Heathrow Third Runway Airport Expansion, UK

Many local and national groups had been campaigning since 2002 against the Heathrow airport expansion.


Although there had been early signs of the proposal from 1997, the project of Heathrow expansion became official in December 2003, when the then British transport secretary, Alistair Darling, backed a third runway at Heathrow in the aviation white paper. That 2003 Air Transport White Paper asserted that there was a powerful economic imperative for an additional runway, with only the provisos that conditions relating to air quality, noise and improving surface access should be met.

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Basic Data
NameHeathrow Third Runway Airport Expansion, UK
CountryUnited Kingdom
ProvinceLondon Borough of Hillingdon
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Ports and airport projects
Specific CommoditiesTransport Services
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe new runway was expected to open and immediately increase flights to 605,000 by 2020 and 720,000 by 2030 - up from 480,000 in 2009.

It would had also implied the construction of a new terminal, capable of handling 35 million passengers per year, would serve long and short-haul services. A new tunnel would allow the A4 to pass under taxiways between the airport and the new runway. The M4 spur to the airport would also have to be moved and hard shoulders on the most congested motorways would be opened up to be used during peak times.

Construction would provide up to 60,000 jobs. Operating the expanded Heathrow would create up to 8,000 new jobs at Heathrow by 2030.

It would had been built north of the airport. The development would had resulted in the loss of around 700 homes, including the entire community of Sipson and Heathrow Primary School.
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date2003
Company Names or State EnterprisesBAA - now called Heathrow Airport
Relevant government actorsBritish government, Hillingdon Council, Hounslow Council
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNo Third Runway Action Group, Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, ClearSkies (usually found as HACAN ClearSkies), Friends of the Earth England UK, Heathrow Climate Camp, Plane Stupid, Airportwatch, New Economics Foundation, The Richmond Heathrow Campaign, Greenpeace UK, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Enoughs enough, World Development Movement, The Campaign to protect rural England, The Aviation Environment Federation, The Campaign for Better Transport, WWF UK
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
environmental activists
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Climate camps
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesNot to build the third runway.

- More support to sustainable transport.

- A ‘better not bigger’ Heathrow would work for both business and the environment.

- High-speed rail has a role to play.

- Video-conferencing has an important role to play.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The coalition brought the British government before the High Court due to the expansion project and the judge found that the Government’s decision in 2009 to give BAA the green light for the third runway was flawed. He ruled that it did not take into account the most recent evidence on climate change and economics because it was based on the 2003 Air Transport White Paper.
Sources and Materials

The Climate Change Act 2008 (c 27)

Directive 2008/101/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 amending Directive 2003/87/EC so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community:
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Super-interesting report from HACAN about the story of how the campaign to stop the third runway at Heathrow was won:
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Website with lots of info from Airportwatch: good reasons
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Website Plane stupid:
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Newspaper article. BBC. Q&A. A third runway at Heathrow:
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Wikipedia article: Expansion of London Heathrow Airport:
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Newspaper article: The new face of activism. The Guardian.
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Web from greenpeace UK: Heathrow third runway cancelled: we won!:
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Media Links

Youtube videos from the 2007 climate camp:
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Video about the building of the climate camp:
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Other Documents

Source: http://hacan.org.uk On 13th May London Mayor Sadiq Khan joined the local Hammersmith & Fulham No Third Runway Group to emphasise his opposition to a third runway at Heathrow.
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Graphic: Heathrow Airport. https://airlinegeeks.com/2016/10/25/uk-government-confirms-airport-expansion-at-heathrow/ Heathrow Airport's new runway
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Meta Information
ContributorAmaranta Herrero
Last update24/08/2018