Spending money on Heathrow means cuts elsewhere

Council leaders say other vital projects could be shelved or scaled back.

The leaders of Croydon, Kingston, Southwark and Wandsworth councils have warned that a commitment to expand Heathrow could mean sacrificing major infrastructure upgrades in other parts of the capital.

The cross-party group of south London councils say the £20bn of public funding needed to support a third Heathrow runway will mean other vital projects could be shelved or scaled back.

Development plans set to compete with Heathrow for public investment include Crossrail 2, the Bakerloo Line Extension, a new Thames river crossing in east London, HS2, the Hammersmith ‘flyunder’ and the Croydon Tramlink Extension.

Transport for London has confirmed that a third Heathrow runway would require a £20bn package of surface transport investment to cope with the increased passenger numbers and freight operation.

The enormous price tag reflects the need for extreme mitigation measures including a section of the M25 being converted into a tunnel and a significant redesign of the west London road network.  

These costs are not included in the airport’s expansion bid, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.

The south London local authorities point to Gatwick expansion as the best option for increasing aviation capacity. This scheme does not require public subsidy so would not draw funding from other projects.

The government’s established approach to economic modelling predicts Gatwick expansion would generate up to £47.1billion in growth for the UK, compared to a maximum of £54.8billion for Heathrow. The councils argue that Heathrow’s additional £20bn public investment cannot be justified when the potential return is only £7.7bn higher.

They also point out that because Gatwick Airport is not located in a densely populated and constrained area it is far cheaper to develop than Heathrow, faces far fewer barriers and would affect far fewer people with aircraft noise. It could also be completed sooner.

Croydon Council leader Tony Newman said:

“Heathrow is surrounded by densely populated residential areas and a severely congested road network. Expanding the site means ploughing billions into extreme mitigation measures which the airport can’t afford. The money will have to be met by the taxpayer and that means billions less for the rest of the capital. We need an honest debate about which rival schemes will pay the price.”

Kingston Council leader Kevin Davis said:

“Heathrow needs vast levels of investment just to cope with its existing passenger numbers and pollution problems. Adding a third runway would make this task much harder and require a new spending commitment the country just can’t afford. It could mean other infrastructure projects are cut back or there is less money invested in other vital services like our police or schools.”

Southwark Council leader Peter John said:

“Expand Gatwick and London’s transport spending can focus on supporting growth, home building and improving connectivity across the city. Expand Heathrow and spending will have to focus on relieving pressure around the airport which is already one of the country’s most congested black spots.”

Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia said:

“If Londoners think aircraft noise is the only impact they’ll suffer from a third runaway at Heathrow they are sadly mistaken. This project will leave a £20bn black hole in our city’s spending plans. Many parts of the capital could suffer a significant loss if this project goes ahead.”    

Last August the south London councils revealed evidence from expert advisors to the UK Airports Commission which discredited the economic growth forecast used to promote Heathrow expansion.

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