Heathrow Airport's CEO has apologised for broken promises that he said have 'hung over the airport's relationship with local communities'.
John Holland-Kaye made the apology at the Airports Commission's consultation conference today (Wednesday, December 3), where options for expanding either Heathrow or Gatwick are being discussed.
He said he was sorry for the airport's past commitment, made almost 20 years ago, to permanently rule out building a third runway.
He said: “I am shocked by that commitment. It should never have been made. And it could never be kept. That is not an excuse. It is an apology. I am sorry Heathrow made that commitment. It has hung over the relationship with local communities, and has led to a deficit of trust that can only be repaired by demonstrating we are a different company from the past.”
He went on to address the third runway proposals put forward over the last decade, saying: “In hindsight, I don’t believe we did enough to listen to the concerns of local communities about that proposal.
“We should have done more to reduce noise from aircraft, and ensure those people who stood to lose their homes or suffer more aircraft noise were treated fairly. We should have done more to help local people access the jobs that would come from expansion.
“If there was a sense economic benefits should trump environmental costs, or national benefits should hold sway over local disruption, then I am sorry. We got it wrong.”
At today's meeting, being held at the Park Inn Hotel, in Bath Road, Sipson, the commission is discussing with interested parties and members of the public the three options it is considering for increasing flight capacity in south-east England.
These are building a third runway at Heathrow, extending one of Heathrow's existing runways and building a new runway at Gatwick.
In his speech, Mr Holland Kaye said expanding Heathrow could generate up to £211billion for the UK economy and create up to 180,000 jobs.
He said: "This is a debate about the future of our country – whether we have the ambition for to win the race for growth, to help Britain stay right at the heart of the global economy, as we have been for centuries."
Two protesters scaled the hotel roof this morning and unfurled banners bearing anti-expansion slogans.