Group behind ad campaign could make millions from options on nearby land should its £12.5bn airport expansion proposal be accepted
A group which has launched a national advertising campaign for its proposal for a four-runway Heathrow without the “lobbying of vested interests” stands to make millions from options on nearby land should its £12.5bn plan be accepted by the government.
Heathrow Hub is fronted by one of Britain’s most influential civil engineers and a former Concorde pilot, and its newspaper adverts aim to persuade the public that its expansionist solution could mean “quieter Heathrow expansion” despite almost doubling the number of planes over London.
But while its commercials focus on more runways, its solution also includes a terminal and transport hub to be built on a 200-acre site north of Heathrow that the group could buy for a fraction of its future value – and where it has also been lobbying to build a new station on the HS2 line on a revised route.
Heathrow Hub’s directors include Mark Bostock, the former Arup engineer whose career history includes persuading the government to change the original route of HS1, the high-speed Channel tunnel rail link, so the line terminated at St Pancras rather than Waterloo. He also held meetings with Stop HS2 groups in the Chilterns to campaign against the current route for the new line.
Plans have been submitted to the Davies commission which is deciding on expanding airports in the south-east. If the government approves the Heathrow expansion scheme, the value for land currently under green belt restrictions would, according to estimates from property firm Savills, leap from around £10,000 per acre to £2m or more – an increase in value from £2m to at least £400m for the site. The scheme’s budget makes a proviso for £1.4bn for compulsory purchase of land.
Heathrow Hub’s full-page advert in the Sunday Times, followed by other broadsheets, invited readers to scrutinise “the plan for a quieter Heathrow expansion that isn’t being heard”. It included a visual plan of Heathrow with four runways, but not the transport hub, described in the submission to the Davies commission as a new entry point to Heathrow airport.
The terminal would straddle road and rail links, including access to the M25, the Great Western rail line, Crossrail and potentially HS2.
Posing the question, “So why haven’t you heard of Heathrow Hub?”, the advert continues: “Perhaps because it’s a logical solution devised by an aviator and an economist … rather than the pipe dream of a politician, or the lobbying of vested interests.”
Fronting the campaign alongside Bostock is Captain William “Jock” Lowe, the longest serving Concorde pilot. Bostock said they were backed by venture capitalists but declined to specify who. One backer is Ian Hannam, former chairman of global capital markets at JP Morgan, who is currently appealing against a £450,000 fine from the Financial Services Authority for passing on inside information. Hannam bought stakes in Runway Innovations Ltd, which owns the rights to the Heathrow Hub scheme and whose directors are Bostock, Lowe and two others.
Bostock confirmed that all four directors are shareholders in the firm which acquired options for the land “three or four years ago”. Asked if that meant they did have a vested interest, Bostock said: “From that point of view, yes.”
The Heathrow Hub concept was first submitted to the Department for Transport as a proposal for HS2 in 2009.
A spokesman for Heathrow airport said it did not endorse the plans, mainly as local residents would lose respite periods from noise with the new runway configuration. The airport told the Davies commission that building a transport interchange 4km north would be worse for passengers and cut public transport use.
Lowe said: “We have embarked on this advertising campaign in the hope the proposal is properly understood by all those interested in the future of Britain’s aviation capacity.”