Former deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has backed Gatwick in the airport expansion debate, warning that the Treasury is 'robotically in favour of Heathrow'.
Writing in the Evening Standard, he gave a list of reasons in favour of backing the Sussex-site over Heathrow including avoiding the ‘tousle haired indignation of Boris Johnson and the doe-eyed sanctimony of Zac Goldsmith’.
In government, Mr Clegg helped set the terms of reference for the Airports [Davies] Commission however he has now refused to back the review’s recommendation of Heathrow.
‘Firstly, the economic case is more ambivalent than the headline assertions of the Davies Commission suggest,’ he states.
‘The construction costs — even if they are largely borne by the private sector — are far higher at Heathrow and past experience suggests that one way or another taxpayers will end up footing some of the bill. The economic virtues of retaining “hub” capacity at Heathrow are notoriously opaque, based as they are on the fleeting footprint of transit air passenger.’
He also points out that Gatwick has a ‘dedicated, unpopulated site that is ready to go’ with less risk of delays to the scheme than Heathrow, and also that London’s air is already dangerously polluted.
‘The city regularly breaches European air quality standards and a recent report suggested as many as 9,500 people die every year as a result of poor air quality,’ he writes.
Mr Clegg also refers to the recent Environmental Audit Committee report, which is says ‘rightly expressed scepticism this week about Heathrow’s ability to meet its air and noise pollution targets’.
A final decision from government is expected shortly.