A key ally of Boris Johnson has defended his apparent decision to drop his opposition to the Heathrow third runway.
Andrea Leadsom, who threw her weight behind Johnson’s campaign to be the next Prime Minister this morning, told LBC: “I think he has changed his view over time, as is absolutely right that politicians do that when the facts change, when more clarity becomes available about particular policies.”
Johnson, who is the current favourite to replace Theresa May as Tory leader, said in 2015 that he would join the shadow chancellor John McDonnell in his opposition to the £14bn project and “lie down in front of those bulldozers and stop construction of that third runway”.
However, he missed a key vote on the expansion of the airport last year, when MPs overwhelming approved the project.
Over the weekend the former foreign secretary appeared to drop his opposition to the runway. The Times reported that he was asked by Greg Hands MP, who also opposes the project, if he would cancel it if he became Prime Minister. Johnson is reported to have replied that MPs had already voted in favour of the scheme.
Heathrow has today launched a 12-week consultation into its proposed masterplan for the airport, which includes plans to re-route the M25 west of the existing route and under a new tunnel.
Under the plans, schools and communities face demolition, including 760 homes in Longford, parts of Harmondsworth, parts of Sipson and at Elbow Meadow in Colnbrook.
Harmondsworth primary school and Heathrow’s special needs centre will also be displaced by the plans.
To develop the land, Heathrow will need to issue a series of compulsory purchase orders. The airport has said will put in place measures to mitigate the effects of expansion, including a £700m noise insulation fund and a property hardship scheme.
Homeowners who are especially affected by the expansion could be eligible to receive compensation.
London mayor Sadiq Khan, who has joined a handful of local councils in opposing the new runway, saying it would be an “environmental disaster for London”.
Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, the industry that represents airlines including British Airways and EasyJet, said it welcomed the consultation but remained concerned that the costs of expansion would not be passed on to airlines, and ultimately, passengers.
“We welcome the consultation and further clarity from Heathrow on the detail, but remain to be convinced that they can deliver this scheme without costs for airlines increasing,” he said.
“The economic prize for the UK is enormous if they get it right, but this won’t happen if charges are ramped up and airlines can’t afford to operate there.
“Until we are convinced that charges will remain at today’s levels our support for the runway will remain conditional, and given ministers have said they will not sign off on the scheme without airline approval this is clearly a critical issue for the airport to address.”
Surinder Arora, the hotel tycoon who has launched a rival expansion plan to Heathrow’s, said he was “not impressed” by Heathrow’s plans.
Arora, who is the largest landowner in and around Heathrow, said: “We fail to see how they can stay within their £14bn budget or deliver it on time. It’s too elaborate, almost like they want to build an entire city at the airport rather than focus on the passenger. We will do it for less money, quicker, and, for the first time ever, we will set a benchmark for HAL [Heathrow Airport Limited] to be measured against.”
Arora wants to build a “Western Hub” terminal, which has been designed by architects Corgan and was unveiled earlier this year, with the total costs of his proposals come to £14.4bn.