Statement from members of the APPG

We believe that the Government has made the wrong decision today and we will continue to campaign against a third runway at Heathrow.

We strongly believe that there are other better options which will meet the needs of our economy and our transport system, but will do so at a lower cost, in far less time, with far less risk to delivery, and with a fraction of the environmental impact.

Heathrow is already the biggest noise polluter in Europe. An astounding 28% of people in Europe who suffer from excessive aircraft noise live under Heathrow’s flightpath. Even accepting the optimistic assumptions of the Airports Commission, aircraft noise from Heathrow affects more people above World Health Organisation levels than its 5 largest European rival airports combined.

Legally binding limits on air quality are already being breached around the airport. There are no credible independent experts who believe an expanded Heathrow can meet these targets. The improvements which the Labour Government predicted in 2009 when they tried to expand Heathrow have not happened. The VW emissions scandal revealed that cleaning up our air will be even more difficult than previously thought. Thousands of people die prematurely each year as a result of poor air quality. We should not make a serious problem even worse by trying to expand Heathrow.

Attempting to build a third runway is fraught with delivery risk. It will be delayed for years because of legal challenges. It will involve huge cost and disruption, including a tunnel for the M25. TfL believe that around £15 billion will need to be spent on surface transport to support a new runway, but Heathrow say they will only contribute a maximum of around a billion. That leaves the taxpayer with a huge bill.


September 2016 – Letter to Lord Deighton

Dear Lord Deighton,

I noticed with surprise and anxiety the press coverage over the weekend regarding changes to the Heathrow third runway scheme.

Whilst these are in some cases internal to the airport’s operation and do not change the fundamentals in terms of complexity, impact on local people and deliverability, I would be grateful if you could clarify one point at this stage.

At the moment the current Heathrow plan is to re-route the M25 in tunnel to allow for the new runway to cross the current line of route of the motorway. Your recent comments now open up the possibility that the M25 could in fact be diverted around the extended airport. You also spoke vaguely of a solution involving a bridge.

Given your lack of transparency – there is nothing on your website – I would be grateful if you could now confirm your intentions, in particular the impact on local people of this revision. As well as bringing more environmental misery to West London this plan would potentially cause serious gridlock on the busiest stretch of the busiest motorway in the country for up to a decade.

In particular, given that the Government has flagged a clear intention to make a decision on the recommendations of the Airports Commission in about October, may I know (a) whether the plan you will be putting to the Government for decision is the plan that was the subject of lengthy examination by the Airports Commission or the new one that has not yet been published and (b) what consultation with my constituents, many regular users of the M25, you intend to undertake before putting any revised plan to the Government.

Given the very short time now remaining before the Government reaches a decision, I look forward to hearing from you by return.

Yours sincerely,

Zac Goldsmith
Member of Parliament for Richmond Park and North Kingston



13th September 2016 – Letter to Chris Grayling

Dear Chris,


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:


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Best wishes,

Dr Tania Mathias

Member of Parliament for Twickenham

On Behalf of the APPG for Heathrow and the Wider Economy

Press Release – Heathrow Expansion: A Risk Assessment

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Heathrow today published a detailed analysis that sets out in stark terms the key risks facing Heathrow expansion from politics, economics and costs through to the environment and security. 

The APPG believes they would ultimately ensure the project never happens even if Government gives it the green light this Autumn. The paper has been sent to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Transport.

Dr Tania Mathias, Chair of the APPG, said:

“The proposal to expand Heathrow is as undeliverable now as it always has been, and it’s time we stopped wasting time trying to make it work. There is a growing consensus that we do need more airport capacity in the UK, but our analysis shows in the starkest terms that Heathrow cannot be the place to do it.

“Ultimately, this is about deliverability. Heathrow’s costly proposal will get bogged down in legal disputes over air quality and noise and arguments over who has to pay for it. There are deliverable alternatives that do not face these insurmountable hurdles – let’s get on it with and consign Heathrow’s expansion plans to the dustbin of history.”

Zac Goldsmith, who founded the APPG, said

“Heathrow expansion has been suffering a slow death for decades. This report should be a final nail in the coffin. At a time when Britain is looking to take advantage of the opportunities post Brexit it would be disastrous to embark once again on the futile quest to expand Heathrow. In the 21st Century no developed economy is looking to fly more planes directly over its capital city.  If Heathrow expansion is given the green light it will never take off. The project will simply become a metaphor for inertia at the very time Britain needs to be going for growth.

“It is very encouraging that the Prime Minister is reviewing the evidence. We already know that the Airports Commission Report is flawed as many of its forecasts are already wrong. We hope she will look closely at this Report. There are highly credible alternatives that are much less risky. It is time to get on with them so Britain can benefit.”

Boris Johnson MP said:

“The study exposes in glaring detail the weaknesses and omissions in the Howard Davies Airports Commission report. As I’ve advocated for many years Heathrow expansion is the wrong choice, and if it is chosen it simply won’t get built. The massive costs and enormous risks mean its undeliverable, and the tax payer will be saddled with the bill for failure. While we are finding this out our international competitors will be further extending their competitive advantage over us. We need to consign this Heathrow fantasy to the dustbin. We need a better solution.”

Former Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers MP said:

“Why expand Heathrow when, as this report shows, you could expand Gatwick for half the cost, in half the time and with a fraction of the environmental impact?”

The report enumerates 16 serious risks that could stop or delay Heathrow expansion including:

  • Legal challenges over breaches to EU and UK laws on air quality and excessive noise which could prevent consent for the runway.
  • Complex land acquisition issues with doubts over who will pay for moving an energy waste centre, the Harmondsworth Detention Centre and a BT data network for example.
  • Planning consent challenges could mean Heathrow can never deliver the new capacity it has long promised. Such an outcome would be a huge blow to the government’s reputation for competence.
  • Construction challenges for such a massive project inevitably mean risks of delay and cost overruns. The project requires a rate of construction spend never before achieved on a single site in the UK – and on one that is an active operational airport.  The risks from it would fall to Government
  • Cost uncertainties mean there is no clear public plan for how the whole scheme would be financed – for example the rerouting of the M25 and the bill running into billions for surface access improvements.
  • Regional growth at airports would be stalled to keep the UK within international limits for carbon emissions because Heathrow is by far the most carbon-intensive option.
  • Security risk of flying more planes in congested airspace over one of the most densely populated parts of the country

Air Quality Letter to Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

Air quality is now one of the most important environmental and public health challenges facing us all. The World Health Organisation called the issue a “global public health emergency” in January this year. Last month’s Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee Report said the same about the problem in the UK. The Royal College of Physicians found in their February 2016 report that each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution.

Public concern about the issue has never been higher.

The Government published its new Air Quality Plan for NO2 at the end of last year to help address the issue. As you acknowledged in Parliament on January 13 (Hansard, 13 Jan 2016: Column 854) the issue is also inextricably linked to the decision on airport expansion. You told the Commons:

“There are problems of air quality and pollution not just in London but elsewhere in our country. That is one reason we decided to delay the decision about airport capacity expansion—because we need to answer the question about air quality before we do so. That is what the Environmental Audit Committee recommended to the Government… On air quality, the Government will need to re-examine the Commission’s findings in the light of its finalised air quality strategy.”

We welcome this given the inadequate analysis and consultation afforded to air quality by the Airports Commission and are pleased that the Government does not share Sir Howard’s view that ‘limited weight’ should be given to the issue.

As you will also be aware, last month the Department of Transport published the findings from its own car emission testing which looked at the difference between real world and laboratory tests of Nitrogen Dioxide levels following the recent VW scandal. It found that not a single car tested against the most recent emissions standards met the EU limits in real world testing and that the average emissions were more than five times higher than previously thought.

It is clear that the Government’s Air Quality Plan will need to be revisited all over again, not least as the Plan is subject to Judicial Review, especially before any decision on airport expansion. The current plan cannot be considered reliable in its own right or as a legal basis for any new runway.

We oppose any expansion of flights at Heathrow and believe it would be an environmental disaster. Air quality around the airport regularly breaches legal limits. Despite Heathrow’s claim that expansion will lead to no new car journeys to the airport their own stated intention to expand the M25 to 16 lanes and spend £800m of new funding on car parks seem bound to unacceptably increase vehicle journeys and add to air pollution.

As you know, Heathrow expansion has failed before on air quality grounds. Given that now, in 2016, the problem looks as intractable as ever, we do not believe it is possible to reconcile Heathrow expansion with the air quality standards we must meet.

We therefore ask you to confirm that a the Government will re-do the UK’s Air Quality Plan before making a decision on airport expansion in the South East and rule out any expansion at Heathrow Airport once and for all.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


John Sauven, UK Executive Director, Greenpeace

Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth England (Wales and Northern Ireland)

Professor Frank Kelly, King’s College London

Tim Johnson, Director, Aviation Environment Federation

Stephen Joseph, CEO Campaign for Better Transport

Jonathan Steel, CEO Change London

Alistair Wardrope, Coordinator of Healthy Planet UK

Eleanor Dow, Deputy Coordinator of Healthy Planet UK

Andrew Wood, Clean Air UK

Simon Birkett, Clean Air London

Shazia Ali-Webber, I Like Clean Air

John Stewart, Chair HACAN

Noise Inquiry

Our first inquiry on noise is now underway and will focus on the likely new flightpaths, and the noise impact on residents.

Heathrow Airport have stated that as many as 30 per cent fewer people would be affected by air traffic noise with a third runway in 2030 than are currently affected by air traffic noise from the two existing runways.

However, a recent report by the CAA/ERCD shows that Heathrow’s proposal will expose more than 1.1 million people (when placed upon 2012 population data, which will grow) to noise in excess of 55dB Lden, when fully utilised, compared to 725,000 people today.

The group will examine the claims and assess the real impact of a possible expansion of Heathrow on residents.

The deadline for submitting evidence to this inquiry is August 11th.

You can download an evidence submission form HERE and send it to us by email to or by post to:

Zac Goldsmith MP, Room 401, Norman Shaw South, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

Alternatively you can fill out the form via our website: