Wokingham Borough Council has said it will support a third runway at Heathrow – as long as it is carbon neutral.
At the council meeting held virtually on Monday, July 6, they approved an amendment to a motion that originally called on the chamber to oppose the planned airport expansion.
But the Lib Dems, who had tabled the original motion for debate at the September meeting last year, accused the Conservatives of ducking debate and said that it was disappointing that what passed was substantially different.
The motion had been timed for the nearest meeting to a three-month consultation that Heathrow had launched around the proposed additional runway. Like other local authorities, the closing date for submissions was before a council meeting where the proposal could be debated.
The Conservatives said that last year the council declared a climate emergency and has committed £50million to reaching its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. As such, it is opposed to any airport expansion that is detrimental to the environment and the council’s carbon footprint.
The party argues that Heathrow Airport has proposed an extensive plan to reach carbon neutrality, but the council will only support the expansion if the Airport Carbon Accreditation Organisation (ACAO) confirms it can successfully be achieved.
In a statement, Cllr Gregor Murray, Wokingham Borough Council’s executive member for climate emergency, said: “The ACAO already designates numerous airports around the world, including Gatwick, as being carbon neutral.
“If Heathrow, or any other airport, can rise to these standards then we support their expansion and the economic benefit it will bring us.
“We are committed to making the council carbon neutral by 2030 and will continue to work together with residents, businesses, charities and schools to reduce our emissions and to address climate change. We take our environmental responsibilities seriously.”
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The Liberal Democrats disputed whether any such scheme could be environmentally friendly.
Cllr Paul Fishwick, Liberal Democrat Highways and Transport Spokesperson, said in a statement: “We have grave doubts whether there can ever be any such thing as a carbon-neutral airport expansion but, of course, we are opposed to any airport expansion that isn’t carbon neutral.
“So we accepted what the Conservatives proposed as at least a step in the right direction. However, we are really disappointed in the way they have approached this.”
He added that the reason for the original motion naming Heathrow was that the party was echoing concerns of residents about the impact of a potential third runway on the borough.
“Despite this, the Conservatives had committed the council to supporting Heathrow expansion,” Cllr Fishwick added.
“They did so through the decision of a single Conservative councillor without any consultation with the rest of us.
“We think both the decision itself and the way it was taken were appalling and it needed to be overturned.
“Well, now it has been – even though the Conservatives did their best to make sure the word ‘Heathrow’ wasn’t mentioned.”