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Join the debate over Britain's vital new runway at Heathrow airport

City A.M. Thursday, 16 February 2017
Join the debate over Britain's vital new runway at Heathrow airportWhat is the world’s most connected city? New York? Paris? Tokyo? No. It’s London, which last May beat all those cities to top the inaugural Global Connectivity Ranking, with 351 direct international air destinations.

Then in October, London was named the world’s most powerful city – the fifth consecutive year it had topped the Global Power City Index. High among the reasons were London’s “world class” international transport links.

But what these reports didn’t reflect was Heathrow’s relative decline from being the world’s second busiest airport in 2009 to the sixth busiest in 2016. Nor did they show that decades of wrangling about airport capacity in the South East had left our main international gateway unable to grow because its two runways are full.

Thankfully, Britain now has a government that recognises Heathrow’s importance to the country, and that is determined to protect London’s position among the most connected global cities.

*Read more*: Majority of UK public thinks Heathrow expansion will be a post-Brexit boost

That is why earlier this month we published proposals for a new Northwest runway which would create tens of thousands of local jobs, and send a clear message about London’s global ambitions following Brexit.

Because Heathrow Northwest is so vital to the capital, we are staging a series of local events around the airport as part of the public consultation. We want to explain why we believe a new runway is urgently needed. But we also want to listen to the views of Londoners and answer their questions.

We have presented our proposals in a draft Airports National Policy Statement, which also sets out the strict planning obligations Heathrow must meet to get approval for the new runway. It will be scrutinised by MPs before the final National Policy Statement is laid before Parliament next winter.

*Read more*: Heathrow expansion will gift the whole UK a skills renaissance

This is a huge, landmark project, and of course it would have some negative impacts on local communities, as well as significant economic benefits. So to gain consent, Heathrow would have to deliver a 6.5 hour ban on scheduled night-flights, periods of predictable respite from noise, and legally binding noise targets. It should also meet its other public pledges of preventing any increase in airport-related road traffic, and ensuring more than half of passengers use public transport to get to the airport.

Heathrow is also committed to paying 25 per cent above market value plus costs to owners of homes required for compulsory purchase.

All this adds up to a world class community compensation and mitigation package to address noise disturbance and reimburse residents for any loss of homes. But it’s right that the details should be carefully analysed during the consultation period.

Without options to increase hub airport capacity, London would be less able to compete in future for routes to fast growing markets like China, which has built or started building more than 50 new airports since 2010. By comparison, Heathrow’s main competitors like Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam have ample spare runway capacity in which to grow.

*Read more*: A new runway will take 15 years: Fast-track good rail links to airports now

Lack of capacity has also seen domestic services to Heathrow decline in recent years. Since 1990, 11 UK airports have lost direct flights to Heathrow. That is why an expanded Heathrow must work with airlines to boost domestic links. Already, it has identified 13 potential new domestic routes across the UK.

But the benefits of the runway would go beyond capacity and connectivity. It would boost competition in the market and help reduce fares. And it would improve performance and reliability, helping Heathrow cope with disruptions such as bad weather.

The draft Airports National Policy Statement is a big step forward for what is one of the country’s most important infrastructure projects. Now it is vital that the people and businesses of London are engaged in the consultation process. So please join the debate.

Details of the consultation events and the draft Airports National Policy Statement can be found on the Department for Transport website: www.gov.uk/dft/heathrow-airport-expansion
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