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2 - Mar - 2015

The airport runway debate hits the TV airwaves

As Heathrow Airport tells Sir Howard Davies and his Commission that they need to change their assessment to ‘neutral’ on the impact a third runway at the airport would have on the local community, the CEO’s of each airport went head-to-head in a debate that was featured on Sky News.  In the footsteps of politicians, John Holland-Kaye appeared for Heathrow against Stewart Wingate for Gatwick Airport to battle it out for supremacy – and to persuade the ‘powers that be’ that their airport is best for expansion - prior to the Commission’s decision this summer.

As no doubt you can imagine, both people put forward compelling arguments; but the debate took place on the same day that Heathrow announced a 10% drop in their annual profits – Mr Holland-Kaye used this to emphasise that Heathrow should be expanded because it is ‘full’.  Mr Wingate’s argument was possibly a little more appealing – “We can build the runway faster than Heathrow, have it open at least five years sooner, we can build it at half the price and don’t need any public subsidy.”  Ummm, that’s a pretty strong case against Heathrow’s continued argument that it has to be expanded because it is the UK’s biggest airport… A case of might is right?  We leave that judgement call to you…

It was also revealed this week that it could contribute to a £300m flood relief scheme, should it be given permission to expand by the Commission – in their words, ‘expansion would allow environmental issues to be addressed’.  Mr Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, was obviously not amused by this and responded by saying that Heathrow Airport bosses will not be able to ‘buy’ planning permission for a proposed runway expansion, adding: “We’ve got a long tradition in this county that we don’t allow people to buy planning permission for controversial schemes simply by offering money.”  Ouch!

And the week didn’t end too well for Heathrow either when Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, not only confirmed she favoured expansion at Gatwick Airport but also added that any expansion at any airport is not a “substitute for the longer term aviation strategy that Britain so badly needs.”

The debate is certainly gathering pace and with at least another ten weeks to go and a general election, before the decision is announced, watch this space!