Failed London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith is set to resign as an MP in opposition to the government’s decision to give the green-light to a new runway at Heathrow airport.
Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond Park in southwest London, has long been opposed to expansion at the airport and promised to stand down as a Conservative MP if the government went ahead with the proposals.
The London-born MP is yet to officially announce his resignation but notified his local Conservative association that he will be standing down from the role.
This means that a by-election will be triggered in the Richmond Park and Kensington constituency, with the Liberal Democrats reportedly planning a huge campaign to regain the seat it lost in the 2010 general election.
Goldsmith is set to stand in the by-election as an independent candidate on an anti-Heathrow expansion platform, according to the Huffington Post’s Martha Gill.
The government’s decision to expand Heathrow is a contentious one.
Supporters argue it will boost the national economy by improving connections between the UK and international markets, but environmentalist groups say it will contribute massively to London’s already severe pollution problem.
Sadiq Khan, the man who defeated Goldsmith to be elected London mayor earlier this year, released a statement saying the government’s decision is “wrong” and instead expansion should be taking place at Gatwick.
“This is the wrong decision for London and the whole of Britain.
“The government are running roughshod over Londoners’ views — just five months ago I was elected as Mayor on a clear platform of opposing a new runway at Heathrow, a position that was shared by the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Green and UKIP candidates in that election.
“A new runway at Heathrow will be devastating for air quality across London — air pollution around the airport is already above legal levels of NO2.
“Heathrow already exposes more people to aircraft noise than Paris CDG, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich and Madrid combined. A third runway would mean an extra 200,000 people impacted, exposing 124 more schools and 43,200 more schoolchildren to an unacceptable level of noise.
“An expanded Gatwick would have boosted our economy without causing these huge air and noise pollution problems and it could be built quicker and cheaper.”
He added that he continue to challenge the decision and will explore how he can become involved in any legal process against the new runway.
Goldsmith has always campaigned with a focus on green policies and promised to make London the most environmentally-friendly city in the world in the run-up to the recent London mayoral election.
He is not the only Tory to oppose the move. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is against a new runway at Heathrow. He told the BBC’s Norman Smith that he will continue to oppose the project despite the announcement, having famously said during the 2015 general election: “I will lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway.”
Theresa May’s decision to give Heathrow expansion the go-ahead could trigger yet more splits within the ruling Tory party, with some Conservatives MPs already at loggerheads over Brexit and the prime minister’s plans to lift the ban on selective grammar schools.
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