Extension of Heathrow – Have your say

heathrowAs part of its assessment on the proposed expansion of Heathrow airport, the borough held a ‘Scrutiny in a day’ meeting on Friday 16 September at the Civic Centre on the High Street, Esher.

Chaired by Councillor Christine Elmer, the aim of the meeting was to investigate and probe all the arguments surrounding the proposed expansion of Heathrow.  Recognising that there could be significant benefits for Elmbridge residents but that these need to be considered against environmental, transport infrastructure and safety impacts, the councillors heard from a range of stakeholders including Heathrow Ltd, Local Authorities Aircraft Noise Council (LAANC) who updated on air quality and noise concerns, the Council’s Housing Strategy and Enabling Manager and Economic Development Officer, as well as representations from private sector companies in the Borough.

Residents Action Group Elmbridge (RAGE) discussed their views on the proposed expansion of Heathrow with the Councillors at a meeting on Thursday, 15 September.

The borough is eager for Elmbridge residents to have their say. If you want to share your thoughts on the proposed expansion, then please complete the online survey. The survey is available on the Elmbridge website until midnight on 30 September.

Weybridge Air Quality hits danger

kids-air-pollution-maskWe can see the danger and the discomfort that traffic brings to our town centre but what we cannot see is the air pollution.  Unlike soot, which we can see and smell, we are not usually aware of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) pollution so if we do not monitor it with specialised testing stations it goes noticed. The safety limit for NO2 is set at 40mg/m3 as an average over the year.  You can see from the table below that Weybridge High Street and Church Street exceed that limit in many places.  Remember that this is an average and that with heavy traffic and poor weather this limit is often greatly exceeded.  Recent health surveys have shown that England has over 30,000 premature deaths each year caused by NO2 air pollution.

The figures in bold show where the target was exceed as an average through the year.

Location 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Café Nero 54 44 44 39 39
Morrison’s 48 40 42 41 44
Pizza Express 46 43 44 43 49
Domino’s Pizza 41 37 36 35 36
Prezzo 63 61 57 58 56
Nikki’s Cafe 44 42 39 40 42
Balfour/Portmore 35 29 30 30 28

The main cause of this pollution is car, bus, van and lorry engines.  What is bizarre, in my view, is that we acquiesce in having a main national “A” class road go straight though our High Street.    In Denmark no national highway goes through a town centre yet in Weybridge we seem to accept it.  Why does Weybridge have such lack of self respect? The traffic does not have to come through our High Street we just let it.    This pollution can be reduced rapidly we just need the will to do it. Children and old people suffer must of all.  If you want to join the campaign contact me today.

Third Runway at Heathrow

heathrow_3_750Heathrow was a poor locational choice for a new major airport even when it opened in 1944 and replaced Croydon and Hendon airports.  Also the land for this new London Airport was forcibly purchased by the national government under special powers – the Defence of the Realm Act – without compensation to the landowners specifically to avoid public opposition.

A similar approach is happening today.  Notwithstanding, the impact of an enlarged airport on noise, air and ground pollution the proposed airport expansion does not make economic sense.  The assumptions used in the Davies report  – discount rates for investment, payback periods and PFI rates etc could be considered designed to ensure that Heathrow would be the recommendation of the report.

If it is considered that south-east England needs extra airport capacity then it should be in the Thames estuary, if at all, and while such an airport is being built then perhaps Gatwick could be expanded as a less dreadful choice than Heathrow.

At present Heathrow is running at too high a capacity – far higher than other airports. Heathrow should have the number of flights reduced so that it ordinarily runs at 80% capacity.  At such capacity the amount of stacking would be reduced, thus dramatically reducing air pollution and noise (saving fuel too) and also the airport would be able to cope better when the weather is not so favourable.

In my view – and I am interested in other options – the best way to reduce capacity is the auction off the current landing and take-off slots.  To do this the national government  – with one year’s notice  – should randomly withdraw six slots (flight movements in or out) a month (a week would be better but more unsettling for the industry).  The reason that withdrawn slots should be chosen randomly is to avoid any possibility that airlines could be seen to affect the choice of slot to be removed.  At the same time, four of those slots would be leased by auction for, say, five years to the highest bidder.  The revenue would not go to the airport but to the state.  The revenues could be partly used to either compensate those who lived near the airport before it was built or to develop better landside connections to reduce air pollution from arriving road traffic or both.