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