No question posed to 70,000 respondents yet half answered it: 25,337 against, 8,128 for Heathrow expansion

January 25, 2009 at 5:15 am | Posted in Heathrow | 1 Comment
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More than 3 out of 4 respondents who stated a preference expressed opposition to Heathrow expansion.

That’s the subtitle, and the subplot, for this post.  In case you are new to this topic, it’s worth highlighting:

19.  The consultation did not ask whether or not respondents supported expansion …”

~ from the document ‘Adding Capacity at Heathrow: Decisions Following Consultation, in the section headed ‘Consultation Proposals — And Reponses’ (search the document for ‘not ask’ and you’ll find it easily)

We were not asked whether we supported expansion, for many reasons:

  • the government had already made up its mind, hence the title of the consultation being posed in the affirmative ‘Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport‘.
    • This approach, by the way, dissuaded many residents opposed to expansion from responding for fear of arguing against the government, through a combination of intimidation (let’s not rock the boat in case we get into trouble!) and apathy (why bother? they never listen anyway … sigh …) so they simply tossed the consultation questionnaire that landed on their doormat straight into the paper recycling bin
  • the government told us it had already made up its mind, subject to cherry-picked local environmental conditions being satisfied.
    • This complexity dissuaded residents from arguing against experts studying technical issues which most ordinary folk here feel themselves ill-prepared to tackle (I can’t help imagining the difference if, for example, San Francisco International Airport had been built slap-bang in the middle of a densely populated area near Stanford University, Berkeley University and Silicon Valley, with high-levels of academic and technical expertise and activism: the idea of expansion would be ludicrous, yet, here in London we are battling HM Government in order to save the homes of the people of Sipson, who have already received legal letters talking of compulsory purchase and compensation!)
  • the government would have had to publish the numbers if it had posed the question, and the results would be highly embarrassing
  • the government would have to admit defeat

How the government’s prejudice affects the validity of the consultation that followed its decision is for lawyers to argue, but it seems to me that the insincerity and lack of transparency with which this government operates deserves comment.

There are some numbers that speak for themselves, but are not widely known.  Please read on.

The letter from Geoff Hoon to those of us who responded to the ‘Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport‘ Consultation Questionnaire began thus:

Adding Capacity At Heathrow Airport

Dear Respondent

Last year the Government completed a major consultation on Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport. It attracted almost 70,000 responses, with most coming from those living around the airport. In view of that interest, I am writing to let you know the outcome.

The consultation set out a number of proposals for Heathrow; some involved new development and increased capacity while others looked at changes to the way the existing runways operate today. I am grateful to everyone who took the time to comment and share their views as part of this consultation.

These were difficult decisions. I considered the consultation responses and all other relevant evidence carefully before deciding the way forward.

In summary, the decisions that I announced to Parliament, are to:

• confirm support for a third runway at Heathrow …

The outcome is no surprise.  What is of interest is the number of responses that stated a preference for or against Heathrow expansion, despite not being asked!

  • Of 70,000 responses, only 8,128 respondents stated they were in favour of expansion.
    • 11.6% – less than one in eight – of the respondents voluntarily expressed pro-expansion views
  • Of 70,000 responses, 25,337 respondents stated they were opposed to expansion.
    • 36.2% – more than one in three – of the respondents voluntarily expressed opposition to Heathrow expansion
  • Of 70,000 respondents 33,465 actually stated a view on something the government told them they were not being asked about!
    • 47.8% – almost half – of the respondents felt they had to make an explicit statement for or against Heathrow expansion, even though the government had told us:
      • it had made its mind up
      • it supported expansion in principle and subject to carefully selected environmental conditions being met
      • we were not being consulted on the question of expansion!
  • Of 33,465 respondents who voluntarily expressed a preference:
    • 25,337 said they were against Heathrow expansion
      • 75.7% – more than three-quarters – stated their opposition to expansion

What does that tell you about the way the consultation was written, when the most important point on the minds of consultees was one they were not asked to (or should I say implicitly asked not to) express their opinion on?

This is where I found the numbers:

Hoon accused of ignoring public with ‘unpopular’ Heathrow plans

Just one in eight survey respondents in favour of third runway at airport

By Michael Savage, Political Correspondent
Saturday, 17 January 2009

Geoff Hoon has been accused of ignoring the views of the public by approving a third runway for Heathrow

Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, has been accused of ignoring the views of the public by approving a third runway for Heathrow despite only a fraction of respondents to a government consultation supporting the idea.

People who responded to the consultation, 70,000 in total, were not specifically asked whether they were in favour of an expansion programme. However, 25,337 respondents voluntarily noted that they opposed expansion and only 8,128 said they supported it. These figures appeared in an independent report on the consultation process. Geraldine Nicholson, the chairman of the No Third Runway Action Group, said: “The public view could not be clearer. People do not want a third runway. The Brown Runway is massively unpopular.”

The Department for Transport considered almost 70,000 responses to its consultation on Heathrow expansion. A spokesman said: “The Heathrow consultation did not ask people whether they were in favour of a third runway or not. While more were opposed than in favour, the majority of people expressed no view either way on expansion.”


1 Comment »

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  1. I find it a bit disappointing that radical alternative options have not been more comprehensively analysed and discussed.

    I think the Thames Estuary/Gateway proposal has some merit and is located in area designated for growth.

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