Fighting a 3rd runway at Heathrow … again


In 2010 we thought we had stopped a 3rd runway at Heathrow.  We had won a famous victory when the Coalition Government (Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) cancelled the plans of the previous Labour Government for a new runway.  You can read about our successful eight year campaign here.

Seven years later we are fighting again against a new runway.  After its defeat in 2010 the UK aviation industry, and Heathrow Airport in particular, spent almost two years reassessing its tactics.  Never before had it suffered a defeat on such an important project.

In 2012 the aviation industry persuaded David Cameron, then the Prime Minister, to set up a Commission to look at whether there was a need for a new runway in the UK and, if so, to recommend where it should be.

In 2015 the Airports Commission recommended a 3rd runway at Heathrow.  It argued that the six airports in the London area would become full between 2030 and 2040.  A new runway, therefore, would be required if the UK was to improve its links to the rest of the world and particularly to emerging economies like China and India.  It argued a new runway at Heathrow, Britain’s only large airport, was best placed to do that.

In October 2016 Theresa May, the new Prime Minister, announced that a third runway was the Government’s preferred option.  But there will be many years of consultation before it is given its final approval.  If it overcomes all the hurdles, the earliest it will open is 2024.


Heathrow has learnt lessons

Heathrow has been cleverer this time round.  It is it offering residents much improved compensation, guaranteed periods of respite from the noise and a tougher night flight ban if a 3rd runway goes ahead.  It also aims to make the third runway carbon neutral through carbon offsetting schemes.

And Heathrow has toured the length and breadth of the UK to persuade areas many miles from London that a 3rd runway at Heathrow will be good for their local economies by creating jobs, better trading links to the rest of the world and increasing prosperity.  Heathrow spent £700 million pounds on advertising alone.


Will a 3rd runway happen?

Will a 3rd runway happen this time?  Nobody knows.  The opposition remains strong.  It includes local residents, local authorities, many politicians, green NGOs and young green activists.  We won last time round against all the odds.  This time both Heathrow and the Government are playing a much clever game.  At this stage it is too difficult to know whether or not they will succeed.


John Stewart

Chair HACAN – the organisation which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths