“Take control of Third Runway commitments away from Heathrow” urge Thames Valley transport and economic bodies

Two regional bodies are set to approve submissions to the Government’s consultation on Heathrow expansion over the next week, with unequivocal backing for a new runway, and an insistence that Heathrow should not be left to pay the full cost of surface access.  However, they are also set to call for responsibility for fulfilling key commitments to be stripped from the airport.

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As expected, the Berkshire Local Transport Body (BLTB) and Thames Valley Berkshire local enterprise partnership are set to deliver robust support for expanding Heathrow to the Government’s consultation on its draft National Policy Statement.

But in a report to be considered by both organisations over the next few weeks, Roger Parkin, interim Chief Executive of Slough Borough Council since Ruth Bagley’s dismissal and lead Chief Executive to the BLTB has warned that control of delivery and performance monitoring should be wrested away from Heathrow and instead given to existing bodies where local authorities have more influence.

The report argues that Heathrow expansion is a vital component of the UK’s industrial strategy and that, while none of the expansion options proposed are bad options, expansion at Heathrow is “a superior option” to Gatwick.  Surface access proposals for the Gatwick option are “over-reliant on routes via London”, and there would be “significant disadvantages” for the Heathrow Extended Northern Runway scheme when compared to the Northwest Runway in respect of surface access, particular in relation to the Great Western mainline.

However, it says it would “perverse” for the airport to have to pick up the cost of transport improvements not exclusively required to deliver new airport capacity, and calls for “some care” in deciding which schemes are included within scope of Heathrow expansion.

We consider it would be a perverse outcome if the applicant was required to mitigate adverse impacts that arise from demands already in the wider economy, or mitigate adverse impacts that result from the projected future growth of the wider economy.

If that is music to Heathrow executives’ ears, it also called for noise and carbon emissions to be similarly considered as airport and non-airport sourced.  However, it was not all such good news.

The report appears to express concerns that responsibility for delivering and monitoring commitments for improved transport links should be taken away from the airport or those organisations it directly controls:

  • Heathrow should be made to join the Heathrow Strategic Planning Group which should oversee all surface access improvements.
  • Responsibility for monitoring of commitments made on public transport use, noise and carbon emissions should be stripped from the Airport Transport Forum and passed to a lead local authority.

It also insists that the Western Rail Link to Heathrow must not be considered a mitigation measure for Heathrow expansion and should progress whether Heathrow is a two or three-runway airport.

The only part of the consultation that the two organisations have so far deigned to comment on is a section on compensation for local communities.

The Berkshire Local Transport Body (BLTB) were due to consider the report yesterday (Thursday, 16th March) while Thames Valley Berkshire local enterprise partnership will discuss it next Tuesday (21st March).  The final version will be presented to the LEP Forum for endorsement at its meeting on 24 May, ready for submission prior to the end of the consultation on 25th May.

Initial views of Thames Valley Berkshire and the Berkshire Local Transport Body

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Thames Valley Berkshire is home to 945 foreign owned companies that, it says, have a role in “sustaining the SME supply chain”, with a dependency on Heathrow.

On surface access improvements “We suggest that some care will need to be taken in defining the phrases ‘additional transport requirements generated by airport expansion’ and ‘where a transport scheme is not solely required to deliver airport capacity’ in order to distinguish between:

  • the demands already in the wider economy of London and the ‘Western Wedge’;
  • the likely increase in demand from general economic growth; and
  • the likely increase in demand created by airport expansion.”
On the Western Rail Link to Heathrow “We urge the government to consider how the commitment to this scheme can be linked to the operation of a two-runway airport and not as a condition of expansion to a three-runway airport … We do not regard WRLtH as a mitigation measure for the Northwest Runway Scheme.”
On ensuring no net increase in road traffic “We fully support the ambition of achieving a three-runway airport with ‘no net increase in road traffic’ … through the work of the Heathrow Strategic Planning Group we will work with Heathrow Airport Limited, national agencies and local authorities to deliver credible plans for Southern Rail Access to Heathrow, Slough Rapid Transit and other surface transport interventions that contribute to the goals of modal shift away from cars and improving air quality … We suggest that the applicant be encouraged to use the Heathrow Strategic Planning Group in order to meet the expectation that ‘the applicant should consult Highways England, Network Rail and highway and transport authorities, as appropriate, on the assessment and proposed mitigation measures’ … of the draft NPS.”
On monitoring performance related to the surface access strategy “… we are not convinced that Airport Transport Forum is the right body to ‘oversee implementation of the strategy and monitor progress against targets alongside the implementation and operation of the preferred scheme’. This reservation is made because the Airport Transport Forum is not independent of the applicant, and has no status or standing to enforce any agreements. We suggest that a lead Local Authority be identified to take on the monitoring and enforcement role, acting alone, or in concert with other local authorities, possibly through the mechanism of the Heathrow Strategic Planning Group mentioned above.”
On noise and carbon emissions “…we repeat the comments made earlier about taking care to isolate the impact of airport expansion from other sources create an appropriate monitoring and enforcement arrangements.”

 

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