Successive governments have been ‘toying’ with the prospect of an extended Heathrow for twenty odd years or more and, finally, Mrs. May has had the ‘balls’ to ‘bite the bullet’ on this vexed and fraught subject, ignoring all the self interested groups and MPs ‘howls’ of protest along the way.
Opposition to the expansion of Heathrow Airport is not a new topic; it has been the subject of local protest since it was first founded over a hundred years ago in 1915, when it emerged from a Hamlet in Hounslow Heath and was then called the Great West Aerodrome.
By way of background, the airport served as an invaluable facility for the Air Ministry in the Second World War, although local residents were outraged in 1944 by eviction notices, issued at the time by the government, to create a formal airfield. Then called ‘London Airport’ it was opened for commercial operations in 1946 and seven years later Queen Elizabeth II laid the first slab of the new runway. The more familiar name of ‘Heathrow Airport’ was established in 1966 and progressive expansion has taken place over the last 50 years with the building of five terminals.
Boris has made his protest, but will not resign as a consequence and that is fine. Zac Goldsmith has resigned as promised but now he seems to be a ‘one trick pony’. He may be a nice fellow, with genuine enough beliefs, but you would not want him as lead cabaret at the Christmas ‘howler’ would you? Unless, of course, he was singing his favourite song, ‘softly and far away’! Bless him; he should never have put himself up for the mayoral contest, as he certainly doesn’t leave ‘footprints in the sand’.
greatest city on earth
London is the ‘greatest city on earth’ and its needs a 21st Century transportation hub which only a third runway at Heathrow can provide. It is embarrassing to look at the airports of Dubai, Shanghai etc. and their multiplicity of first class facilities, particularly when you compare this with Heathrow today. Discussions about the third runway have been a ‘running sore’ now for 30 odd years.
Sir Howard Davies, last year, made it quite clear, in his independent report, that taking into consideration all the other options, Heathrow came out on top.
Admire former Prime Minister Cameron as we did, who is a lovely, dignified man, but showed no real conviction or courage when it came to this ‘thorny’ subject which he ‘fudged’ as long as he could, and has now left to ‘storm-trouper May’ to ‘grasp the nettle’.
Heathrow at 98%
Heathrow may be at 98% capacity but Terminal 5 is undoubtedly the finest of its type in the world and a pleasure to visit. Gatwick on the other hand is a ‘basket case’ and its facilities are so ‘over whelmed’ that it deserves to be shut down not expanded. I travelled through there recently and had to suffer a two-hour wait to check-in, whilst 350 other revellers were being processed through only five check in-desks. When I eventually reached the counter, the airline employee could see that I was incandescent with rage and in trying to console me said, “I understand your frustration since I wouldn’t travel through Gatwick if you paid me”. The airport struggles at the best of times to cope with one runway and goodness knows what would happen if it had two.
no gain without pain
The environmentalists and ecologists will ‘bleat and moan’, as they did a hundred years ago, but I am afraid there is ‘no gain without pain’ and if we are to be a world-class player in commerce, with global reach, particularly in the post Brexit era, we need an airport hub which is commensurate with our ambitious aspirations.
I feel genuinely sorry for disaffected residents who are within the footprint of the construction work, but by all accounts, as compensation, they will be paid 125% of value for their existing homes together with Stamp Duty and moving costs and, who knows, paradoxically, it could be a new start for them and a chance for them to enhance their position on the ‘Residential Property Escalator’ for the benefit of their families.
Berlin and Paris are hardly worthy rivals for London, much to the chagrin of the Europeans and New York is the only real alternative for sophistication and diversity, yet its airports are third world quality and this must attenuate the growth of this proud city in today’s world. Thank goodness we have learnt from this salient lesson even if it is ‘late in the day’.
I’d like to stand up and sing the hymn ‘Jerusalem’, if anyone would listen
If this illustrates the forthright decision-making ability of May’s new brand of leadership, then…..‘bring it on babe’!