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31 - Aug - 2014

Heathrow fear as Boris plans return to government

As London Mayor, Boris Johnson, confirms his plans to run for parliament in 2015, submitting an application to stand in a west London constituency, some were amused, others smiled wryly, yet for some the fear started to spread.  The reason?  Boris Johnson is on a mission to become the Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the next General Election and for Heathrow Airport supporters, this could be a ‘bridge too far’ as the constituency is on the doorstep of the airport.

The current Mayor of London has not been silent in his opposition of a third runway at Heathrow Airport and supporters of the airport’s plans, many of whom rely on Heathrow for their employment, are branding Johnson’s move as “selfish” and a “slap in the face”.  The airport itself declined to comment, but the Back Heathrow supporters group were not so reticent! 

What makes the news a little more galling for Heathrow’s supporters is that the Mayor has this week been making a ‘last ditch attempt’ at getting his proposed plans for a new airport hub in the Thames Estuary.  His plans also include re-developing Heathrow into a new city, which would provide thousands of extra homes around existing rail and tube links, and transform some of the airport’s terminals into a convention centre and shops.  Johnson published a new report this week claiming that the Estuary airport would support 336,000 jobs in Britain in 2050, a third more than a three-runway Heathrow and five times more than an expanded Gatwick, as well as contributing £92.1 billion to the economy each year by 2050.  To date, the Thames Estuary proposal has not appeared on the Airports Commission’s shortlist – next month Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Commission, will decide whether to include this proposal or not.

A spokesperson for the Back Heathrow campaign said of Boris Johnson’s candidacy: “These people rely on Britain’s hub airport and the Mayor wants to close it which would result in more than 100,000 people losing their jobs, including many in Uxbridge and South Ruislip.  Heathrow’s bogeyman may win the selection battle but he won’t get his way.” 

Strong words but does a re-developed Heathrow into a new city with extra homes, a convention centre, more shops and established links really going to mean so many lose their jobs, or does it just mean that people are going to have the opportunity to change jobs in an employment market that is incredibly competitive?  And if a Thames Estuary airport gets the ‘green light’ ahead of Heathrow Airport, surely that’s a positive in creating even more jobs available to people?  A case of narrow-mindedness and a fear of change, or is it based on sound judgement?  It probably depends on your viewpoint, but we should never fear change and progression or we may well be left behind in an industry that is pulling ahead of Britain at quite a fast rate.

By Oliver Derek