EXCL Environment minister Zac Goldsmith says ‘bonkers’ Heathrow expansion ‘unlikely’ to go ahead
Controversial plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport are “unlikely” to go ahead despite having the support of MPs, minister Zac Goldmith has said.
The environment minister, who has been a long-standing critic of the move, said he did not believe that it would survive a government-commissioned review - despite the Commons backing it last year.
The intervention comes months after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the project could still be scrapped after questioning whether it “stacks up” financially.
In an interview with PoliticsHome’s sister title, The House magazine, Mr Goldsmith said his opposition to expansion “hasn’t changed” since joining Boris Johnson's government in July.
He said: “I think it’s a bonkers scheme, and all the arguments that I’ve been using for the last ten years and repeating ad nauseam are true, in my view, and I see nothing to persuade me that they’re wrong…
“It’s currently out of government hands because it’s been through parliament.
“Unfortunately, Parliament voted for it overwhelmingly – I’m still surprised by some of the MPs who voted for it, who nevertheless campaign heavily on things like climate change and air quality, but they did.”
He added that the airport will “struggle to come up with the cash”, therefore needing the Government to stomp up “really vast sums of money”, which the public would oppose.
Mr Goldsmith quit as MP for Richmond Park in protest at the plan in 2016, prompting a by-election which he lost to the Liberal Democrats, before reclaiming the seat months later at the snap election.
Boris Johnson is also against the move and vowed to lie down “in front of those bulldozers” to stop its construction when he was elected as the MP for South Uxbridge and Ruislip in 2015.
But Mr Goldsmith defended the Prime Minister for pursuing the policy, adding that there was “a difference from being a constituency MP and a mayor of London on the one hand, versus being prime minister on the other”.
“You can’t just pretend that parliament hasn’t voted overwhelmingly for Heathrow expansion,” he said.
"So he is in a more delicate, more complex position than someone like me, for example.”
He added that an “entirely objective” review into the plans would find that it was “a bad project”.
“Heathrow still has to go through all kinds of cumbersome planning and policy processes, and I’m not convinced that it’ll survive that,” he said.