A Slaughter MP (Labour) says Heathrow expansion would be a disaster for West London

February 15, 2008 at 6:00 am | Posted in Acton, Coalition, Cross party, Ealing, Heathrow, Heathrow airport, Heathrow expansion, MP, Shepherd's Bush, Slaughter | Leave a comment

Andy Slaughter MP, Labour MP for Ealing, Acton & Shepherd’s Bush says:I have studied the case for Heathrow expansion with, I hope, an open mind. I have attended and spoken at public meetings across my constituency, most recently in Acton on 11 February and Hammersmith on 12 February. I have heard both sides put their case forcefully.

My conclusion is that the proposed expansion, and in particular the Third Runway, would be a disaster for west London and for Hammersmith and Chiswick. This does not mean I am anti-Heathrow. There is a clear case for improvements both to the fabric and operations at Heathrow. Heathrow needs to remain a vital part of the economy of west London, but it is currently not fit for purpose. Modernisation, like the rebuilding of terminals 1 & 2, is to be welcomed, as are the improvements in aircraft technology which will reduce the levels of air pollution and noise for a given number of passenger movements. I also welcome continuing restrictions of night flights. Frankly, Heathrow is an embarrassment at present both in terms of facilities and reliability. The fact that minor changes in weather, demand or industrial action can lead to gridlock is unacceptable.

However, the level of expansion or development envisaged by the Third Runway proposal has not been justified. The implication in terms of increased passenger numbers and therefore traffic to and from the airport and numbers of flights is too great. The landing routes for the Third Runway are directly over Hammersmith and Chiswick and will bring these large communities directly under the flight path of aircraft landing at up to one per minute for eighteen hours a day. Comparisons with other European airports do not hold water. Heathrow uniquely is a hub airport surrounded by residential property but lacking a modern public transport network to disperse passengers.

I do not believe that the future of Heathrow needs to be an all-or-nothing option and I hope the operators and central and local government alike can act together in the interests of my constituents and the wider community. I know that all my Labour colleagues in west London are united in opposing the expansion, as are the Lib Dem and Green parties. I am concerned that recent statement from local Conservative MPs and their national spokepeople show support for the expansion. Given the range of powerful commercial interests supporting the Third Runway, I think we need the broadest coalition opposing it.

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