Expansion plans for Heathrow Airport in west London are one step closer to becoming reality after MPs voted to build a third runway.
Tories whipped their MPs to vote for the plans. And although Labour officially opposes the plans, the party allowed its MPs a free vote.
The vote for the £14 billion expansion was overwhelming—415 backed it while 119 opposed it.
It’s a blow to activists who have campaigned for almost two decades to stop the runway.
John Stewart is chair of campaign group Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (Hacan). “This is a decision that has put the interests of business ahead of the concerns for the environment and local residents,” he told Socialist Worker. John argued there are still plenty of opportunities to resist the plans.
“The government clearly feel they’ve got a strong mandate. But essentially all that’s happened is Heathrow has been given the go-ahead to draw up the legal plans by 2019/20, which will still need to be approved by a planning inquiry.”
Expanding Heathrow would be a disaster for local residents—the plans will mean demolishing some 900 homes.
Those left behind would be living on a construction site for a decade. And tens of thousands of people will be under new flight paths, with planes flying overhead for at least 13 hours a day.
Hypocrite foreign secretary Boris Johnson had previously vowed to “lie down in front of bulldozers”. He avoided the vote by going to Afghanistan. Tory MP Greg Hands, who resigned last week as trade minister over the plans, blasted Johnson.
“This is not just for me a debate about Heathrow, important though that is, it’s also a debate about being true to your word and to your election pledges,” he said.
During the debate activists from the Vote No Heathrow campaign held a “die-in” in the central lobby of Parliament.
One prominent Heathrow expansion backer is Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey, who welcomed “the opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs”.
But he shouldn’t back job creation at the price of environmental devastation and climate change.
A coalition of councils and campaigners are preparing to take the government to court to stop the expansion.
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said the organisation would take legal action. And London mayor Sadiq Khan said he would join the action, saying this week’s vote was “the wrong decision for Londoners”.
John said that Hacan is supporting the legal challenge and won’t be giving up.
He said, “We’ll be meeting with our members and supporters soon and I fully expect that opposition, protests and direct action to continue.”