Baroness Valentine argues for expanding London airports


Baroness Valentine argues for expanding London airports

Related Stories

Each week, the Daily Politics offers a platform to a famous person to make a film with their personal views on a subject, before debating them in the studio. The cross-bench peer Baroness Valentine - who speaks for London First - puts the case for further expansion at London's airports.

Air travel is the life blood of business in the capital - from multi-national companies to restaurants.

But even with the increased use of technology such as video conferencing, demand will continue to grow.

Heathrow is already running at 98% capacity, leaving no room to grow. Six out of ten arrivals into Heathrow are caught up in holding patterns above the capital at a cost to the economy and the environment.

With the government having ruled out a third runway and any future expansion at airports in London or the south east England, the situation for business is pretty bleak.

Start Quote

Blocking the growth of London's international air links won't stop people flying from Paris or Frankfurt instead”

End Quote Barnoness Valentine Crossbench peer

In the short term, the government has been looking at ways to make airports better, rather than bigger, and we at London First have been helping them to achieve this.

But real improvements in reliability, delays and passenger service are a tall order given the shortage of capacity.

One proposed solution is High Speed Rail - which will be great for linking the north and the south of the country.

But given it would only replace a maximum 4% of Heathrow capacity, it will do little to solve air capacity issues in the south east, and will massively expand Heathrow's catchment area.

It's worth having, but it is not a game changer.

In the long term, there is talk of additional airports - in the Thames Estuary or another near Birmingham - but these are realistically decades away, would need forceful political championing, and would require substantial public investment.

These don't address the real issues that business is facing now.

Opponents of additional aviation capacity use the environment as a reason not to expand.

Baroness Valentine

Baroness Valentine
  • Jo Valentine was educated at St Paul's Girls' School and St Hugh's College, Oxford, reading maths and philosophy
  • Worked in corporate finance at Barings Bank
  • Established The Blackburn Partnership to regenerate the Lancashire town
  • In 2005, made Baroness Valentine, of Putney in the London Borough of Wandsworth
  • Chief Executive of London First, a pressure group to improve London's business environment

But the independent Committee on Climate Change has said it is possible to support aviation growth and still meet government targets by tackling carbon emission elsewhere, like electric cars.

The government is right to put pressure on airlines and airports to do everything in their power to reduce CO2 emissions.

But with planes circling for a cumulative 55 hours a day and releasing 600 tonnes of CO2 into the skies above London, the government must deal with "stacking".

Importantly - blocking the growth of London's international air links won't stop people flying from Paris or Frankfurt instead.

A credible approach to solving the problem would be for the government to revisit its aviation policy.

If companies can't grow here we risk business being done in Paris or Frankfurt instead of London. That's not good for London or the UK economy.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I'm all for Boris' suggestion of a brand new 4-runway airport in the Thames Estuary. Once up & running, with high-speed rail links directly into central London & a link to both HS1 & HS2, the ~600 acres of Heathrow could be sold off to help pay for a substantial amount of the cost. It would have the added benefits of reducing noise pollution & avoid much of the wasteful stacking seen now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I second the idea of another hub outside the south east. At the moment flying to Heathrow or Gatwick costs an arm and a leg, travel between the terminals is a nightmare. If you really want to hear some moans then make Londoners do the sort of journeys that those of us outside the south east have to do - I well remember Brian Sewell's rant on having to go to Newcastle to see an exhibition!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    With HS2 Birmingham International Airport will be a de facto London airport for passengers although it would remain unsuitable for goods. There is no reason for everything to be concentrated in London - the railways showed in the 19th century that building the transport will attract industry, put an airport in and trade will come.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    She is absolutely right. This country needs more runway capacity in the southeast. It will improve competition, reliability and quality and allow air connections to the regions - taking some development pressure away from the southeast. Trains have a role, but air is much quicker, allowing a round trip in a day and London's airports will always offer better access to the rest of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    There is an airport available in East Kent - Manston and it has one of the longest runways in the South East and is therefore suitable for any modern airliner.
    It's also close to the new Eurostar Rail line, so if a short link could be extended from this into Manston then surely let's explore that?


Comments 5 of 12


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.