YP Comment: Is it take-off for third runway? Hiatus over Heathrow expansion

A British Airways plane flies past an alleyway between two houses in Longford Village, Hillingdon, near Heathrow Airport.
A British Airways plane flies past an alleyway between two houses in Longford Village, Hillingdon, near Heathrow Airport.
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there ARE many obstacles that still need to be overcome before Heathrow’s third runway is built.

Even though Theresa May signalled her support by sitting alongside Chris Grayling when the Transport Secretary made his Commons statement, the confirmed resignation of Tory MP Zac Goldsmith will be just the precursor to a long, complex and contentious planning process.

It will not be easy. Heathrow already struggles to operate from within one of the most densely populated, congested and polluted corners of Britain. However it is close to the capital and is widely regarded as one of the world’s premier airports – it needs no introduction to travellers. The challenge is striking a balance between local interests – Mr Grayling concedes Heathrow has been a poor neighbour – and a national economy which desperately needs more aviation capacity.

There is the prospect of further direct flights between this region and the capital. This is welcome – regular and reliable connections will only make Yorkshire more attractive to international businessmen and the like. Equally it is important that the Government, and others, recognise the untapped potential of regional airports when it comes to passenger and cargo services.

Though the Davies Commission was set up to increase capacity in the congested South East, it overlooked the fact that it might be easier for travellers living north of the capital to make more use of airports in the Midlands, or Doncaster Sheffield which has expansion plans of its own. There is no reason why these locations can’t be utilised to free up much-needed ‘slots’ at Heathrow while Parliamentarians, planners and lawyers determine whether a third runway at Heathrow can, in fact, launch a new era of prosperity for the whole 
of the UK or if it is just another flight of fancy.

Rural Payments Agency: Time to get a grip

IT GIVES The Yorkshire Post no pleasure to question the mismanagement of the Rural Payments Agency for the third time in 10 days. However, given the inability to elected representatives to stand up for farmers, it falls to this newspaper, the NFU and others to highlight thlse issues that the powers-that-be would like swept under the proverbial carpet.

On October 15, this newspaper revealed probable delays to the upcoming subsidies because the RPA – an offshoot of the Defra – has not got its act together. Yesterday, The Yorkshire Post revealed that more than 10,000 farmers were underpaid by a total of £27.4m last year and 1,000 claims are still unresolved. Now the National Farmers Union fears the situation could be even worse because the RPA has not provided farmers with a full breakdown of their subsidy – and how it was calculated.

Given the fallibility of the organisation’s computers, and its well-documented difficulties implementing the most minor of changes to EU policy, a farm’s acreage, or the use of land, this does not inspire any confidence as the number of missed performance targets multiplies.

As this column made clear yesterday, there would be a national outcry if benefit recipients were treated so shabbily. Why not farmers? Guardians of the countryside, they are food producers. Without them, Britain will be even more dependent on exports at a time when existing, and new, trading relationships are at the mercy of Brexit. It’s time Ministers are held to account and sort out this chaos – Tory peer Anne McIntosh, the former Environment Select Committee chairman, is able and willing. Who will join her?

Tadcaster’s triumph

FROM the 15 towns and cities which bid to host the 2017 Tour de Yorkshire to the six lucky locations confirmed yesterday, there is one standout winner: Tadcaster. A town which made global headlines 
last winter when its 
historic bridge was washed away at the height of the floods, cutting the community in half and 
then being ignored until 
an embarrassed Government was shamed into action, what better way to signify Tadcaster’s resurgence than the spectacle of the peloton crossing the river Wharfe?

With bridge repairs still underway, the race will show to the watching world that Tadcaster is not just open for business but back on the tourist map. And that, in many respects, is what makes the Tour de Yorkshire so special – it enables communities, large and small, to be part of a sporting event that not only brings priceless publicity, but which will only grow in prestige ahead of the 2019 World Championships in this great county.