Momentum seems to be gathering behind the third runway plans for Heathrow, but it’s a subject that divides opinion. Plans for a third runway would involve building a new 3,500m runway to the north-west of Heathrow’s two existing runways. The alternative to this could be extending one of the existing runways.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has come out in vociferous opposition to the plans, saying that he won’t back the plans for the extra runway – some people think there might be a whiff (whaff?) or sour grapes about his decision as he’s recently learned that his own plans for a four-runway Thames estuary hub are to be rejected by the airports commission.
Fans of the idea are convincing in their arguments that Britain really needs a ‘hub airport’ – and in the benefits such an airport will bring not just to the capital, but to the whole of the UK. A recent advert (paid for by Heathrow) which appeared in the papers in September drove the point home with, “A third runway will deliver more than 120,000 jobs, and least £100 billion of economic benefit.”
Direct flights to long-haul destinations are expected to benefit the economy – it’s estimated that they build twenty times more trade with emerging markets than indirect flights. Appealing to the environmental lobby at the same time, it’s also been pointed out that long haul flights are more environmentally efficient…
There’s also no doubt that Heathrow as we know it is creaking under the strain; it’s already operating at 98 per cent of its capacity, much closer than of the other major London airports or rival hubs in Europe.
On the face of it, it seems like a great idea – unless you live in Hounslow or any of the areas nearby that are blighted with the noise of constantly circling aircraft.
Critics of the plans – including Boris – agree that noise levels and pollution are major issues. The Mayor complained that, “Heathrow is already by far the noisiest airport in Europe, about a hundred times worse than Paris. A third runway will mean there are more than a million people in the city affected by noise pollution of more than 55db.”
Residents claim that the noise from the current airport already affects their quality of life; surely clean air and night time peace and quiet surely have a value. The environmental impact would be hard to ignore too. The Airport Watch campaign says that if the plans were to go ahead, Heathrow would become the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the country -and noise pollution would get worse for the 725,000 people who live under its flight path. There’s also likely to be a loss of homes, with people forced to move out to accommodate expansion plans.
There won’t be a final decision on Heathrow until after the 2015 General Election; what do you think of the plans? Essential if the UK is to compete with European hubs like Amsterdam Schiphol – or an expensive, environmentally damaging mistake?