Davies Commission: Making a decision as a nation

On Tuesday the Davies Commission presented its final report. This has been a strong process, supported cross party, to ask the question about whether we need airport expansion to meet economic demand and, if so, where the expansion should be.

The Davies Commission has settled the question that we need expansion of aviation capacity but the question remains as to where a third runway goes to deliver the economic benefits we need, and whether it requires a hub in the way we have traditionally seen. While the report has come out in support of a third runway at Heathrow as its main recommendation, it also talks about the credibility of Gatwick as an option. Now we need a process to move to a decision as a nation and recognise that we need to see ease of access to growing markets for our trade and business relations, for ease of imports and exports of goods and services. Inaction will also cost us billions.

A very positive output from the report has been the recognition of stronger controls around Heathrow and more effective mitigation. This includes a ban on all scheduled night flights in the period from 11.30pm to 6am; no fourth runway; a legally binding ‘noise envelope’ putting firm limits on the level of noise created by the airport; a new aviation noise levy to fund an expanded programme of mitigation for homes and schools; a legal commitment on air quality that new capacity will be dependent on compliance with European Union limits; a Community Engagement Board with real influence; an independent aviation noise authority and provision of training opportunities; and apprenticeships for local people.

The irony however is that these are almost all proposals that should be happening now as part of Heathrow being a good neighbour.

In a Huffington Post piece this week, shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher described the tests we need to assess the Davies recommendation against. First, whether the outcome will meet the nation’s required increase in capacity, second whether we will meet our climate change targets, third whether local noise and environmental impacts will be adequately mitigated and, fourth whether expansion will benefit every part of the United Kingdom.

These are essential questions, and a first step in our scrutiny of the recommendations and the evidence behind them.

Far from being the end of the story, this is the beginning of a new phase. The strong arguments against expansion at Heathrow remain, and the key question is whether the mitigation plans will be enough.

That is what I will be consulting with my local community on starting today. In Feltham and Heston, many residents are strongly in favour due to the jobs and opportunities that Heathrow brings, with against based on the environmental and noise impacts. But where there is unity is that to ever see closure of Heathrow would be devastating for our local economy. That is a message we must continue to send loud and clear.

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Seema Malhotra MP is member of parliament for Feltham and Heston

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Photo: Edgar Zuniga Jr

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Comments: 2...

  1. On July 3, 2015 at 10:34 pm Sue Fewster responded with... #

    will expansion benefit every part of the United Kingdom? No. And it will serve only a few… Caroline Lucas suggests a frequent traveller tax… Good idea?

  2. On July 8, 2015 at 1:37 pm Cllr Nick Draper responded with... #

    I find it depressing that the airport expansion debate is taking place in three dimensions only, while the fourth one, that of time, is being apparently ignored.

    Look at the facts. The power source for aviation, oil, is in limited supply. It’s entirely feasible that it will be rare and expensive within 50 years, and that it’ll only take us 30 years to accept the inevitability of it. Alternative power sources (sunlight etc.) are still as far from mass-produced reality as they were when I was a kid 50 years ago. A new runway at Heathrow would take a minimum of 11 years to build, at a cost of £18 billion. That’s a lot of money for a maximum 40, minimum 20 years of service.

    Nor is it the case that, once the 11 years are up, we’ll magically get all the business that Schipol et al are apparently currently taking away from us. They will have noticed we’re building. They’ll make contingencies, improve their offr They might even build stuff themselves. That’s how competition works. Improved business is a gamble, not a cert. The only thing we can be sure of is the £18 billion cost.
    In the meantime, alternative surface based transport is becoming cheaper and easier to develop all the time. It’s just not as fast as flying – but so what? We’ll have to adapt in the end, why not sooner rather than later? It makes more sense to invest in that than in building what, perhaps even in my lifetime, will become an expensive, and hated, concrete ruin.

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