The Cabinet has approved the plan to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport. The long running saga of whether Heathrow should be expanded to increase UK airport capacity takes another step forward although for decades this has been a saga of one step forward, one step back. Sometimes two steps have been involved. How about three steps? Now, you’re just being ridiculous! Approval for a third runway means that lobbying for a fourth runway gets one step closer too. The BBC quotes Transport Secretary Chris Grayling as describing the decision as a “historic moment”. If it ever gets built that may well prove to be the case but we’ll leave you to decide if it’s good history or bad history.
The new runway will be constructed to the north west of the current airport and will require the compulsory purchase of land and homes to accommodate it. The scheme will involve a £2.6bn package for residents compensation and noise abatement measures… though don’t expect to see any of that coming your way Twickenham types. Furthermore, the approval is dependent on air quality obligations being met. An additional 700 planes a day over London is a lot of flying metal and air pollution, noise pollution, traffic and infrastructure issues are all likely to play out large in continued opposition to the plan.
The announcement comes at a time when many local residents have been expressing anger on social media about plane noise (caused in part by recent good weather meaning more easterly take offs) but there’s been a sense of more planes, lower planes and a definite impact of more concentrated outward flight paths causing a significant rise in noise levels over some parts of Twickenham, Whitton and Teddington. For many, a third runway, despite being located to the north west, will just mean more planes adding to the soundtrack of life in west and south west London.
Grayling also said that a ban on night flights was an “absolute requirement” and “non-negotiable”. That sounds promising but in 2016, the Aviation Environment Federation estimated that the number of night flights could actually increase by 32% if the time period were to be redefined as 11.30pm to 6.00am (as modelled by the Airports Commission) compared to the 11.00pm to 7.00am period currently defined by the Government and WHO. So, that’s perhaps not so good then.
The plan will be privately funded with passengers eventually picking up the tab and with a fair wind, preferably westerly, (just kidding Windsor), the new runway could be operational by 2026. A new runway operational in eight years? We don’t think so. Twickenham station has taken longer than that and it’s still not finished! The plan still needs to go to MPs for a vote although support from some opposition MPs could more than offset the dissenters within the government ranks. Twickenham MP Vince Cable remains opposed to the plan as does Richmond Council and many other local boroughs affected.
And what about you? Should west London be taking one for the team to help build a stronger, more prosperous UK with thousands of new jobs or should we be looking at more innovative, less environmentally damaging options elsewhere. It’s the heated debate that gives you wings!
* BBC News – latest
* Teddington Action Group – local opposition group
* Richmond Council – opposed to Heathrow expansion
* Heathrow Airport’s third runway pages
* Back Heathrow – pro 3rd runway
* Petition against ‘noise sewers’