Government confirms a Heathrow runway shorter than 3,500m invalidates the NPS (so why is HAL consulting on it?)
There was a Lords debate on the issue of Heathrow, and a possible 3rd runway, on Thursday 15th March. There were many important contributions from Baroness Kramer, Baroness Jones and many others. One point that emerged was that, while the Airports NPS (on which MPs are expected to vote in the summer) looks only at a 3rd runway 3,500 metres long, Heathrow has its own (inappropriately premature) consultation at present, in which it considers a shorter runway. Lord Tunnicliffe asked: “Heathrow is now consulting on a scheme with the third runway being 3,200 metres long. That is all over the web. If it presents a scheme for 3,200 metres, does paragraph 1.15 mean that the document is invalid? It seems to say that the only scheme that the Government will consider is one for 3,500 metres. …. Have the Government got themselves in a trap where their provisions and the newly preferred scheme by Heathrow are incompatible?” To which Lord Young of Cookham (Spokesperson for the Government, for the Cabinet Office) said: “… The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked me whether anything less than that would invalidate the NPS, and the answer is, yes, it would.” There were also important contributions on other issues, including the very negative implications for regional airports, from a 3 runway Heathrow.
Note from the No 3rd Runway Coalition:
A key revelation by the Government this afternoon in a Lords debate on Heathrow confirms the Heathrow consultation could invalidate the NPS – it confirms that any runway proposal for less than 3,500 metre – as stated in the NPS, will invalidate the NPS – it made no comment on what would happen in that event, but it raises the question of why were these proposals for a 3,500 metre runway included by Heathrow?
Did they not take advice on this specific issue beforehand? Did they care more about the PR exercise of doing a consultation rather than the substance? These are certainly question which come to mind…
See the full transcript here:
Just a few excerpts from the debate:
Lord Tunnicliffe asked:
“Heathrow is now consulting on a scheme with the third runway being 3,200 metres long. That is all over the web. If it presents a scheme for 3,200 metres, does paragraph 1.15 mean that the document is invalid? It seems to say that the only scheme that the Government will consider is one for 3,500 metres. My personal experience is that 3,000 metres is more than enough for virtually all modern jet aeroplanes. Have the Government got themselves in a trap where their provisions and the newly preferred scheme by Heathrow are incompatible?
“My next detailed point, which has been referred to by several noble Lords, especially my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, concerns paragraph 5.18:
“Where a surface transport scheme is not solely required to deliver airport capacity and has a wider range of beneficiaries, the Government, along with relevant stakeholders, will consider the need for a public funding contribution alongside an appropriate contribution from the airport on a case by case basis”.
“That would seem to me to be a promise of public money. Because the Government have examined the Davies report and said that they broadly support it, they must at some point have evaluated how much public money that paragraph commits them to spending. It is a surprisingly light amount of text for what I should have thought could be a substantial amount of money. I never got that sort of money out of the Government with so little text.§’
The statement by Lord Young of Cookham (Spokesperson for the Government, for the Cabinet Office) said: “… That is why we are pressing ahead with the delivery of HS2, rail investment, broadband, road schemes, energy infrastructure and this proposal for a 3.5 kilometre additional runway. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked me whether anything less than that would invalidate the NPS, and the answer is, yes, it would.”
There were excellent contributions in the debate form Baroness Susan Kramer, Baroness Jenny Jones and Lord Tunnicliffe, responding for the Labour frontbench.
Baroness Kramer said:
“The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, talked extensively and so well on climate change. To meet the carbon targets in the Climate Change Act 2008, the third runway would require off-setting cuts across our regional airports. Passenger numbers would need to be cut by 36% in the south-west, by 11% in Scotland, by 14% in the north-west and by 55% in the West Midlands. Without that, carbon emissions from aviation would constitute 25% of our carbon emissions allowance by 2050. Again, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, described that far more effectively than I can.”
Baroness Jones said:
For starters, Heathrow expansion will contribute to air pollution. It will negate all the measures that the current Mayor of London is putting in place in and around London. It will be impossible to keep within his plans if the expansion goes ahead. Heathrow is already a pollution hotspot that breaches legal limits. The plans include schemes that have yet to be identified and laid out clearly, and they make all sorts of optimistic claims about public transport use. I am not sure whether the Minister laid this out but I would like to hear by how much Heathrow Airport is planning to subsidise public transport. Quite honestly, you cannot expect Transport for London and London taxpayers, as well as taypayers all over the UK, to pay for this extension of public transport.
“What is definitely planned is expanded car parking, with at least 40,000 to 60,000 extra vehicles a day on the roads. Air pollution from Heathrow with this expanded road capacity will shorten people’s lives—there is absolutely no way round it.
“Noise from Heathrow currently impacts on 1.5 million people—a figure based on World Health Organization standard levels. It does not just impact on those around the airport. It is marvellous that a lot of insulation will be installed in houses around the airport, but, quite honestly, everybody in London is impacted at some point by the noise levels from flights overhead. We were told that £40 million will be available to insulate some local schools, but it is an absolutely paltry sum which will be nowhere near enough. Added to that is the fact that children obviously have to go outside to play, and they will be playing in dirtier air and noisier playgrounds. I do not see how Heathrow Airport can justify any expansion.
A fully operational, three-runway airport, open from 5.30 am, could mean that night flights jump by a third. The safeguards that should be in the NPS are simply not there, and the final decision about flight paths will not be taken until after the NPS has been signed off. Therefore, how can the Government be sure that any of those mitigating factors will be valid? Currently, 102,000 people live around Heathrow and are exposed to very high levels of noise. They are up to 20% more likely to suffer a stroke or have heart disease. Again, the noise reduction from insulation might be very effective when they are in their houses, but what about when they want to go to the shops or travel locally? Insulation will not help them then. I guess that headphones might help if Heathrow Airport would like to supply a pair to every single resident.”
The transcript of the debate is available here
You can watch the debate in full, here, starting at 13.08