“Back Heathrow” campaign formed, by the airport, to demonstrate – and boost – local support for a 3rd runway

“Back Heathrow” is a lobby group that has recently been formed, by supporters of a third Heathrow runway.  Its aim is to get people who favour Heathrow expansion to declare their support, and “give a voice to the hundreds of thousands of residents who support Heathrow.” It has been set up with funding from the airport, and 400,000 local tabloid-style propaganda newspapers have been delivered to local communities surrounding the airport. The text of the paper is shown below.  It pushes the scaremongering idea that there is a risk of Heathrow shutting down, causing the loss of “114,000 jobs” and that “200 of the UK’s biggest companies may move from Heathrow.” In reality, there is little prospect of Heathrow closing – and this is just a tactic to get publicity and worry people. Back Heathrow have written to local councillors, giving them the misleading impressing that it is a “new community campaign”.  It isn’t.  It is organised by the industry, not by the community.  Hacan said the formation of “Back Heathrow”  was “the actions of a desperate organisation, not confident of the arguments it is making.”


The campaign calls itself “the grassroots campaign” !


It has a survey on the website, which is intended to demonstrate a lot of local support for expansion. But like so many surveys, set up to try to prove a particular point of view, it is worded in a very biased manner.  It is not possible to fill in the survey from a point of view of not wanting Heathrow expansion. Therefore, when its results are published and used as “proof” of a high level of support, this should be viewed with considerable scepticism. The way in which the survey is constructed cannot accurately give that proof – as it is poorly constructed.


Heathrow campaign to encourage ‘silent majority’ to back expansion

11 September 2013

Heathrow airport is spending thousands of pounds on a “grassroots” campaign to build support for a third runway.

Half a million newsletters will be sent to west London homes in the first move by the campaign group Back Heathrow. Campaign director Rob Gray said his group wanted to give a voice to the “silent majority” of locals who oppose it being shut down under plans by Mayor Boris Johnson.

But anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan said its formation was “the actions of a desperate organisation, not confident of the arguments it is making”. Heathrow cites local support showing in its own poll that 46 per cent support expanding the airport with 43 per cent opposed.

But Hacan claim the poll was “out of kilter” with previous surveys, including the largest of its kind which showed more than 70 per cent of people in Richmond, Hillingdon and Hounslow against expansion.

Sir Howard Davies’s aviation commission is currently consulting on the submissions to boost capacity in the South-East. He will publish his findings in December.

Mr Gray said: “For too long, the local residents who support Heathrow have been the silent majority in the debate on the airport’s future. I am delighted to be joining a campaign to give a voice to the many thousands of local residents who back Heathrow and whose businesses and jobs depend on the future of the airport.”

Heathrow director of corporate affairs, Clare Harbord, said: “114,000 jobs will be lost to the local community forever if Heathrow were forced to close.”

However, Hacan chairman John Stewart said: “We take it as a compliment to our success in stopping expansion last time round that Heathrow feels the need to spend their money in this way.”




Comment from HACAN on the launch of “Back Heathrow”:


Last time Heathrow Airport Limited – then known as BAA – tried to get a third runway, it lost. The campaigners against expansion had widespread support within the local community. Heathrow Airport has learnt lessons from its previous failure.

One of them is this: it needs to try to show that there is some local support for a 3rd runway.

Therefore it has launched its Back Heathrow campaign – www.backheathrow.org
– and has delivered a newspaper to over half a million homes:



It is not at all clear whether people are being asked to back the continued existence of Heathrow or a third runway or both.

• True! If an Estuary Airport was built Heathrow would shut down
• True! Well over 100,000 jobs depend directly on Heathrow Airport
• Omitted! One new runway at Gatwick or Stansted would not require Heathrow to
• Omitted! Over 25% of flights at Heathrow are short-haul flights. If at least some of
those journeys were done by rail or from other airports (where there is spare
capacity), a 3rd runway would not be needed to cater for more flights from the
emerging economies like China and India


Heathrow’s claim that a third runway will cut noise defies common-sense. Even with quieter planes, steeper descent approaches and other measures, people don’t buy the claim that increasing flight numbers from 480,000 a year to 760,000 will cut noise.

Part of the reason Heathrow can claim this is that it has based its noise measurements on the outdated 57 decibel contour. People living well outside this contour are disturbed by noise and this is not taken account of in Heathrow’s predictions.


The poll, commissioned by Heathrow, found that 46% supported expanding Heathrow, compared to 43% who opposed expansion.

The telephone poll was out-of-kilter with previous surveys which have shown most
residents are against expansion. In May over 70% of people in Richmond, Hillingdon
and Hounslow voted against expansion at Heathrow in borough-wide surveys which
used a much wider example of people.  Link

Heathrow Airport knows the airport is very unlikely to close. What it really wants is support for a third runway. It should say so loud and clear instead of frightening people that closure is a real possibility. It is not.

John Stewart, Chair HACAN, representing residents under the flight paths,




Images of the tabloid propaganda newspaper by Back Heathrow are at




The survey referred to came out with very different results to the wider surveys done by the affected local authorities.  See   https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=16308




Dear Councillor,

I’m writing to let you know in advance about a new campaign launching tomorrow. The media embargo is 09.00 Monday 9 September.

Back Heathrow is a new community campaign to give a voice to the hundreds of thousands of residents who support Heathrow. The campaign has been established in response to polling published in June that showed more people in local communities around Heathrow back the airport than oppose it, and follows confirmation from the Mayor last month that his plans for a new hub airport would necessitate the closure of Heathrow.

The campaign is being launched with funding from Heathrow Airport and will now begin the process of identifying and recruiting local support. A new website, backheathrow.org, will go live from tomorrow, and from this week 400,000 local tabloid-style newspapers will be delivered to local communities surrounding the airport. Every household in your ward will receive one.

We feel that for too long, the local residents who support Heathrow have been the silent majority in the debate on the airport’s future. As the campaign’s new co-ordinator, I am delighted to help provide a voice to the many local residents who back Heathrow and whose businesses and jobs depend on the future of the airport.

If you need any more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Best wishes,
Rob Gray
Campaign Co-ordinator
M: 07760 883495

*I have removed the name of the ward to protect source.





Blog: Heathrow lost the 3rd runway battle last time – will its new approach succeed?

Date added: September 13, 2013

In a blog, Chair of Hacan, John Stewart, writes about the announcement that Heathrow is prepared to fund residents groups which support a third Heathrow runway, in a campaign called “Back Heathrow”. MPs and councillors from the wider Heathrow area have had letters and half a million newsletters will be sent to homes in West London, by Back Heathrow. In his blog, John looks at how successful this campaign could be, bearing in mind just how fierce the opposition is due to aircraft noise. Heathrow knows it has an uphill struggle to persuade politicians that a third runway in west London would not be political suicide. Presumably this is why it has launched “Back Heathrow” so early – at least two years before any decision is taken. It needs time to try to change the political climate. Nobody seriously believes that with 50% more planes over London, it is going to get quieter. This time round, it is Heathrow, not the campaign groups, that has the mountain to climb in terms of persuading the people and the politicians. It is now Heathrow that is trying to achieve victory against all the odds.

Click here to view full story…





Demonstration of the pitfalls of polls: 2 polls. Same place. Same issue. Utterly different results

June 12, 2013     It is curious that the Hillingdon survey recently sent questionnaires to all 205,634 residents on their electoral role, and got 80,457 responses. Of these responses, 66% said No in reply to the question: “Are you in favour of more flights into and out of Heathrow? Yes/no”. Richmond Council recently also sent out 136,880 questionnaires, and 58,953 responses were received, of which 82% replied NO to the same question. Link to Hillingdon and Richmond poll results . However, in the Populus poll for Heathrow, in response to the question: “Taking everything you know into account, do you currently support or oppose expanding Heathrow?” they say that of the 1,000 or so Hillingdon residents questionned, 47% were opposed and of the 1,000 or so residents in Richmond, 51% were opposed. So with a survey size some 80 times larger, the Hillingdon response was substantially more negative (66% cf. 47%) and with a survey size some 60 times larger, the Richmond response was also substantially more negative, (82% cf. 51%).  Click here to view full story…



Heathrow Airport to provide funding to set up pro-Heathrow expansion group

June 12, 2013     Heathrow Airport has announced that it will provide seed funding for a new community campaign “to provide a voice for the thousands of local people who support Heathrow”. Plans for the campaign are in their early stages but it said it will seek to establish itself and start identifying and recruiting support before the end of the year. The announcement comes on the back of polling results Heathrow released today which claims almost half the people in the boroughs closest to the airport favour its expansion. The Populus telephone poll took place between 27th February and 4th May, and questionned 6,000 residents in Hounslow, Richmond, Hillingdon, Windsor and Spelthorne. It found that 46% support expanding Heathrow, compared to 43% who oppose expansion. They say 60% of residents feel positive towards Heathrow compared to 6% who feel negatively. In reality, it is well known that the results of a poll depend on the wording of questions, and how they are asked. Previous surveys have shown most residents are opposed to expansion – and many other residents should be questioned in other boroughs to get full data.    Click here to view full story…


Over 100,000 residents of Hounslow, Hillingdon and Richmond vote in local polls against a 3rd Heathrow runway or more flights

May 21, 2013     Three of the local council areas most affected by Heathrow aircraft noise – Richmond, Hillingdon and Hounslow – recently carried out referendums of their residents on the subject of Heathrow growth. All three ended on 16th May. In total, well over 140,000 people responded to the polls. They voted overwhelmingly against expansion of the airport, against a new runway, and against more flights over Londoners. In the Hounslow poll, 72% of residents said they are against expansion, but 64% said they did not want to see a new hub airport built if it meant losing Heathrow. 83% of Hounslow residents were in favour of a night flight ban (11pm to 7pm) and 94% wanted better noise insulation for schools and residents living under the flight path. In the Richmond and the Hillingdon polls, 72% were against a 3rd runway, and 73% were against increasing the number of flights. The Standard says the findings of the poll are bound to be exploited by councillors as they go to the voters in next spring’s local elections. Heathrow sought vainly to rubbish the polls by saying they were voting on an outdated 3rd runway proposal.      Click here to view full story…