By Kris Amin
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, has reiterated his strong opposition to Heathrow expansion during local campaigning, insisting “the economic case for it is deeply flawed”.
Mr. Goldsmith is convinced there is no need for a third runway at Heathrow while other options exist to increase the number of flights to and from the capital.
“London, as a whole, has more capacity than any city in Europe, bar Paris,” he said. “The priority is using the capacity we have, not centralising activity in one area. Stansted is only about half-used, and there is capacity at Gatwick.”
He contested the view of supporters of the expansion, who argue business travellers prefer Heathrow because of its faster connections to central London.
“If we improve surface transport links (to Stansted), it could easily become the destination of choice for business travellers from the East,” he added.
Supporters of expansion warn the UK will lose out on investment and jobs should the government delay increasing capacity at Heathrow.
According to Adam Marshall, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, business leaders in high-growth economies value direct flights to London.
“Nine out of ten of these business leaders say direct flights influence their inward investment decisions; while eight in ten say they would trade more with the UK if flight connections were improved to their home market,” he said.
Mr. Marshall supports expansion, calling for “new runways, at Heathrow and elsewhere,” in order to safeguard the UK’s status as a global aviation hub.
Tom Nolan, Policy Adviser at the British Chamber of Commerce, added: “UK exporters will never reach their full potential unless capacity is increased.
“It is very important that the UK maintains a hub airport. If Heathrow was not to expand, it would lose that status. Not only would that be bad for the whole economy, it would have a devastating impact on the West of London economy,” he added.
While national debate focuses primarily on the economic credentials of increasing capacity at Heathrow, local residents are assessing the impact of an increase in flights on their quality of life.
The results of a local referendum on any future expansion, organised by Richmond Council, will be announced after the online voting deadline of 16 May.