HEATHROW Airport has unveiled its £30bn expansion plans with a contentious third runway set to open by 2026 – but campaigners have warned the project will cause 30 years of “misery”.
The ambitious plans include lowering the M25 for the third runway to cross, diverting rivers and moving roads – with furious opponents warning of the environment impact.
The new runway, the crucial part of the airport’s expansion, is expected to be operational by 2026. The rest of the airport will be built in three stages between 2030 and 2050, with Heathrow claiming it can be built for £14 billion.
It hopes to increase its total capacity to 135 million passengers by 2050, up from almost 81 million. Flight numbers are expected to rise from 480,000 to 740,000 in the same time period.
Critics have questioned the price tag, claiming the ultimate cost could more than double to £30 billion.
‘YEARS OF DISRUPTION’
Plans for the first phase include the re-routing of a 12-lane section of the M25 into a tunnel under the new runway, diverting of river corridors and creation of new drainage and pollution control areas, and realignment of the Colnbrook Railhead freight line.
The project will be carried out while the M25, which carries 220,000 vehicles a day, remains operational.
The RAC warned drivers using the stretch “would face years of significant disruption”.
New locations have also been marked out for places such as Harmondsworth Primary School and Heathrow Special Needs Centre, which will be moved within the first phase.
In all, 761 homes are expected to be ripped down, including the entire village of Longford.
Plans to mitigate the effects of expansion include property compensation (with homeowners getting the open market value of their home plus 25 per cent), noise insulation funding, improved public transport links and a 6.5-hour ban on scheduled night flights.
The airport hope more passengers reach the airport by public transport but today’s plans show it is proposing to build three new car parks on the site, with space for 52,500 cars.
The proposals are now open to public consultation until September 13.
The third runway has faced fierce opposition for many years from campaigners who cited the negative impacts on noise and air pollution, habitat destruction, transport congestion and climate change.
Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to succeed Theresa May, said only four years ago he would “lie down in front of those bulldozers and stop the construction of [that] third runway”.
But when the plan was put up for vote in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson hopped on a plane to Afghanistan to meet the country’s president and deputy foreign minister. The visit lasted one day and cost the Government just under £20,000.
Now, with the PM job in sight, Boris has hinted he will drop his longstanding opposition to the third runway.
Paul Beckford from the No 3rd Runway Coalition, added: “Heathrow will claim this is the largest consultation ever and that may well be right.
“However, this simply reflects the sheer scale of the impact that their expansion plans will have on local communities.”
Mr Beckford said “incredibly” it appears Heathrow wants to “spread the misery of their expansion plans over a 30-year period, inflicting the blight of construction and the resultant increases in air and noise pollution on communities across London for decades”.
700 EXTRA PLANES A DAY
Robert Barnstone, campaign co-ordinator of Stop Heathrow Expansion, said he found the plans “laughable”.
He said: “It could be causing disruption for up to 30 years, that’s ridiculous.
“It just seems a slap in the face to be honest.
“Thirty years of disruption to build a runway that may not end up being compatible with various environmental targets, may breach air quality limits and is just going to make some parts of London a noise sewer.”
John Stewart, chair of Hacan, another campaigning group opposed to Heathrow’s expansion, said while the plan for the third runway was advancing it was not yet a done deal.
He said: “The impact on local people could be severe for many years to come. Disruption from construction; the demolition of homes; the reality of more than 700 extra planes a day.”
Campaigners have said around two million people could be impacted by new noise from an expanded Heathrow, including in areas such as Hammersmith, Heston, Osterley Park, Chiswick and Brentford, which are not on the flight path at the moment.
Last month the High Court dismissed five legal challenges to the approval of the runway, including one brought by a consortium of local authorities, Greenpeace and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, on air quality, climate change and noise pollution grounds.
Friends Of The Earth, which brought one of the challenges, said it would appeal.
Mr Khan tweeted today: “A third runway at #Heathrow would be an environmental disaster for London, with higher levels of toxic air & noise pollution and 40,000+ extra vehicles on our roads every day. I encourage all Londoners to participate in Heathrow’s expansion consultation.”
However the plans have been welcomed by some as a massive jobs boost.
Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow, which claims to represent more than 100,00 local residents, said: “It will bring thousands of new jobs, apprenticeships for young people in local communities and boost the wider UK economy”.
London and Eastern regional secretary Peter Kavanagh added: “Heathrow’s expansion masterplan is an important step on the road to creating 77,000 new local jobs and 5,000 new apprenticeships, as well as other benefits such as increased investment and better infrastructure.”
“That is why we have been working with partners at the airport, in local communities and in Government to ensure our plans show how we can grow sustainably and responsibly – with environmental considerations at the heart of expansion.
“This consultation is an opportunity for people to have their say on our preferred masterplan, so it’s really important that as many people as possible take part. We look forward to hearing your views.”