BAA Reported To Be Giving Up On Third Heathrow Runway

No planning application before next election

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Ealing council has welcomed the news that airport operator BAA has apparently bowed to opposition to a third runway at Heathrow airport.

The Sunday Times reports that BAA will not submit a planning application before the general election and will not sign large contracts to “bounce” a future Conservative government into accepting it.

Senior figures have also told the Tories the company will not fight for the third runway if they form the next government.

Theresa Villiers, the shadow transport secretary, said: “Last week BAA conveyed to us at our party conference that it will not be submitting a planning application before the election.

“It seems BAA has woken up to the fact that we mean what we say on Heathrow and that if we win the general election there will be no third runway.”

Geoff Hoon, the former transport secretary, approved the £9 billion third runway and sixth terminal last January and ministers indicated the project would be rushed through, making it more difficult for the Tories to overturn the decision.

Publicly, BAA executives are urging the Tories not to “close the door” on expansion plans and say they are still working on the project.

Today BAA has been quoted as saying that they remain convinced ''that a third runway is the only viable, costed and thought through way of meeting the need for extra runway capacity to maintain this country's global connections to the rest of the world.''

However the Sunday Times reports that they have already privately admitted they were surrendering.

The scheme’s opponents are delighted.

Councillor David Millican Ealing Cabinet Member for Transport & Regeneration says:

''After intense lobbying by this Council, Mayor Boris Johnson and others, BAA have told the Conservative Shadow Transport Secretary, Theresa Villiers MP, that they won’t sign large contracts to “bounce” any future Conservative Government into accepting it.

"So finally, the game is up for BAA.  This is great news for the residents of this borough who don’t want our lives further blighted by more noise and pollution.''

Richard Barnes, London Assembly Member for Ealing and Hillingdon said the decision was "Proof that the writing is on the wall for the airport’s expansion.

"This comes days after the chief executive of British Airways said that if a third runway is not built, the airline will axe many domestic and European flights. Good.

"Instead, many short haul and domestic flights will make way for a new high-speed rail link, and my constituents will be spared the thousands of extra flights, with all the associated pollution that would bring, which a third runway would have brought."

Business groups argue Heathrow will fall into decline unless it is allowed to expand. Lord Soley, campaign director of Future Heathrow, said: “The Conservatives will have to find another international hub or reverse their decision.”

BAA and British Airways said the runway was needed to ensure Heathrow can compete with large European airports. The airport operator wanted annual flights to increase from 480,000 to more than 700,000.

John Stewart, chairman of Hacan (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) ClearSkies, said: “There are all sorts of reasons that businesses come to London and Heathrow is just one of them.”

A group of councils, backed by Boris Johnson, the London mayor, is seeking a judicial review of Hoon’s decision, arguing the consultation process was flawed and the decision irrational. A High Court hearing is expected later this year.


October 12, 2009