Heathrow Expansion: Take-Off or Tailspin?
The raging Heathrow debate of environment vs. economy continues to heat up long after plans have been taken ΓÇÿoff the agendaΓÇÖ according to the joint agreement of the coalition and the opposition.
MPs and London business leaders are demanding the government reconsider the declaration that another runway at Heathrow is out of the question.
We take a lighthearted look at the two views. Is it a simple question of businesses against homes, environment against economy, the people against the power? Or are there two sides to every argument?
THE ARGUMENT FOR
Britain is falling behind with reduced connectivity and this is holding back our limited economy.
London businesses are among those calling loudest for an expansion of Heathrow airport, not least Richard Branson who has promised a ┬ú5 billion investment if the government reconsiders.
As much as ┬ú14 billion in trade is estimated to be lost if the UK falls behind France and Germany in the transport race.
In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph earlier this month, major business leaders from the likes of Microsoft, O2 and the governmentΓÇÖs own Chamber of Commerce, pleaded with the coalition to reopen the debate in a final bid to boost the economy and ensure BritainΓÇÖs connectivity to other growing economies like China.
While the UK economy continues to struggle back to its feet, Heathrow runs at 99% capacity and is growing every year. One more runway may mean some cost to land, homes and the environment, but with further threat looming over the UK economy, that cost may turn out to be collateral damage in the fight not to lose an international race on which everything depends.
THE ARGUMENT AGAINST
Hundreds of home would be demolished and the health of local people seriously damaged.
Many environmentalists have pointed out that with pollution already a serious concern in London and the surrounding areas, and a phenomenal carbon footprint from Heathrow already, the last thing we need is another runway.
The concerns are not just about damage to the environment, but about the potential damage to the health of local Londoners, as another runway would officially breach safe levels of Nitrous Oxide in the atmosphere.
And itΓÇÖs not just the 700-strong village of Sipton that would face destruction ΓÇô the claims are that acres of green belt land would be destroyed to make way for a runway in an already heavily congested area of the country.
Like any argument, the Heathrow expansion debate has heard its alternatives, and ΓÇÿyesΓÇÖ or ΓÇÿnoΓÇÖ have not been the only black and white answers to this complicated question.
To work around the dispute, other solutions have been established ΓÇô solutions that have been cited to appease both the environment and the economy in the short term and prevent the loss of residential areas around Heathrow.
1. RAF Northolt: 10km away from Heathrow lies the RAF base of Northolt. Some critics of the Heathrow runway plan have suggested expanding this airport for commercial use instead. Previous models in other countries have proven that distance is no object for runways set back so far from the control tower.
2. Heathwick: This is the name lent to a potential high speed rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick, giving commuters the option of the two airports and reducing the burden on Heathrow, thereby offering more overall airport capacity for the capital city.
3. Boris Island: Plans for a man-made island to house a new airport in the Thames Estuary have been wildly controversial. The potential damage to wildlife could make it an even worse bet than a Heathrow expansion but it would provide ever more capacity, as it would be an entirely new airport, offering more than just one runway for commuters to London.
WhatΓÇÖs your view? What do you know of the Heathrow debate, and do you consider expansion at Heathrow a no-brainer or does the mere thought make your blood boil?