Boris Johnson leads Tory opposition to 'undeliverable' Heathrow third runway

Posted On: 
25th October 2016

Boris Johnson has warned that London will be known as the “city of planes” if a third runway is built at Heathrow, as he leads the fightback against the Government’s recommendation. 

Boris Johnson, Zac Goldsmith and other anti-Heathrow MPs
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Downing Street described the green light for a new runway, announced by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling today, as a “massive investment in the continued economic success of our country”.

Because of the long-standing opposition of some Conservatives, Theresa May has allowed ministers to opt out of collective responsibility and set out their alternative views.  

Boris Johnson on a third runway at Heathrow: Full quotes

Zac Goldsmith triggers by-election in Richmond Park as he resigns over Heathrow decision

UPDATING LIVE: Key reaction to Heathrow third runway decision

No 10 said Mr Johnson and Education Secretary Justine Greening have been granted “special dispensation” to speak out against the Government’s decision, while Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith is poised to resign his seat and force a by-election.

Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson said the decision risked turning parts of London into a “hell of aircraft noise”.

“No other great city would do this to its inhabitants,” the Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP said.  

“New York is going to be the city of beautiful skyscrapers; Paris, the city of lights; London, in the future, if we go ahead with this project, will be known as the city of planes.”

He reiterated his call for a new hub airport to be built in the Thames Estuary – an idea he proposed when he was Mayor of London and which was rejected by the Davies Commission looking into the options for aviation expansion.

“In the long run we will have to go back to those ideas because I’m afraid to say I think Heathrow in the long term is not in the right place and I’m afraid a third runway is undeliverable,” he said.

Ms Greening, another MP whose constituency will be affected by more flights, has issued her own statement saying she is “extremely disappointed” by the green light today.

“My views against expanding Heathrow, particularly on the impact of noise and air pollution on local residents and the weak economic case, are long-held and well-known,” she said.

Mr Goldsmith contacted his local Richmond Park constituency party today to inform them he intends to honour his pledge to force a by-election over the issue.

He responded to Mr Grayling directly in the House of Commons, claiming ministers had “chosen a course that is not only wrong, it’s doomed”.

“It’s wrong because of the millions of people who will directly suffer on the back of the environmental harm this project unavoidably produces and doomed because the complexities, the costs, the legal complications mean this project is almost certainly not going to be delivered,” he explained.  

“I believe this will be a millstone around this government’s neck for many, many years to come, a constant source of delay, a constant source of anger and betrayal among those people who will be directly affected.”

Fellow Tory MP Adam Afriyie described it as a “devastating decision”, while Tania Mathias, Mr Goldsmith’s constituency neighbour, said it was “misguided and not ultimately in the nation’s interests”.


The anti-Heathrow Tories are set to join forces with Labour’s Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell in opposing the scheme.

Conservative-led councils in affected areas are already looking at legal options to block a third runway, and Mr Khan confirmed this lunchtime that he would be “exploring” how he could get involved.

Mr Grayling said the Government was anticipating a challenge in the courts.

He told MPs: “Court cases around decisions like this usually hang on whether we have given careful consideration to the decision we are taking.

“All I can say to the House today is that we have looked at this issue exhaustively, we have considered all of the issues, we understand the challenges, we understand the hurdles we have to overcome.

"This is a rational, measured, thought-out decision about what is in the best interests of the country.

“And my view is that the elected government is there to take well thought-out, carefully taken decisions in the interests of this country. I hope the courts would not seek to challenge that.”