A war of words between an anti-fracking Lancashire MP who complained of ‘frustration’ over Heathrow expansion and Wandsworth, Richmond and Hillingdon council leaders has broken out.
Wandsworth’s Ravi Govindia, Richmond’s Lord True and Hillingdon’s Ray Puddifoot criticised Conservative MP Sam Menzies for not thinking about the unavoidable impacts expansion would have on their constituents.
Mr Menzies said: “There is now no viable reason for the government to delay any further. We must make the right choice for Britain and expand Heathrow.”
Despite being against fracking in his Fylde constituency, and making moves to have the shale gas exploration paused before an Environment Agency consultation was completed, he disregards environmental concerns over the airport expansion.
The leaders suggested that Mr Menzies is simply taking advantage of the fact Heathrow expansion is not a sensitive topic in Lancashire.
Mr Govindia said on ConservativeHome: “Mr Menzies is well known for making a very strong case for localism – giving local councils the power to act in the best interests of their residents – not having something imposed on them.
“If anyone thinks Conservatives in West London are prepared to accept Heathrow, then we have a message for them on behalf of our constituents, ‘you’re fracking joking’.
“It’s easy to see a consensus if your electors are not amongst the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are already blighted by the noise, air pollution, traffic and environmental degradation that is Heathrow.”
The independent Airports Commission group, set up to depoliticise the debate, came to a unanimous verdict in favour of Heathrow expansion last July.
Mr Menzies is frustrated as he says an expanded Heathrow, one that could support more domestic flights, would provide an economic boost to places around the UK, not just London and the south east.
However he has extended an olive branch to ‘the vocal opposition to expansion from some in West London’ commenting that he hopes they will ‘take comfort in the £1 billion compensation package’ and the ban on night flights.
“Beyond West London, the strength of support from across the country can no longer be ignored,” he said.
He referred to a prediction from a backbench Conservative group, who said last year that about 600 of the 650 MPs would back Heathrow expansion if it were put forward by the government.
In March, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon and Windsor and Maidenhead councils threatened to sue the government, claiming expansion of Heathrow is ‘irrational or otherwise unlawful’.
The letter to David Cameron from solicitors acting for the councils issued an ultimatum that they would enter court proceedings unless the prime minister definitively rejected expansion of Heathrow.
The four councils were part of the successful legal action to block the previous Heathrow third runway proposal, which in 2010 forced the government to go back to the drawing board.
Harrison Grant Solicitors, who effectively led the 2010 high court challenge, have been enlisted again.
The letter claimed that the Airports Commission report, which in July last year recommended Heathrow as preferable to a Gatwick expansion, was a ‘flawed assessment’ in the impacts of air quality and noise.
Lord True said the councils would consider any action necessary to fight against Heathrow expansion, and warned the government to ‘keep your promises.’
Picture courtesy of Shai Barzilay, with thanks