A row over the future of Heathrow’s expansion plans is intensifying as emails seen by City A.M. seem to contradict the airport’s claim that it did not veto proposals for an extended runway.
The government supported plans for a third runway after the Airports Commission carried out a two-and-a-half-year study that earmarked the third runway as the strongest option.
Heathrow has previously claimed that it did not veto Heathrow Hub’s extended runway plans, insisting it had followed advice from the Airports Commission, which found a fourth runway would “deliver on all fronts including economic value, safety and benefits to local communities”.
However, emails seen by City A.M. contradict Heathrow’s claim.
An email from September 2016 sent from Anthony Clake, the investor behind Heathrow Hub, updating his team on discussions with Heathrow, shows that the airport’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye told Clake that shareholders were worried they would “lose face” if they backed an extended runway plan.
"The shareholders have invested a lot of time and money in the third runway proposal," Clake claims Holland Kaye said. "They feel they would lose face if they accept our scheme, despite it being quicker and easier."
Clake also quotes Holland-Kaye as confirming that shareholders were reluctant to back the extended runway scheme as they would make less money from it.
The email also says that Holland-Kaye believed more due diligence was required for Heathrow to commit to an extended runway.
However, a separate letter sent to transport secretary Chris Grayling from Clake in October 2016 shows that Heathrow Hub held discussions with Heathrow over the correction of minor mistakes in the Airports Commission report in relation to capacity, costs and local environment factors that had weakened the extended runway bid, which Clake describes as "cordial due diligence meetings" with Heathrow.
Despite this, the letter goes on to state that Heathrow later publicly advised: "it has not yet carried out the due diligence on the Heathrow Hub proposal that would be necessary for us to commit to the billions of pounds of investment needed to implement it."
A spokesperson for Heathrow Hub said:
We held talks with Heathrow at the secretary of state’s request. Among other things, they were shown data which corrected minor mistakes by the Airports Commission in relation to capacity, costs and local environmental impacts.
The consequence of Heathrow’s behaviour is higher passenger fees and new capacity being delayed. We urge Chris Grayling to see sense and tell Heathrow to implement our scheme if the third runway fails, which is very likely.