new Heathrow runway.They are using fear as a tactic, to get local people worried that they might lose their jobs if the airport was not allowed to expand. There is, of course, no prospect of Heathrow being closed – the BackHeathrow tactic is irresponsible and ill-advised. John McDonnell, the MP for Hayes and Harlington, bordering Heathrow to the north and  under threat from a northern runway, said it was just another front organisation funded by the airport and another cynical spurious public relations exercise. John Stewart, chairman of HACAN, said BackHeathrow claims it is a grass roots campaign but no grass roots campaign has the sort of funding to send out half a million surveys. This is astoturfing, not a real citizens’ initiative. BackHeathrow survey results must be treated with great scepticism, when/if they come out. It’s so badly worded & biased as to be valueless.  The “Have you stopped beating your wife?” type questions in the BackHeathrow survey are so loaded they’d make you laugh if they didn’t make you angry.   

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2013/10/backheathrow-paid-for-by-airport-not-a-grass-roots-campaign-send-biased-scare-mongering-survey-to-half-a-million/

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