Heathrow ‘smoking gun’ memo revealed

The Judicial Review of the expansion of Heathrow has unearthed a memo from civil servants to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling advising him that residents likely to be affected by noise from the third runway should not be alerted to it. According to a report in the Times newspaper the six page document sent in November 2017 advised that it was not ‘necessary’ or ‘sensible’ for Heathrow airport to distribute leaflets to 5 million people who might be affected by aircraft noise, or to launch a publicity campaign which would reach 13 million or so people.

The memo said: “Most of the people receiving this communication will not have previously engaged with the expansion of the airport. “The possibility that people might be overflown is likely to create significant public disquiet and could cause previously supportive or neutral stakeholders to reconsider their position.”

There are five separate cases which have been brought against the expansion of Heathrow. Legal action started in the High Court two weeks ago. One of the cases involves a coalition of local authorities, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and environmental campaign group Greenpeace. The five councils are Hammersmith and Fulham, Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, and Windsor and Maidenhead. (Hounslow and Ealing being notable by their absence).

Chris Grayling’s civil servants were concerned that the publicity planned by Heathrow could lead to ‘further scrutiny’ of the scheme and ‘unnecessary controversy’ before the key parliamentary vote in which MPs backed the expansion. Heathrow went ahead with the leafleting and advertising campaign despite ministerial advice. One of the complaints being considered by the High Court is that the Department of Transport failed to alert people who might be affected by increased noise. The memo was produced as evidence and reported by

A spokeswoman for the protest group Chiswick Against the Third Runway protest, Sara told me: “It doesn’t come as any surprise. A lot of people who are going to be affected weren’t told and even MPs were hoodwinked. A lot of them rolled over and said yes to the expansion without having the full facts in front of them.”

The building of a third runway would enable the airport to accommodate up to 740,000 flights a year. It currently takes 475,000.