Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Heathrow expansion

There is no ideal solution to the question of airport capacity in the UK.

Even much smaller airports than Heathrow and Gatwick, such as Luton, put enormous pressure on the local road and rail network - as I know because the impact of Luton Airport was an extremely sensitive issue when I was a St Albans councillor.

Both Heathrow and Gatwick already contribute to serious congestion on the M25 and on local rail services.

So it is not surprising that the government proposal today to expand Heathrow was controversial.

However, I don't think we can put our heads in the sand and pretend that the number of runways which was adequate for the South East of England 75 years ago will still be adequate a hundred years later in 2041 (It is 75 years since we built a new runway in that part of the country.)

I am attracted to the "Boris Island" concept for a new airport in the Thames Estuary but unfortunately am not convinced that it is either practical of affordable.

Britain needs to make a decision and the route the government is following - publishing a firm proposal for a new runway today, allowing a year for consultation and debate, then putting it to a parliamentary vote - seems to me to be  both a sensible and a democratic procedure.

I am generally in favour of the principle of collective government responsibility, which I think needs to apply most of the time on most subjects, but I think Theresa May has shown strength rather than weakness in allowing Boris Johnson and Justine Greening a partial exception on this issue.

Zac Goldsmith has honoured his long-standing promise to trigger a by-election if a Conservative government proposed a third runway at Heathrow. This is one of a number of areas where I disagree with him, but I respect Zac for sticking to his principles and his promise.

Let everyone on all sides of the argument put their cases forward and then let parliament decide.

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