'Heathrow chiefs must not pass ill-fated third runway costs onto passengers'

Published: Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Heathrow’s bosses should not make struggling airlines pay for their doomed attempts to build a third runway council leader Ravi Govindia said today (Tuesday).

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Media reports have surfaced claiming the airport’s owners have handed a £500m bill to the airlines to recover some of the costs of their ill-feted attempts to expand the airport.

The airport suffered a stinging legal defeat in the High Court in February in a case brought by Wandsworth and a consortium of other councils and environmental groups which led to the expansion plans being declared unlawful.

Cllr Govindia said: “These ill-thought through runway proposals continue to cause controversy.

“The airlines are already struggling to survive and across the industry tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs.

“Aviation experts are saying that the post-covid recovery could take many years before the airlines get back on their feet, yet Heathrow Airport Limited wants them to pay hundreds of millions of pounds in pursuit of an unachievable dream.

“It’s unacceptable that they now seek to pass on their losses to the airlines and ultimately onto passengers. This was their scheme and it’s down to them to pay their bills.”

February’s historic court victory centred on the detrimental effect a third runway would have on the environment – particularly the impact on pollution levels and air quality. It would mean the Government could not possibly meet its legally binding carbon reduction targets.

In its verdict in February, the Court of Appeal found that the Government had not taken into account the requirements of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change when drawing up its national policy statement (ANPS) that supported Heathrow expansion.

The councils that brought the case – Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames, Hammersmith & Fulham and Windsor & Maidenhead, together with the Mayor of London and Greenpeace– had challenged the ANPS alongside environmental groups Plan B and Friends of the Earth.

In the immediate wake of that court ruling Cllr Govindia described it as “a massive relief for Londoners and people in the Home Counties affected by Heathrow.

“It shows that no Government can expect to drive through major expansion plans without properly considering the full environmental and climate change impacts.

“It’s also a terrific win for the local authorities who have fought a long battle on behalf of their communities. If democratically-elected councils won’t stand up for their residents’ interests and protect their quality of life – who will?”

And he had added: “A new approach to airports policy is needed if we are to make best use of existing runway capacity and ensure that any additional growth is assessed in the context of climate change impacts.

“This must look at the effects on other parts of the UK which would lose connectivity if new airport expansion were to be massively concentrated in the South East and the Government’s own plans for levelling up between the South East and the rest of the country.”