Thames Valley businesses, and Heathrow officials in particular, are hoping for an early Christmas bonus – the government has promised its decision on potential Heathrow expansion by the end of the year.
Clare Harbord, Heathrow’s corporate affairs director, was upbeat about gaining the government’s support for a new runway to boost Heathrow and create the UK’s vital hub airport before Parliament rises for its Yuletide break on December 17.
Speaking at the Reading & Thames Valley 2025 breakfast seminar on November 27, Harbord spoke about the Airports Commission’s “ . . . very, very clear recommendation this summer for Heathrow. We are now waiting for the government response to whether they will endorse, and give the green light to this incredibly important private sector infrastructure project worth £16 billion.”
Detailing the potential business and economic benefits created by an expansion of Heathrow, she highlighted “. . this once in a lifetime generational opportunity for Reading and the Thames Valley. This moment in time is really important, not only for the future of Thames Valley businesses, but also the future of the UK.”
Harbord added, that if government support is gained this year, construction of the new Heathrow runway could begin in 2019 and the first planes should be taking off by 2025.
The well-attended #Reading2025 seminar was also fully briefed on another major Thames Valley transportation bonus for the sub-region ‘due to arrive at station near you’ – Crossrail. Now under construction, Crossrail is set to go live in the London area during 2017 with services from Reading towards the end of 2019.
John Goldsmith, Crossrail community relations manager, explained that Europe’s largest construction project would bring increased passenger capacity, travel connectivity, reliability, infrastructure and station improvements while providing significant economic benefits to the Thames Valley overall.
Shoosmiths partner Emma Gibson, also a director for the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, spoke passionately about Reading and the Thames Valley as a vibrant home for ambitious growth businesses and explained how the sub-region’s location was now internationally viewed as a great place to live and work. Maintaining that reputation with tangible support for both work and lifestyle aspects such as business startup, education, and housing was the challenge going forward – best met by the regional community, working as a team.
Savills director Philip Brown’s presentation highlighted the need for more housing for the Thames Valley’s growing population and business workforces. While the government’s 2010 ‘localism’ planning reform was helping to ease permission approvals, it was also creating demand pressures on Green Belt and suitable business locations.
The workplace is also changing, explained Nigel Wild of business interior designers Morgan Lovell, with Thames Valley businesses often leading the way. Employers now need to understand the value of their people by what they do, not by where and how they do their work. Today, the reverse Superman syndrome is alive in the workplace.
* A full report of the morning seminar will be printed in our first 2016 edition, published in February.