Richmond capacity turnout opposes Heathrow expansion

January 22, 2008 at 11:08 am | Posted in 2M Group, Department for Transport, DfT, Future Heathrow, HACAN ClearSkies, London Borough, Meetings, Petitions, Richmond, Richmond Council, Richmond Heathrow Campaign, Richmond Park, Richmond upon Thames, Ruth Kelly, Stop Heathrow Expansion, Transport Secretary | Leave a comment

Adding capacity at Heathrow airport response form page 1 of 8Very few seats were free as the meeting organised by the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, a lead member of the 2M Group of 12 local authorities, commenced at 8pm on Friday 18 January 2008.

We were there to discuss proposals for Heathrow expansion and our responses to the Department for Transport’s ‘Adding capacity at Heathrow airport‘ — which is an Open Consultation in progress from 22 November 2007 through 27 February 2008.

There is another opportunity for Richmond residents to attend a meeting on Tuesday 12 February 2008; background information and details of that meeting are in this press release from the borough, titled Fight against Heathrow expansion gathers pace (dated 28 December 2007, so you may well have missed seeing it over the New Year break).

My rapid summary of Friday’s meeting was typed “same night”, intending to write a more comprehensive report as I was, but Trevor Clarke has already captured the situation very well indeed. There’s no sense in reinventing wheels, so my recommendation to you is to please read his report below (if you have not yet found it in Richmond Online or here). Our accounts will give you a taste of the evening, but no report can really do justice to the speakers who were well-informed and, indeed, impressive.

I would like to add that John Stewart told us there is a new website set up by HACAN ClearSkies. It’s called simply Stop Heathrow Expansion, and we were urged by others at the meeting to get behind this campaign and support it. Just so you will recognise campaign materials when you see them, the site is headed like this:

Stop Heathrow Expansion banner ~ click to visit the website

The green button on that Stop Heathrow Expansion site links to an online Stop Heathrow Expansion petition on iPetition as shown here:

Stop Heathrow Expansion petition ~ click to reach petition and please sign!

You are, naturally, encouraged to sign the petition, from wherever you hail: you do not need to live in the local area despite the fact that this whole campaign is being run by the DfT as a low-key local issue that affects grumpy NIMBYs (I only found out what that acronym stood for yesterday!), selected by postcodes as we are to be ‘Consultees’, and we are very keen to raise the profile of Heathrow expansion on the national and international stages. Now back to that meeting …
Swapping seats enabled me to snap a photograph from this angle. You can tell the hall was packed!

Richmond public meeting on Heathrow expansion 18 January 2008

Packed hall attendance opposed to Heathrow expansion

Page content published by: Trevor Clarke

Summary account of the main points from memory, of the meeting attended at Duke Street Church, Richmond, Friday 18 January, 8pm.

The church hall was full, with many seated also in the upper tier. Estimated attendance, more than 300. Sat at the front table were, from facing left to right were:

Neil MaybinRichmond Heathrow Campaign
Cllr Stephen Knight – Deputy Leader of Richmond Council
Cllr Nicholas True – Leader of the Opposition
Cllr Serge Lourie – Chair and Leader of Richmond Council
Lord Clive Soley – Future Heathrow Campaigns Director
John StewartHACAN ClearSkies Chair
Susan Kramer – MP Richmond Park

Richmond meeting panellists discuss Heathrow expansion 18 January 2008

Among those in the front row:

Zac Goldsmith – Conservative parliamentary candidate Richmond Park
Tony Arbour – GLA member South West London
Cllr Martin Elengorn – Cabinet member for Environment London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Richard Mellor – Head of Legal London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

Everyone from the table had their say, a three minute time limit given, most going over, disregarding the signals and pieces of paper thrust under their noses by the Chairman. The main points from those opposed to expansion were:

1. United political stance and opposition was essential. Broadly agreed, except for a disagreement between Susan Kramer and Zac Goldsmith, who later clarified that he was totally opposed to expansion. He was urged to try and use his influence for that to be a confirmed Conservative Party policy.

2. ‘Unity in the community’ was an expression used by Cllr True, with Cllr Lourie commenting that it was a good slogan to adopt. This point came up many times, that a unified opposition was vital. Cllr Lourie had invited Ruth Kelly to attend and had not had any form of reply. On speaking to a DfT official, he was told, “We don’t attend meetings”.

3. Neil Maybin spoke about the new Richmond coalition recently formed, the Richmond Heathrow Campaign and urged people to go to their website, which has much useful information. He talked about the impact on Richmond from the ending of the mixed mode and runway alternation. It would mean constant noise all day without respite, and that Richmond, for the first time, will also be under the take off flight path.

4. John Stewart emphasised that it is the economic argument that must be tackled head on and the flawed DfT ‘facts and figures’ that need to be refuted and contested. His view is that the other arguments will fail, including environmental, as they have been tried before without success. He also said that a case can be made for short haul flights to be replaced with high speed rail alternatives, and Heathrow to be used for long haul only, particularly developing economy nations such as China and India, which would bring economic benefits. The financial benefits stated by the government must be counteracted with the negative side, to be subtracted. e.g. VAT disparity on fuel, 26p per gallon, aircraft, against £1 per gallon motoring. Tourism. £15bn net loss on incoming against outgoing. 35% of passengers are in transit only.

5. Susan Kramer’s emphasis was that it is the front benches in parliament that must be won round and persuaded. Backbenchers are not so influential. She received a call at 9.30am to inform her that Ruth Kelly, Transport Secretary, would be attending the exhibition in Richmond, moments before Ms Kelly walked into the Queen Charlotte’s building.

6. Lord Clive Soley was the sole supporter of the proposed expansion, for economic reasons. His view was that Heathrow could not stand still, it will either expand or die, and he spelt out the consequences, saying it would lead to 100,000 job losses and massive financial loss to the economy. He used the analogy of the London Docklands, their decline and disappearance.

Cllr Lourie said that Lord Soley was brave to come along to put his case, and asked the audience to refrain from heckling him. “We in Richmond upon Thames are polite people” he said.

7. Zac Goldsmith, after refuting the claim of Susan Kramer that his position was ambiguous, referred to his ‘Quality of Life’ report, and advised those attending that as it was hard core and 500 pages, to go straight to page 335 to be clear.

8. Tony Arbour said that much credit must go to John Stewart of HACAN and urged the audience to unite behind, and support this organisation. His view was that this would have much more impact than “tired and washed up politicians”.

Most made the point that they were not anti-Heathrow but anti-expansion which seemed to have general agreement with the audience. Some calling out were totally opposed to Heathrow airport in any form.

Then it was over to the audience for questions or comments. A summary as follows, in no particular order:

Done deal. The government have made up their minds and do not give a damn what we think. The view from the table was that while it will be difficult and a long hard slog, it is winnable. Apathy is the problem and what the government are hoping for.

Consultation document. A lady mentioned that she had spent two hours on it so far and wanted advice. Mixed opinions on how to deal with this. Serge Lourie and Susan Kramer believe it should be completed as best able to. Other believe that a more simple message of stating opposition to any expansion would be more effective. The responses would simply go into a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ pile. It was also mentioned how if trying to do it online, you can not move on to the next page until the questions have been answered. Leaving any question blank is not an option. This raised astonishment or disgust with many around.

Direct action methods were discussed. Some had a view that it should be more radical. John Stewart mentioned the ‘end of consultation rally’ on 25 February at Central Hall Westminster and the hope of a 3,000 attendance. He also mentioned that the opening of Terminal 5 on 27 March would be another opportunity to protest, and marches, as was suggested, may take place during the spring and summer.

Publicity and co-ordination, or lack of either, were highlighted by a number. There was a view that not enough was being done, particularly in highlighting the case in the national media. There was a consensus that this must not be seen as a NIMBY campaign, and to publicise the wider issues. A called out suggestion was made to call the campaign Terminal Britain which was greeted with approval. Another, was for Richmond and other local authorities in the 2M Group to follow Hounslow, in appointing a cabinet member for aviation, to give it a higher profile and focus, and easy contact point for the media to speak with.

Funding. John Stewart was asked if HACAN had adequate funds for this campaign and what he was doing to acquire more. The response was that more would always be welcome but a number of calls to specify figures were not answered. Cllr Lourie and Cllr Knight said that they were contributing some funds to the 2M Group but this is limited, as it is Council tax payers money.

Trains not planes was the placard slogan and an issue raised by a number in the audience. One lady raised the issue of how expensive it was to travel by train against an economy flight. Environmental benefits were stated, and there was much derision at Lord Soley’s assertion that trains emit more Co2 than planes.

Age representation. It was observed by one commenter that the attendance was of the older generation. The campaign needed to reach out to and engage a younger audience who will also be affected. There was concern that this is not yet happening, and there was agreement that this needs to be done. It was pointed out that the campsite protest last summer were of a younger generation and that they could be mobilised.

Disturbance. Proposed increased flights between 6am and 7am were raised. Some noted how even now, flights seem to increase earlier, at 4.30/5.00am and the night flights seem to exceed the limit. Noise levels were mentioned. Schools, especially in Hounslow suffer unbearable noise now, that affects concentration and health

Safety. The crash landing on Wednesday (17th) at Heathrow was raised, and a lucky escape with no loss of life but the potentially disastrous consequences have come to the forefront. A doubling of flights (the 2030 target) will double the risk. A lady raised the point about the number of schools under the flight path, with Hounslow at high risk.

In the closing summaries, Cllr Stephen Knight said that we must draw a line in the sand and say no more, or further expansion with no end in sight will be inevitable.

Cllr Serge Lourie asked for a show of hands on who supports the Council position of opposing Heathrow expansion. This was unanimous, with the exception of Clive Soley.

Cllr True emphasised the importance of political unity. Also, that the government may change, and leading to an election a change of mind may happen if it is perceived as an unwanted problem that may harm them.

Lord Soley said that the hall was not representative as a majority on a national basis, and that Future Heathrow had the support of all the unions except UNISON and almost all of the business community, including the City of London and the financial institutions.

John Stewart reminded of the promises made over many years that have been broken about further exansion, and quoted John Egan from 1999, then Chairman of BAA, who categorically ruled out a third runway.

Susan Kramer said that the campaign and opposition does not end on 27 February at the end of the consultation. That is what the government will hope we will think. It is only one stage in the process and a continual campaign of opposition must be maintained. The report from the consultation is due in the summer, which she suspected will be released the day before the parliament recess (summer break and conferences until October).

The meeting ended a few minutes short of 10.00pm.

An observation to note on reading this through, is that while a united front was emphasised as a major point and essential to succeed, there is still some way to go before that is achieved. A loose coalition is how it appears, singing out of key and harmony.

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