Thames Valley LEP makes dire warning about employment at Heathrow

The chair of the group behind the Western Rail Access to Heathrow project says it’s now time “to let the evidence do the talking” and get on delivering a Third Runway.  But his claim that employment at Heathrow will decline if Heathrow is not expanded flies in the face of research part-funded by Slough Borough Council.

Peter Read

Peter Read, chair of the LEP, has worked in the aviation industry for over 40 years.  He is the current Non-Executive Chairman of the Airline Group, a subsidiary of easyJet, working closely with the Department for Transport and a board member of NATS.

Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Ltd, which describes itself as the “economic powerhouse” for Berkshire and the wider UK economy, says that the 120,000 who depend on Heathrow for their employment are likely to be significantly impacted if Heathrow is not allowed to expand.

Responding to Heathrow’s announcement that it would comply with the Airports Commissions’ conditions for expansion, LEP chair Peter Read said two weeks ago that the company welcomed the announcement:

“Over six months ago the long awaited Davies Commission report on airport capacity was published, and we believed London and the south-east would finally make headway in an area that has been neglected by subsequent governments for generations. Though one of the recommendations was to expand Heathrow, several conditions were stipulated. Today, Heathrow announced it will meet and, in most cases, exceed these conditions, which the LEP welcomes”.

… it’s now time to let the evidence do the talking and get on with delivering a third runway on time

Despite coming a full ten months after the Airports Commission’s final report, Mr Read said it was time now “to let the evidence do the talking and get on with delivering a third runway on time”.

And he delivered a dire warning that decline of aviation-related employment in the area was inevitable if the Government did not allow Heathrow to expand:

“Thames Valley Berkshire is at the centre of a fiercely competitive area that desperately needs to facilitate more and better aviation links from an expanded Heathrow. This is crucial to maintaining our competitive advantage; globally. Within the so-called Western Wedge area (comprising West London and parts of the South East radiating out from London along the M40, the M4, the M3 and the A3) the aviation and related activity at Heathrow Airport directly supports 120,000 jobs and £6.2billion to the economy – numbers that are likely to decline if Heathrow is not expanded.”


Parsons Brinckerhoff and Berkeley Hanover Consulting found that employement in Slough would initially increase but, by 2030, see just 259 fewer positions dependent on Heathrow by 2030 if Gatwick rather than Heathrow got the go-ahead to expand.

But the claim contradicts 2014 research paid for by Slough Borough Council, one of six unitary authorities that have contributed funds and powers to the LEP.

In a report commissioned by Slough, Ealing and Hounslow councils in 2014, consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff and Berkeley Hanover Consulting found that 1.5% of those whose employment depends on Heathrow would be affected should Gatwick be given the go-ahead to expand instead and even up to 2020 over 3,000 new jobs would be created at Heathrow even if Gatwick rather than Heathrow got a new runway.  Just 259 fewer would be dependent on Heathrow in Slough in 2030 against 2010 figures, the report concluded.

And while Read claims 33,000 new jobs would be created in the ‘western wedge economy’ by 2040 if a Third Runway is approved, the research provided to Slough indicated that just 5,435 jobs would be created across Slough.

Local Enterprise Partnerships are voluntary partnerships between local authorities and businesses set up in 2011 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to help determine local economic priorities and lead economic growth and job creation within the local area.  Thames Valley Berkshire aims to invest well over £700m by 2021 to sustain the area’s status as the most productive sub region in the UK.  The Western Rail Access to Heathrow is one of the LEP’s flagship projects.

No doubt responding to suggestions that the group’s support for Heathrow expansion comes at the cost of a quality of life for the borough’s residents, Mr Read’s said:

Our position is not oblivious to the environmental issues that airport expansion poses, particularly the effects of aircraft noise on local communities, and we recognise that this is a huge decision for Government

But he added:

“However, it’s now time to let the evidence do the talking and get on with delivering a third runway on time”.

In July 2014 Stop Heathrow Expansion said it was “simply scaremongering” to suggest that Heathrow would decline if a third runway is not built:

“Heathrow will continue to be one of the world’s busiest airports because people will continue to want to come to London in very large numbers. Indeed in the future even more people will want to come, particularly from the newly prosperous countries like China, India and Brazil. It flies in the face of reality to suggest Heathrow will close if it does not expand. The only threat to Heathrow comes from a big estuary airport”.

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