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Horsham Liberal Democrats

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Baroness Jenny Randerson writes: Heathrow expansion is bad economics, bad for the environment and bad for residents.

October 26, 2016 3:55 PM
By Jenny Randerson in Liberal Democrat Voice

By | Wed 26th October 2016 - 1:10 pm

Pidgeon and Randerson no to Heathrow expansionYesterday's announcement has confirmed what we have long suspected. That Theresa May would bow down to external pressures from big business and the foreign owners of Heathrow Airport to give expansion the green light - disregarding her own constituents and MPs in the process.

This is a green light that will see 800 homes and parts of the M25 demolished to make way for a development that even in its current form exceeds EU laws on emissions and is the cause of 28% of all those affected by aircraft noise in Europe. Despite their protestations, Chris Grayling's statement yesterday gave no details on how they would achieve reduction targets.

But above all, the Government are touting a short-sighted vision of an undeliverable proposal. Four councils are already planning legal action, so on top of a Judicial Review and what will be an undeniably lengthy planning process, the proposed opening of a third runway in 2025 is incredibly unrealistic.

What should be the priority of the Prime Minister is the rebalancing of the economy, the promotion of regional airports like Birmingham and Manchester, putting investment where it is needed and wanted most, where construction could be shovel ready in a fraction of the time it will take Heathrow.

It is a myth that what is good for the overseas owners of Heathrow Airport, who make up 90% of its board, is good for the UK economy. In the last decade, they have paid just £24m in corporation tax to the UK but handed out £2.1bn in dividends to its shareholders over the previous four years.

And still they refuse to make any promises on how much they will contribute to the 3rd runway project, with as little as £1bn of the £20bn currently being touted as a likely figure, exposing a massive funding black hole, undoubtedly to be picked up by the taxpayer.

Even British Airways, who make up the clear majority of Heathrow's business, have called the plans "outrageous".

Liberal Democrats welcome the chance to fight a byelection in Richmond Park, no matter how many Conservatives we end up competing against. In contrast to them, we are a party that is united, united in its opposition to Heathrow expansion and their Londoncentric attitude to growth.

Heathrow expansion is bad economics, bad for the environment and bad for residents.

It is a predictable decision that is symptomatic of a Government that have run out of ideas. Who are pandering to businesses that have been rapidly losing confidence in the UK due to the fallout from the EU referendum, most notably the shrinking pound.

The Conservatives have forgotten the 'No ifs, No buts' pledge of their former leader and the promises that they made to communities in West London but we have not. We will continue to oppose this decision, all the way through the voting lobbies.

* Jenny Randerson is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, and is the party's front bench spokesperson on transport.