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Last modified: 02 December 2016

The right decision, taken in the wrong way.


Before I’m co-opted as an anti-Heathrow moaner I want to be clear; if it was up to me I’d give permission to build new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton and let the market fight it out.

But it’s not up to me and nor do I think that it should be.

Heathrow isn't the UK's hub airport.

I live in Birmingham and work mostly in a triangle extending to Liverpool and Leeds. London’s airports are none of my business. I can’t hear the planes, I’m barely affected by the pollution, and I haven’t driven on the M25 for nearly a decade.

If people come from abroad to events that I run, they fly into Manchester or Birmingham. If I have to go somewhere on a plane, I’ll fly from Birmingham; via Amsterdam, Paris, or Dubai if I need to. Last time I sent a package by air it went from East Midlands airport.

I did a lot of data analysis a few years ago and I confirmed what I already suspected; Schiphol is a much better hub airport than Heathrow for people like me.

And yet my national government, the UK government, has decided to expand Heathrow. It will probably also decide to spend billions of pounds assisting with expansion and maintaining subsidies to Heathrow’s passengers in the form of landing charge price caps. But although these subsidies do hurt the economies I live and work in they aren’t my main issue; London always gets the subsidy, I’m used to it.

London's democracy matters.

My main problem is the precedent of central government overruling local government on issues like this. London has elected Mayor after Mayor who opposes Heathrow expansion. Yesterday they elected an anti-Heathrow MP for Richmond Park in a by-election triggered by the decision to expand Heathrow. London has been very clear about Heathrow and yet expansion will be forced through.

This affects me. In London the UK government is interfering to boost the local economy, but where I live and work the UK government is interfering to stifle it.

In Bradford, local government has granted permission to build new houses as part of a local plan. The UK government is blocking it.

In Northumberland, local government has granted permission for an open cast mine. The UK government is blocking it.

In Birmingham, local government has granted permission to build new houses as part of a local plan. The UK government blocked it for months.

Birmingham wants to grow, Bradford wants to grow, even Northumberland wants to grow. The UK government is blocking or restricting our aspirations and I’m furious.

And in the meantime, when London really doesn’t want to grow, and Manchester is ready to take up the slack, the UK government is forcing it to grow anyway. It’s just another example of London being too big to fail, and everywhere else in the UK not being allowed to beat it. And yes, it makes me furious, because I deal with that attitude all the time.

*Grumble*

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