Heathrow, Gatwick or anywhere else?


The decision about whether to expand Heathrow is imminent. In fact, it has been imminent for quite some time.

A year ago the Davies Commission recommended that a third runway should be built at Heathrow, not at Gatwick, the only other contender at the time.

We were expecting to hear an announcement from Government before Christmas, but then the Department of Transport said that the decision would be delayed until summer 2016, conveniently after the May elections. This delay was not unconnected with the fact that Zac Goldsmith was the Tory candidate for London Mayor. Zac has famously declared that he will resign as MP for Richmond Park if Heathrow is chosen. He has now said he regrets this but will still stick by his plan to resign as an MP.

Within London, there is considerable opposition to expanding Heathrow. Boris Johnson was against , and Sadiq Khan has recently called for a second runway at Gatwick instead.

After Cameron’s resignation the Conservatives announced that the decision would have to wait for the new Prime Minister – which happened rather quicker than anyone was expecting.

Over the weekend Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said that the Government must move quickly on this.

Tom Brake has made this statement:

We need an urgent decision on whether to expand our airports, but it needs to be the right one.

Both David Cameron and Theresa May have previously stated their opposition to Heathrow expansion, indeed Cameron once famously said “no ifs, no buts” on whether a third runway would not be built.

Will they be able to resist the Heathrow quick-fix now that Brexit is rocking our economy?  The Government must look beyond London, expansion of regional airports has great potential and would help rebalance development away from the disproportionately congested London and the South East.

So watch this space – Liberal Democrats in Richmond Park are on high alert.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • There are more Lib Dem MPs in northern constituencies than there are members of the Cabinet.

    That the Northern Powerhouse is quickly unravelling as our unelected Prime Minister’s government returns to the form of both Labour and Tory governments over the past fifty years in throwing money at London and the South East is completely unsurprising.

    That the Conservatives, free from their Lib Dem shackles, are currently pursuing the least green transport and energy production solutions, is completely unsurprising too.

    We Lib Dems need to be making a stand on this: if there’s enough money to build this environmental folly, there’s enough money to electrify the North’s railways, bring ticketing into the 21st century, and make our roads safely navigable.

  • Sarah

    Are you suggesting that the government is planning on building the run way? I assume the airport owners will be building it (where ever that is).

    The funding for “northern powerhouse” infrastructure would be a separate issue.

  • @Psi – Whilst my expectations are the same as your’s, I have no doubts that the government will be expected to step in and ‘enhance’ the surrounding public infrastructure; necessary to make the airport expansion viable…

    With the UK potentially leaving the EU and hence the entire economic justification for airport expansion being thrown into the melting pot, I see little value in going ahead with the expansion of Heathrow/Gatwick, or HS2 for that matter.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 18th Jul '16 - 4:25pm

    Dear Colleagues,

    I am all for the redistribution of wealth and influence and would dearly love to see Inverness as the economic and cultural capital of the UK (it has a huge plot of land on which the airport could be expanded), but I am also aware of the huge benefit to specifically BaME communities that Heathrow and Gatwick offers regarding employment.

    For both environmental and fairness reasons I am very supportive of airport expansion elsewhere, but employment opportunities need to be retained in the South East as well.

    Overall I support Sarah’s viewpoint “…electrify the North’s railways, bring ticketing into the 21st century, and make our roads safely navigable”

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Jul '16 - 9:48pm

    Sarah Noble – ‘throwing money at London and the South East is completely unsurprising.’

    Just as a matter of interest do you ever spend any time in the non-London South East?

  • Paul Kennedy 18th Jul '16 - 10:21pm

    Lib Dem policy is quite clear and principled – we voted at conference in September 2014 and this was taken forward in the 2015 manifesto – we oppose any new runways in the South-East. Meanwhile in the worst kind of Nimbyism London Tories are pro-Gatwick and Surrey/Sussex Tories are pro-Heathrow. They are about to be found out.

  • Ian Hurdley 19th Jul '16 - 8:50am

    Chris Grayling has also said that HS2 will go ahead. Given lead time for a new runway is on the same timescale as that needed for HS2, I suspect that Birmingham would be a viable third option. No further in travelling time than the four London airports to get to Central London. Then as HS2 pushes further north, Manchester also can offer unused capacity, and already has two runways.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Oct '16 - 8:38am

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