Legal challenges won’t threaten expansion timescales or budget, says Heathrow boss

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive.

The chief executive of Heathrow has been quick to downplay the impact judicial reviews will have on the airport's expansion plans and says MPs giving the green light to a third runway shows “Britain is open for business”.

Heathrow’s boss John Holland-Kaye has spoken of an “exciting time” for the country and says expansion at Heathrow will be “transformational for the UK” following parliament approval on Monday (25 June) when the government-backed scheme passed the Commons by 415 votes to 119 - a majority of 296.

The government has pledged the airport will be built at no cost to the taxpayer, create up to 100,000 new jobs and benefit the entire country through guaranteed internal flights to the rest of the UK. Holland-Kaye has hailed the support the £14bn infrastructure needed to be built by 2026.

But with hundreds of families in surrounding villages facing the prospect of having their homes demolished and growing concerns surrounding air pollution and noise, airport bosses are prepared for legal challenges. A judicial review is set to be launched by four councils that include Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon, Hammersmith and Fulham, along with environmental campaigners Greenpeace and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

However, the Heathrow chief executive has quashed the impact any challenge can have and has insisted the new planning process does not wait on judicial reviews and the reason why the government has taken so long to get to this point is because they are very mindful of all views and have followed due process.

Speaking to Infrastructure Intelligence, Holland-Kaye said: “The judicial reviews are going to run in parallel with the planning process so we will crack on with preparations. If you think about HS2, I think they had maybe four or five reviews and it didn’t hold up the progress of the rail network and the same will happen with Heathrow. But I think it’s important they happen as we have got to give confidence to local people so they know where they stand but equally we are making a massive investment in our supply chain both locally and nationally so we need to get on and create the pipeline of jobs needed to build the runway.”

"We are central to the local community and that presents a massive opportunity to work closely with them so they understand our plans and we understand their concerns".
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive.

Despite the green light this week from MPs, the Heathrow boss is under no illusion the job is done and has conceded those behind the bid still have work to do in communicating the benefits of expansion and ensuring local communities understand the measures being put in place to mitigate upheaval and extra noise.

“Just because we have had such an overwhelming vote from MPs and backing from the National Policy Statement it does not mean our job is over,” Holland-Kaye added. “We will be consulting very widely with our local communities right the way through the planning process and afterwards. We are an integral part of our local communities and by a long way the single largest employer and rate payer in Hillingdon, we are central to the local community and that presents a massive opportunity to work closely with them so they understand our plans and we understand their concerns.”

According to the government, residents affected by the scheme will get compensation worth 125% of their value, along with legal fees and stamp duty included - with £2.2bn worth of compensation on offer. A further £700m will also be available to pay for noise insulation for people who remain in the homes.

On the issue of increased noise for surrounding areas of the airport, Holland-Kaye said: “Aircrafts are getting significantly quieter and we will have a longer period at night without scheduled flights which we have never agreed to in the past and this is something local communities have been campaigning for over a long time. We will also ensure a world class installation and compensation programme to make up a really strong package of measures to minimise the impact of noise and other environmental issues.”

The man in charge of the UK's biggest airport also refuted claims the major project could not be delivered on budget. He discussed how the airport was “backed by some of the biggest infrastructure investors in the world” and how it has already demonstrated an ability to reduce costs by more than £2bn.

Holland-Kaye said: “We have a good track record in this – over the last couple of years we have reduced the estimated cost of expansion by £2.5bn. This never happens on big infrastructure projects and we have done that by working with our customers. The vote shows Britain is open for business that we are going to be taking control of our trading routes, by expanding Heathrow, we are giving people the opportunity to visit all corners of the world. Had we chosen not to do that we would be depending on flights through Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt to get to global markets. Our rival in Europe would be controlling our supply chain and that would be unacceptable.”

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