Hoon accused of ignoring public with 'unpopular' Heathrow plans

Just one in eight survey respondents in favour of third runway at airport
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The Independent Online

Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, has been accused of ignoring the views of the public by approving a third runway for Heathrow despite only a fraction of respondents to a government consultation supporting the idea.

People who responded to the consultation, 70,000 in total, were not specifically asked whether they were in favour of an expansion programme. However, 25,337 respondents voluntarily noted that they opposed expansion and only 8,128 said they supported it. These figures appeared in an independent report on the consultation process. Geraldine Nicholson, the chairman of the No Third Runway Action Group, said: "The public view could not be clearer. People do not want a third runway. The Brown Runway is massively unpopular."

The Department for Transport considered almost 70,000 responses to its consultation on Heathrow expansion. A spokesman said: "The Heathrow consultation did not ask people whether they were in favour of a third runway or not. While more were opposed than in favour, the majority of people expressed no view either way on expansion."

Anger among green activist groups over the decision to add an extra runway and sixth terminal at the airport escalated yesterday when one group smashed windows at the main offices of the Department for Transport in Westminster. Three women wearing red sashes, from the group, which calls itself The Climate Suffragettes, threw bricks at the building early yesterday. A spokeswoman for the group said: "The Government has opened the flood-gates for radical action. They sacrificed all of our futures and spat in the face of democracy."

A spokesman for the DfT said: "Police are investigating. No further comment can be made."

A protest will take place at Heathrow's terminal five today, with as many as 600 people expected to take part. Environmental activists will also meet lawyers next week to discuss legal challenges to the third runway in the courts.

The Conservative Party says it would block the expansion of Heathrow if it won the next election.