Colin Matthews, BAA Chief Executive, has a dream. It is a dream of "modernisation" - a dream of "responsible development" - a dream of a third runway being built at Heathrow. Unluckily for Colin, given the broad coalition of opposition to the third runway, it's likely to remain just a dream, rather than becoming a full-blown environmental nightmare.
From the advert BAA put in the papers yesterday, part of an ongoing PR blitz to encourage some popular support for a third runway, it's clear that Colin really likes modernisation. You can tell because he uses the word twice in the first two sentences of the advert, preferring it over the rather more accurate "expansion" or "unpopular scheme which will destroy local villages and account for up to 20 per cent of the UK's 2050 carbon emissions budget."
Describing Heathrow expansion as "modernisation" is just the latest flavour of BAA spin. In particular, the villagers of Sipson who are facing the demolition of their village might well be feeling quite modern enough. I'm not sure how comforting they're going to find Colin's assertion that BAA will "seek to build strong links with our neighbours, particularly those in Sipson". Perhaps he thinks building "powerful and effective partnerships" with your neighbours means getting them to demolish their own houses?
In this ongoing PR war, ‘modernisation' is used as a cover for BAA's rather shaky arguments for the third runway: First, that it will provide economic benefits for Britain, a case which has been greatly overstated, and secondly that it will be subject to strict environmental regulation by the Environment Agency. Unfortunately for BAA, Chris Smith who heads the EA has been very critical of the plans, pointing out that "The Environment Agency is now in the unusual position of being asked to enforce air quality targets in relation to a policy we advised against," and that the government needs to set a "better example" with action on climate change.
While BAA spin their PR offensive, back in the real world it's clear that the third runway would mean serious emissions increases from Heathrow, would be a green light for further expansion of aviation in the UK, and would be a serious blow to our chances of addressing climate change while we still can.
Colin's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org - and apparently he really wants to know what you think, so why not talk to him about it?