Agenda item

Heathrow - The Royal Borough position and ongoing engagement

To consider the above report


Councillor Johnson introduced the report. He highlighted to Members that recommendation i) had two options for consideration.


Councillor Hilton commented that he still found it difficult to believe that the Airport National Planning statement that promoted a third runway at Heathrow had been approved when there were so many negatives. Heathrow expansion would generate greater congestion, put more strain on housing in the surrounding area, generate more noise and air pollution and be challenged to meet the government’s own air quality standards.


There were two distinct processes to approving a third runway; firstly the DCO where the consultation process had started. He was delighted that the Borough would make representation to the Planning Inspectorate. The second was the airspace change required to manage the routing of aircraft safely in an out of Heathrow. The Future Airspace strategy set out how Performance Based Navigation, which used GPS systems to accurately fly aircraft on flightpaths should be used to create new capacity in the air. In 2014 Heathrow ran westerly PBN departure trials that saw aircraft flying over Ascot as if on rails concentrating noise on the ground and causing public outrage. As a result, those trials were terminated earlier than planned.


Following that debacle, in early 2015 Heathrow formed its Community Noise Forum and as the council’s representative Councillor Hilton now visited Heathrow more frequently than when he flew around the world on business. The represented community groups had formed themselves into a cohesive whole and could speak with one voice. They had been active in seeking facts and had established that so far, because of widespread public outrage, no airport around the world had successfully implemented PBN.


The government’s objective was to reduce the number of people significantly affected by noise. With PBN this would be easy to achieve by planning a limited number of departure and arrival routes that would concentrate noise on fewer people but would greatly increase their annoyance levels and attendant health risks. These routes could overfly any ward in the Borough and, if approved, were certain to seriously impact Eton, Windsor, Ascot and the south.


Heathrow proposed multiple departure routes to allow for respite but work carried out by Anderson Acoustics showed that noise needed to be reduced by 9dBm or 8 times before people recognised the change. Heathrow had not demonstrated that this could be achieved.


Heathrow relied upon the Survey of Noise Attitudes which arrived at the conclusion that annoyance started at 54 dBm whereas the WHO in their latest report said it was 45dbm or 8 times less.  He was pleased that following presentations and discussions the recently formed Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise would be undertaking research to form their own conclusions.  When he had met with the DfT they would not commit to work until after the DCO decision had been made.


Although the CAA would approve airspace change associated with a third runway it would be the DCO that agreed environmental and noise envelopes that, through some criteria, would set overall limits on noise rather than a cap on aircraft movements. This increased the importance of the Borough’s response to the DCO.


The appointment of Members and officers to the Infrastructure Delivery Group made logical sense. As did endorsing the ongoing commitment of the Royal Borough to the Heathrow Strategic Planning Group (HSPG) as well as engaging Heathrow directly and to submitting a response on its proposals.


Councillor Hilton stated that he hated committing the finance but he felt he had an obligation to the residents he represented in the south of the borough who would be impacted by more aircraft noise, both arrivals and departures. He therefore agreed to continue to support the legal proceedings, by way of an appeal to the outcome of the Judicial Review.


Councillor Bowden highlighted that the 740,000 aircraft movements that would come in with runway three at its maximum did not include the application by Heathrow at this time for an additional 25,000 aircraft movements in the Development Consent Order (DCO). They were going to do this via Independent Parallel Approaches (IPA), Enhanced Time Based Separation between aircraft (TBS) and Performance Based Navigation (PBN). The aircraft would be coming in at different angles at all times and they would be coming in more narrowly because the vortex of the wind would allow a closer separation. They would be putting in 25,000 more aircraft movements before they even get the third runway through. He encouraged people to attend the roadshows. They were well supported by the Back Heathrow campaign which was funded by Heathrow itself. Back Heathrow had stated it was using all green electricity. Councillor Bowden was unsure how they were separating between green and non-green electricity.


Windsor currently experienced 18.5 hours of non-stop landing traffic. The Cranford Agreement had been abolished by government. Heathrow then put their application in for alternate runways. At appeal he spoke on their behalf as it would have reduced the number of flights over Windsor but they chose not to do it for financial reasons, therefore you could not trust Heathrow. The western rail link would cost £1bn. The opposition to Heathrow must continue at all opportunities however Councillor Bowden was reluctant that the borough would have to absorb some of the financial penalties.


Councillor Werner highlighted that the report referred to the working group ‘informing the Aviation Forum as required’. He would like to see the Aviation Forum more involved rather than after an event had happened. It would be a bizarre decision to have approved the previous motion and then support Heathrow expansion given the impact on the environment.


Councillor Walters agreed with the last few speakers that the council should continue with its opposition to the expansion of Heathrow. It was a fluid situation as the planning process had not bee done and there could be more evidence that came through.


Councillor Davey commented that he was not disputing Councillor Bowden’s knowledge in relation to Heathrow; however he was aware there was an electric solution to buses so he hoped that an electric solution could also be found for trucks etc. The general population was reducing the number of flights taken so there may be less of a need for runways in the future. The plans should be blocked if possible but there needed to be a balance against costs.


Councillor W. Da Costa agreed with Councillor Bowden that the council needed to oppose Heathrow at all costs. There were many effects including more vehicles on the road, a reduction in green spaces and a probable requirement to build on the Green Belt. The proposals affected the health and wellbeing of borough residents. He was concerned that Members of the opposition groups would not have the opportunity to scrutinise the policy being adopted and suggested they therefore be included.


Councillor Knowles agreed with Councillor Hilton’s synopsis on aircraft noise. Large aircraft could not turn for three or four miles of taking off or they would fall out of the sky and for the last five miles they had to fly in a straight line therefore they would be flying over the borough. He was conscious of the fact that many airports had turned into shopping malls therefore much of the budget was about increasing the retail footprint. This went against the claims of needing to increase capacity. It had been stated the previous day that Heathrow expansion would lock down development of all other airports in the UK for a number of years. People were starting to notice the side effects. The costs would eventually go onto airfares. BA were therefore starting to get cold feet. He was not yet convinced whether to spend money now or to keep the powder dry for future planning processes might be a better option. He felt an increased frequency of Aviation Forum meetings was needed; for example the consultation ended on 13 September 2019 and the next meeting was in August 2019.


Councillor Hill expressed concern over the expansion of Heathrow but also about the amount of money being spent. The report sought to commit £75,000 when £100,000 had already been spent. With potential legal costs the total amount could be £300,000. Like it or not, the government would get what it wanted. It was becoming a futile crusade as the government would do what it wanted in what it described as the national interest. There were many other areas, including adult social care, the homeless and children’s services where the money could be very well used.


Councillor Jones stated that she was completely against the expansion of Heathrow. The A308 in Old Windsor regularly became a car park as soon as there was an issue on the M4 or M25. Further vehicle movements would impact the a-roads in the borough. Councillor Jones questioned the status of the working group within the council structure, particularly as the report referred to it being decision-making. She asked whether it would report to Cabinet or Council and whether it would be cross-party. She would welcome cross-party reporting to Cabinet. As the legal process had been led by the administration she did not have the information that others did to determine whether an investment of £75,000 was worth the risk.


Councillor Sharpe highlighted that £75,000 was needed to protect residents from the biggest change in their lives in the borough. So far £100,000 had been spent over a period of three years therefore he felt it was an incredibly small amount to spend and he supported the proposal to do so.


Councillor Clark stated that he was in support of continuing with the opposition because an ambitious target of 2050 would be compromised by Heathrow expansion.


Councillor Carroll commented that the points made by Councillor Hill were reasonable; there was a need to distinguish between a serious legal action and a futile one. The air quality point was important in terms of an appeal. Heathrow was currently contravening the law and expansion would probably magnify the issue. In his capacity as Lead Member for Health he had followed this issue closely.  The government had published targets to reduce air pollution in a Green Paper. He felt it would be worth one more appeal on the air quality point.


Councillor Dudley explained that the reason to invest in the application at this stage was because the council could not subsequently join. Leave to appeal had not yet been granted; a decision on funding was needed so that work could begin if and when leave was given by the Court of Appeal.


He agreed with Councillor Werner that actions had consequences. Members had debated a climate emergency earlier in the evening and all wanted it dealt with as quickly as possible. Any logical consistency meant something needed to be done about the third runway. There were massive questions that needed to be answered by central government, in particular the Secretary of State for Transport. In terms of candidates to be the new Prime Minister, Jeremy Hunt was supportive of a third runway; Boris Johnson as the local MP for Hillingdon had expressed a more nuanced view. The council’s reserves were at a record high therefore it was not a decision as to whether to spend £75,000 on the appeal action or frontline services. He would support option a.


Councillor Johnson commented that it was clear that the mood of the meeting was towards continuing on the path the administration had set. He had objected to Heathrow expansion for over ten years as there were better alternative options. Opposing Heathrow was also an integral part of delivering on the climate change agenda.


Members voted on whether to support option a or b in recommendation i.


RESLOVED: That option a) to continue legal proceedings, by way of an appeal to the outcome of the Judicial Review in March 2019, become the substantive motion in recommendation i.


A named vote was taken as at least five councillors made such a request, as per Part 2 C17.3.3 of the constitution. 38 councillors voted for option a: Councillors Baldwin, Baskerville, Bateson, Bhangra, Bond, Bowden, Brar, Cannon, Carroll, Clark, Coppinger, C. Da Costa, W. Da Costa, Davey, Davies, Del Campo, Dudley, Haseler, Hilton, Johnson, Jones, Knowles, Larcombe, Luxton, McWilliams, Muir, Price, Reynolds, Sharpe, Shelim, Singh, Stimson, Story, Targowski, Taylor, Tisi, Walters and Werner. 2 councillors voted for option b: Councillors Hill and Hunt. Councillor Rayner had left the meeting for the duration of the debate and voting on the item).


Members then voted on recommendations i-iii, as amended.


It was proposed by Councillor Johnson, seconded by Councillor Dudley, and:


RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That Councilnotes the report and:


i)             Agree to continue legal proceedings, by way of an appeal to the outcome of the Judicial Review in March 2019


ii)            Approve the appointment of members and officers to the Infrastructure Delivery Group, as previously agreed at Cabinet on 28th June 2018. This group, when commissioned, to operate as the appropriate governance structure for strategic aviation decision making; informing the Aviation Forum as required.

iii)          Endorse the ongoing commitment of the Royal Borough to the Heathrow Strategic Planning Group (HSPG) as well as engaging Heathrow directly on its proposals through bilateral officer discussions and delegate authority to the Executive Director and Head of Communities Enforcement & Partnerships and Head of Planning to finalise and submit responses to Heathrow Airport Limited by 13th September 2019 in relation to planning proposals for expansion at Heathrow Airport.


Councillor Rayner had left the meeting for the duration of the debate and voting on the item


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