Munawar and Harvey: “we must not squander golden opportunity of Heathrow expansion”
Slough Borough Council has formed a new partnership with Spelthorne Borough Council to ensure the “opportunity” presented by Heathrow expansion is not “squandered”. The two councils are urging other local authorities to join them, suggesting they are “duty-bound” to work with the airport to get the best deal for residents.
The only two local authorities bordering Heathrow that back a Third Runway have joined forces to create a new group to get the most out of their support.
The two councils announced the formation last Wednesday of a Working with Heathrow group, designed to maximise “the huge employment, apprenticeship and investment opportunities to be created by a new runway at Heathrow Airport”, while minimising or mitigating negative impacts to residents and businesses.
In a joint statement, the two council leaders claimed that attitudes towards Heathrow are changing and that, even in some boroughs traditionally hostile to expansion, there is now a majority in favour:
“Attitudes toward expansion are changing right across West London and the Thames Valley as residents, businesses and local authorities alike recognise the shot in the arm expansion will give the economy in these uncertain times. This is evidenced by a recent survey carried out by the London Borough of Hounslow which found for the first time a majority of its residents backing expansion.
“Heathrow has been giving our local economy a huge boost for generations and this expansion will bring even more jobs and growth, and improve our status as a global hub for trade and travel. But infrastructure projects of this scale are hugely disruptive, and if the third runway goes ahead, some people will lose their homes, while many more will be affected.
We are duty-bound to work with the airport to pick a way through these complex challenges responsibly. We have in our hands a golden opportunity to influence an infrastructure project that will shape all our futures. We must not squander it.
No details have been shared as to the make-up of the new group, how affected residents might be represented, or how it will work with the Strategic Partnership with Heathrow established under the previous leadership which was also designed to address a mitigation package for residents.
Cllrs Sohail Munawar and Ian Harvey, leaders of Slough and Spelthorne Borough Councils respectively, also said they felt “duty bound” to work with Heathrow and urged other local authorities to join them:
“We hope that other local authorities will now join with us and seize the opportunity to work together with Heathrow to secure the best deal from its expansion for all our residents”.
Do Hounslow residents now support a Third Runway?
In sharp contrast to Slough, Hounslow Council commissions an independent survey of its residents every two years on a vast array of topics related to service delivery – but also about their views on Heathrow.
Opinion Research Services carried out the latest survey between 8 September and 18 October 2016 by undertaking 1,207 interviews with residents. The results showed that:
- 44 per cent of residents surveyed support a third runway at Heathrow (including 18 per cent who strongly support it).
- 29 per cent of residents surveyed oppose a third runway at Heathrow (including 21 per cent who strongly oppose it).
- 25 per cent of residents surveyed neither support nor oppose a third runway at Heathrow.
The survey indicates geographical differences in levels of support and opposition to a third runway. For example, in Central Hounslow 51 per cent of residents surveyed support a third runway and 26 per cent oppose it; while in Chiswick 31 per cent of residents surveyed support a third runway and 38 per cent oppose it.
More than 20 per cent of surveyed residents neither support nor oppose a third runway.
The survey also found that residents employed at Heathrow Airport, or who have family members who are employed at the airport, are more likely to support a third runway.
The leader of Hounslow Council, Steve Curran, has ruled out any change in policy, insisting the council wanted a “better, not bigger” Heathrow.
“We will however, work with Heathrow on behalf of our residents and businesses, many of whom are employed directly at Heathrow or are part of the supply chain, to ensure the best possible outcome and to reduce any adverse effects of the decision. We have already achieved some local improvements, particularly for our schools, this work must continue.”
Hounslow’s Cabinet is due to discuss the findings at its next meeting today.