Councils show huge flaws in Airports Commission

Airports Commission flawed on connectivity, economics, noise, air quality and deliverability.

Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, and Windsor and Maidenhead councils have called on MPs to oppose the recommendation from the Airports Commission for a new third runway at Heathrow.

The councils, members of the 2M Group of local authorities opposed to Heathrow expansion, have asked MPs to consider their findings following an in depth assessment of the commission’s claims.

A report put together by the councils challenges the recommendation on environmental, health, and community impact grounds, and says the commission has put together an inflated and distorted case for expanding Heathrow.

The report highlights the factors that make the third runway undeliverable.

These barriers include environmental, transport, political and social factors as well as potential legal challenges that are at the centre of the debate.

The councils also point out that the commission’s own aviation growth forecasts predict a third runway will only offer the UK an additional five long haul routes.

The evidence suggests that claims regarding EU air quality legislation have been misunderstood by the commission and that it has deliberately recommended placing a large source of pollution in an area that is already under severe strain.

Assessing the work of the Airports Commission: a high level summary [1Mb]

Assessing the work of the Airports Commission: the full report [2Mb]

Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said:

“The critical factors which present the biggest challenge to a potential third runway have been either avoided, or worse, misinterpreted by the commission.

“There is a distinct lack of information on air quality and flightpaths and instead there are inflated claims about a colossal economic windfall that the commission says will come from a handful of new trade routes. It’s clear to me that the case for expansion at Heathrow doesn’t add up and a third runway will never happen, no ifs or buts.”

Lord True, Leader of Richmond Council, said:

“As the evidence in this report points out, there is no way to mitigate the impacts of the Heathrow expansion and this third runway proposal is no different from those which went before it. As with previous schemes, it is wide open to legal challenge and the environmental costs do not justify the economic benefits, in addition, the expansion could cost UK taxpayers £20bn.”

Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council said:

“The Airports Commission’s recommendation points the way to more wasted years and another failed runway scheme. Heathrow is simply in the wrong place and there is no realistic prospect of overcoming the complex physical, legal and environmental factors that will always constrain its growth.”

David Burbage, Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead said:

“We are asking MPs to consider carefully whether a scheme that is forecast to deliver a net reduction in direct routes between Heathrow and domestic airports is really in the interest of regional economies and local people. The third runway is the wrong choice for London and the South East and would greatly reduce regional connectivity and economic competitiveness. For the millions of people who are neighbours to the airport, this would be very damaging.” has published a summary of the report

This is a shortened summary of what the four councils say – the original summary document in full is at  Airports Commission Response from 2M boroughs Oct 2015 

Their main report (excellent, well worth reading) is at Airports_Commission_brochure Full Response from 2M boroughs Oct 2015


The Airports Commission claims:
A third runway offers “significantly enhanced connectivity”

The councils say: Heathrow expansion offers just 5 additional long haul routes.

Economic case

The Airports Commission claims:
A third runway will “generate up to £147 billion in GDP”

The councils say: Heathrow expansion could cost UK taxpayers £20 billion.


The Airports Commission claims:
Heathrow will be a “better neighbour for local communities”

The councils say: Heathrow’s expansion will expose 160,000 additional people to aircraft noise.

Air Quality

The Airports Commission claims:
“Compliance with EU limites will not be delayed” by a 3rd runway

The councils say: The Commission misunderstood EU air quality legislation.


The Airports Commission claims:
A third Heathrow runway can be deliverd.

The councils say: Heathrow is located in the most densely populated area in the UK.


What the evidence tells us is that Heathrow is in the wrong place. Its location at the heart of the UK’s most densely populated area means the costs – financial, environmental and social – are maximised and the airport will always have to operate under constraints. This is not a viable location for extra capacity.

At a national level, expanding Heathrow offers just five additional long haul routes and the constrained site will never be able to meet the UK’s long-term aviation demands. The third runway is also the wrong choice for London and would significantly reduce regional connectivity and economic competiveness. It would be severely damaging for the millions of people who neighbour the airport and live below its new flightpaths. It is the wrong choice at every level.

Internet links

Richmond Council

Hillingdon Council

Wandsworth Council