- Holland-Kaye writes to Khan seeking support for growth plans
- Labour politician has previously leaned toward Gatwick option
Heathrow Airport Ltd. has written to newly elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan to solicit his backing for a third runway that was vehemently opposed by the Labour politician’s predecessor Boris Johnson.
Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye has sought a meeting with Khan, elected mayor last week ahead of Johnson’s fellow Conservative and Heathrow opponent Zac Goldsmith, amid concern that an already-delayed government decision on where to locate additional airport capacity could slip again.
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to choose between Heathrow and the smaller Gatwick Airport this summer after putting off a decision last year in a move that stopped it from dominating the London vote. The Conservatives are split on the issue, with many favoring growth at Europe’s busiest hub that’s already been endorsed by a state-appointed Airports Commission.
While a verdict before the June 23 referendum on U.K. membership of the European Union is unlikely, the four weeks before parliament’s summer recess provide an opening for an announcement, a Heathrow official said Wednesday after Holland-Kaye sought to address environmental concerns about his plans.
Should a decision be put on hold until lawmakers return in September, there could be a further delay beyond the Conservative Party conference in early October, where a ruling either way might prove divisive, the official said.
Khan, while previously a backer of Gatwick, said in his election campaign that he’d be London’s most business-friendly mayor, and on Tuesday withdrew his office’s objections to the purchase of property needed to expand London City Airport, another project opposed by Johnson. Britain’s major business lobbies have all backed Heathrow as the best location for a new runway.
The hub’s latest environmental pledges were made in a hand-written letter from Holland-Kaye to Cameron, according to the airport.
New commitments include extending a night-flight ban to 6 1/2 hours from five, establishing an independent authority on airport noise, and limiting the number of road vehicles traveling to the hub by boosting rail links. A congestion charge similar to that in central London could also be introduced.
Heathrow said it would compensate people losing their homes at market value plus 25 percent and extend the offer to 3,750 properties outside a compulsory purchase zone, all within its 16.5 billion-pound budget.
The airport would also agree never to seek a fourth runway, Holland-Kaye said at a briefing in London, adding that the third landing strip would be enough to take Heathrow’s capacity beyond rival hubs in Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.
Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said in a statement that Heathrow “cannot promise away the reality of its location,” and that the time has come “to back an option that can actually happen.”
Heathrow’s nightmare scenario might involve Cameron’s resignation following a victory for the Brexit campaign, followed by his replacement as prime minister by Johnson, whose support for leaving the EU is likely to have broadened his appeal among Tory members.