BackHeathrow postal survey described as of the “do you support expansion of Heathrow or the boiling of puppies” variety

There is a good blog post by Matt Ballantine, a resident of Twickenham, on the latest survey which is being circulated by the campaign lobby, “BackHeathrow”. The organisation was set up with money from Heathrow, to lobby on its behalf. How much funding comes from other sources is not clear. Twickenham is an area now suffering from altered, concentrated Heathrow flight paths. The BackHeathrow survey came through the post, and Matt describes it as of the “do you support the expansion of Heathrow or the boiling of puppies” variety, that he says seem to be so popular amongst political lobby groups. The survey is worded in such a way as to give highly leading questions, and give the impression that Heathrow is likely to close if it does not build a 3rd runway. That was never a realistic threat, and especially as the chance of a Thames estuary airport has significantly receded. The BackHeathrow survey aims to instil fear of losing their jobs into people who work at the airport, or in connected jobs. Matt comments that “This is no way to have an important debate …. In an age when information is so easily disseminated (and checked), organisations that think that it’s enough to gather false data to present their case are on very thin ice.”



I’m very lucky to live in the stereotypical leafy South West London suburb of Teddington. Close to the open spaces of Richmond and Bushy Parks, with a thriving local independent shopping centre, great schools and other amenities.

The best way to illustrate what sort of a place Teddington is is when I saw dog poo on the pavement nearby recently how someone had taken the effort to scrawl in chalk next to it the words “Shame on you!”. My initial reaction was that we must now be teaching the dogs to read around here.

Teddington really is a lovely place. Sometimes a little over-competitive, but really lovely. And with great transport links – a sedate 35 minutes into London Waterloo, and with Heathrow Airport on our doorstep.

Ah. Heathrow. The cause of much current consternation.

Generally aeroplanes take off over Berkshire, into the prevailing westerly winds that keep this country so warm for its latitude. But about 30% of the time the winds come from the East and so planes take off over London.

In the past few weeks there has been a lot of easterly wind, and that, combined with some new flight path routes that Heathrow are trialling, has resulted in a lot more aircraft nose than we are used to hearing. The people of Teddington aren’t happy.

But there is more afoot at Heathrow. Having knocked back Boris’s plans for a large pontoon in the Thames Estuary, planning decisions are coming to a conclusion in the next few months as to whether to build a new runway at Heathrow or London’s second airport at Gatwick. A once in a lifetime decision, apparently.

Yesterday in the post I received a mail from an organisation calling itself Back Heathrow. Slightly shady to it’s origins and funding (although the website does admit to it having been initially started by the airport itself) the group is a lobby organisation to support Heathrow expansion. Included within the envelope was a “survey”. The structure of the survey was of the “do you support the expansion of Heathrow or the boiling of puppies” variety that seem to be so popular amongst political lobby groups.

Doing a bit more searching, it looks like providing surprising results in support of Heathrow expansion where before there was dissent might be a specific modus operandi for Heathrow. (see article below).

This is no way to have an important debate.

I don’t know if Heathrow should be expanded or not. It appears that the “do we really need more airport capacity?” question has been put to bed. I can see pros and cons to both Heathrow and Gatwick growing (I spent a couple of years working on the Gatwick site a few years back and so know that area a bit too). But I also know that this leading question, PR-driven data gathering approach being used by the Back Heathrow campaign makes me not trust them. Nor the data that Heathrow produce to support their case. How much rigour has gone in to any of it, or have “find us the right answer” methods been used throughout?

In an age when information is so easily disseminated (and checked), organisations that think that it’s enough to gather false data to present their case are on very thin ice. Whilst the journalism trade might be increasingly naïve and under-resourced to print the stuff, concerned citizens can lobby back with increasing force



Back Heathrow says it is:

“… a group of people, businesses and organisations who have come together to defend the jobs that rely on Heathrow and to campaign for its secure future. Contact us at: “



Heathrow easterly departure routes trial – update

15.9.2014 (Teddington, Middlesex website)

NewsAfter details of Heathrow’s easterly departure trials were posted here, it has become increasingly obvious that very few local residents knew anything about the changes to flightpaths before noticing changes themselves. Heathrow have again stated that local groups, councils etc were informed but not provided any further detail than this.

Heathrow’s Community Communications Officer stated that: “Instead of spreading tracks over a wide area, aircraft following more precise routes. The height or number of aircraft using each route is not affected. For people living under these routes it’s likely you’ll experience a concentration of aircraft during periods that these particular routes are being used. They’ll also be people that have less aircraft over them.

Example maps of one day before & during the trial were also supplied that make the changes more clear: it appears as though the MID and SAM routes are now combined in a concentrated corridor over the west of Teddington.

Heathrow correspondence has confirmed that complaints from residents have been massively higher than expected – perhaps the flightpath changes had more of an effect than even the airport had anticipated. If you feel that the noise continues to be unacceptable, then it’s advisable to continue logging this by emailing including your name, address, postcode and phone number.

The trials are driven by the Governments Future Airspace Strategy to simplify and modernise UK airspace by 2020 by making more efficient ways of routing planes, whilst reducing delays for passengers – all made possible by modern navigation systems. What works and doesn’t will be determined by feedback during the trials and via public consultations (likely in 2016) with final decisions to be made by the Government.


It’s still not clear why areas that should in theory be experiencing less plane noise are seeing complaints lodged – feedback has been added to the map  after a Twitter survey, with many negative comments from areas between the centre of Teddington and the river, where it should now be quieter. One local resident using a phone app recorded a noise level of 100 decibels near Teddington Memorial Hospital at 11pm on Sunday night!

If you do feel that noise has remained the same, or improved then post your road/postcode in the comments section below and it will be added as a positive (green) marker on the map.

Following complaints and petitions such as City Airport and this one from Ascot residents to cease trials for Westerly departures, a petition has been created to create awareness of the noise created by these trials and to persuade Heathrow to cease them and not make the changes permanent. You can sign the petition here if you agree. Complaints are being lodged from Teddington, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, Hampton Hill, Molesey and Ham.



Hit or Miss? Back Heathrow “grassroots” campaign attempts to gather public support for the airport’s expansion

November 15, 2013

Back Heathrow joined the debate on airport capacity, describing itself as a grassroots campaign to defend jobs that rely on the airport.

It was accused by local residents of biasing its survey questions in favour of the airport’s expansion and by MP John McDonnell of being “a con” funded by Heathrow. Campaign co-ordinator Rob Gray retorted that he had disclosed the funding from launch and called on the MP to apologise. Gray also claimed to have received more than 10,000 positive survey responses after four weeks.

How I see it

Paul Wheeler, corporate affairs director, Kellogg’s UK

Let’s separate the campaign from the controversy for a moment.

Should there be a platform that allows people with an interest in the future of the airport to express their views? Yes. After all, Mayor Boris has had plenty to say on Heathrow, so why shouldn’t people who actually earn their livings from it also have some airtime?

In my view, Back Heathrow has fallen foul of an aversion to corporate-backed issue campaigns. After all, we’d think nothing of charities coming together to lobby on something, so why do we have a problem when it’s a business that does it?

Heathrow Airport wants to survive, so it should be perfectly acceptable for it to fund a campaign to achieve that end.

As to those critics who say Back Heathrow is presenting a one-sided view, I’d say: who’s ever heard of a two-sided lobbying campaign? Whether it’s too little, too late is another debate.