Gatwick Airport and Heathrow Airport News Round-Up

Written by Kate Goldstone

With the Uk General Election less than 24 hours away, expansion plans for Gatwick airport and Heathrow are dependant on the result. At the same time the continuing terrorist threat means security is hotter than ever, with airport alerts on a weekly basis. Here’s the latest airport news.

London Heathrow Airport

London Heathrow Airport

Politicians go quiet over Heathrow and Gatwick expansion plans

It’s a sure sign politicians from every party are aware of how unpopular airport expansion is with the people who actually live in affected areas. Very few of us would welcome all the extra noise, pollution, crowded roads, terrorised wildlife and all the other disadvantages of having an even bigger airport right on your doorstep. So it’s no wonder, with the General Election only a few hours away, that the main political parties remain ominously silent on the airport expansion front.

gatwick airport

UK Gatwick Airport

The timetable for airport expansion has been artificially lengthened, and big decisions about the nation’s air transport infrastructure will still affect voters’ decisions in west London and Sussex. As an article in The Guardian newspaper says:

“Decisions over the nation’s infrastructure after the 7 May election will involve billions in spending; affect tens of thousands of jobs; consign many communities to blight, noise and pollution; and alter the economic map of the UK. Yet political debate about the two most critical transport projects undertaken in decades is all but absent. On HS2, the £50bn high-speed rail scheme, parties have nailed their colours to the mast, officially backing it. But when it comes to airport expansion, a decision is imminent, yet neither of the largest parties will show its hand.”

On the other hand airport expansion delays are nothing new. The Airports Commission was set up by David Cameron in 2012 to explore, yet again, for the Nth time, whether more airport capacity is actually needed. It won’t report back until July this year, long after the election result is a done deal. And the Chairman Howard Davies isn’t afraid to admit the expansion timetable was specially lengthened ton deliver a post-election decision.

So, where are we right now? According to the Conservatives, they’re making a pledge to “respond to the commission” quickly, and Labour promise to “make a swift decision”. Neither of which is the slightest bit of help for the people living in places that might – or might not – end up living in the path of an extra runway.

Love them or hate them, Heathrow early morning flights might end…

You crawl out of bed at two in the morning, heave yourself into your car or onto a train and you’re in the air by 5am. Some people appreciate mega-early morning flights, others hate them. If you live under a flight path, you probably don’t think much of them, waking you, your family and animals up with all that antisocial engine noise. But it looks like they might be a thing of the past at Heathrow if a key compromise is made in an effort to secure agreement for an extra runway.

As the Evening Standard says:

“Up to 18 planes currently land at Heathrow between 4.30am and 6am each day, but campaigners want these to be stopped amid noise complaints from those living under the flight path.”

Get West London also reports the story, saying:

“Heathrow’s chief has said he would look at scrapping night flights altogether were it a condition for expansion to be allowed.”

The airport has already promised not to increase the numbers of pre-6am flights if it builds a new runway. If you live under the Heathrow flight path, would cancelling all the early morning flights make you feel happier about the planned extra capacity?

Local MPs back residents’ objections to Gatwick expansion

An awful lot of local people are standing firm in protest against a second runway at Gatwick airport. And they’re delighted to have the support of the majority of the region’s parliamentary candidates. So say the splendidly vocal Gatwick Airport Conservation Campaign, which strongly opposes plans for extra runway capacity at the airport.

According to them all eleven local Tory candidates are against the development, as are the area’s UKIP and Green candidates.

How do the locals know? They surveyed local parliamentary candidates and found most of them were happy to sign a pledge to fight a new runway. And the reasons are the same as usual: more aircraft noise, negative environmental effects and the need for yet more destructive infrastructure in the shape of new roads and even more rail connections. Worse still, evidence that extra capacity will have a positive economic and social effect is under serious question, and many experts believe the justifications simply don’t stack up.

Locals are thrilled because if all eleven local Conservatives are re-elected their votes in a hung parliament situation could – with a bit of luck – be exactly what’s needed to stop new runway plans for good.

Imagine having to wait years and years to find out whether or not your home might suddenly drop in value because it’s directly under a new runway, or your village might become so noise polluted life isn’t worth living there. The delays and the resulting uncertainty must be driving residents nuts, so let’s hope for everyone’s sake a decision is finally made, at long last, in late May or early June.

Airport security as hot as ever

Three people were arrested in connection with a security alert at Gatwick Airport recently, and it was all down to a suspect vehicle. Sussex Police said the alarm was raised early in the morning by someone who spotted the vehicle parked in a lay-by just off the A23, and bomb disposal experts subsequently blew it up with three ‘controlled explosions’. No suspect devices were found, no flights were cancelled and services soon returned to normal.

uk border control

UK Border Control

The report doesn’t say what the vehicle’s owners felt about it being blown to smithereens, but imagine your surprise if you’d parked up, perfectly legally, just off the A23 only to find it in bits on your return.

It just goes to show how careful you need to be when parking anywhere near a major airport. If you need to leave your car in a lay-by near any British airport, it’s probably wise to leave a note in the window saying who you are and where you’ve gone. Or you might come back to find your car in a million pieces.

It’s clear the nation is still on ‘terror alert’. In fact it’s only one of several incidents where suspects have been arrested near English airports.

One 37 year old Venezuelan man, who was caught red handed with a hand grenade while disembarking from a jet at Gatwick airport, is still being quizzed by the anti-terrorism squad. Security has been improved at Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham airports, with new, high profile measures in place. And Scotland Yard announced the arrest of four young men last Thursday in Langley, just 4 miles from Heathrow airport. They weren’t charged but were handed over to the Immigration Service. And Hounslow, near Heathrow, was the scene of two more arrests, with one man released and another handed over to Immigration.

Watch this space…

We’ll be reporting back on the final decision on UK airport expansion, hopefully later this month… unless they delay it yet again. In the meantime exercise common sense in and around airports, just in case you’re thrown in jail until the authorities can prove your innocence!

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