With the Government on the point of making a decision on the Airports Commission report, I was astonished – as you were, no doubt – to read at the weekend that the Chairman of Heathrow Airport has said that substantially revised plans are in preparation that are not yet in the public domain and are not likely to be until the end of September. These plans are predicated on the view that the Airports Commission was materially wrong in considering that the cost of Heathrow’s expansion plans, at £18 billion, was appropriate and affordable.
The revisions appear to include, amongst other things, very material changes to proposals for the M25 at the point where the proposed new runway will cross it. The construction consequences of such changes as have been mentioned by Lord Deighton (the construction of a bridge, the re-routing of the M25 around the airport) are unknown as to their impact on users of the M25, potentially over a sustained period.
Given the heavy dependency of many of my constituents on the M25 for their daily business, can I have your urgent assurances on the following points:
- That neither Ministers nor officials have been involved in confidential talks with Heathrow Airport on late changes to their proposals, or, if they have, that you will place the records of those discussions in the public domain.
- That Government will not approve any revised plans from Heathrow without subjecting them to the same lengthy and rigorous examination that the original proposals have received from the Airports Commission and subsequently, I understand, from your officials and other officials.
- That the Government will require Heathrow Airport to consult my constituents and others personally affected on the traffic consequences of their plans before they receive Government consideration, let alone approval.
On a related point, I note that Heathrow Airport has said that, subject to the content of a National Policy Statement, it intends to include in its DCO application an application to lift the current planning condition capping Air Traffic Movements during the construction period. This was not called for by the Airports Commission and no evidence for its necessity has been published. Can I have your assurance that the Government will not approve it for inclusion in a National Policy Statement, even in draft, without publication of a fully evidenced case and the fullest possible consultation with my constituents and others affected?
Given the Government’s declared intention of making a decision on these matters in the coming weeks, may I ask for a reply by return, to allow me to allay the considerable anxiety that these announcements have caused in my constituency.
Dr Tania Mathias
Member of Parliament for Twickenham
On Behalf of the APPG for Heathrow and the Wider Economy