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Published on July 1st, 2015 | by Laura Davey
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Flying High: Plans for Heathrow’s Third Runway Get off the Ground

News this morning of Heathrow’s third runway getting the seal of approval from the Airport Commission has thrown London into chaos. Costing £17bn and taking potentially ten years to build, it’s hard to see the project’s initial positives with the majority of Londoners, like Cameron, reluctant for Downing Street to make a ‘snap decision.’

Back in 2012, the Airports Commission were ordered by Cameron to solve the issue of slot shortages for flights at Gatwick and Heathrow. Its three proposed solutions were as follows: build a second runway at Gatwick, build a third at Heathrow or extend Heathrow’s existing northern runway to allow for simultaneous take-offs and landings. In its 342-page final report, the Commission settled on option two and offered their research this morning.

The Airports Commission say the £17bn expansion at Heathrow is a ‘clear and unanimous’ choice for UK government. The airport’s future capacity could allow Britain to connect with more new markets and expand its economy with an extra runway adding an extra £147bn to economic growth in Britain as well as the creation of 70,000 jobs by 2050.

The report by Sir Howard Davies highlights the majority of economic positives in building an extra runway at Heathrow, the completion of which should connect Britain to 40 new destinations and markets. However, the projects economic benefits are equally shadowed by ethical and environmental concerns. Despite promising strict restrictions on night flights to reduce noise pollution for Heathrow’s neighbours, the Commission’s findings are hardly comforting to those living nearest to Britain’s busiest airport. With the third runway potentially bringing 250,000 extra flights per year upon completion, the projects concern amongst local residents is unanimous.

Despite extra measures within his report to keep Heathrow’s neighbours happy such as declining any promise of a fourth Heathrow runway and extra insulation in homes and schools by 2030 to reduce noise pollution, the ethical issues surrounding the construction and completion of the project refuse to subside. Since 2012 when Cameron gave the Airport Commission cause to find the best solution, the expansion of Heathrow has been a hot debate amongst residents and their fellow Londoners refusing to let parliament cause future chaos for seemingly selfish economic gain.

Although Heathrow’s boss describes the expansion as keeping Britain ‘one of the world’s great trading nations,’ life in and around the airport is set to change forever with the people of the present resenting the airports future expansion plans. Should the runway be approved, the local residents face years of potential unrest from construction, noise and pollution and disrupted travel arrangements when road and rail links are diverted to make way for a bigger Heathrow. Almost 800 homes will also be demolished to accommodate the runway, a proposal which has not fallen lightly on both the residents and their supporting politicians’ ears.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has been vocal about rejecting Heathrow’s plans since 2012, threatening to lie down on the runway himself should the bulldozers eventually arrive. Repeating his 2012 stance, Johnson states that the runway is ‘not going to happen’ due to its potentially ‘catastrophic’ implications. Outlining the threat of noise pollution from the site affecting ‘hundreds of thousands, if not millions of innocent people’ it’s easy to see how easily he has become an almost-spokesperson for those against the proposed build.

As part of their conditions, the Airports Commission are promising a ‘community engagement board’ pending on the project’s approval. With feathers having been ruffled on both sides of the argument since 2012, one can only imagine what Heathrow’s locals might have to say should the project go ahead, both on the board and beyond…

If Cameron and his government decide to act on the commission’s recommendations it could spell short-term disaster for London residents but long-term success for international commuters and the UK economy. Whichever way Cameron does eventually sway he has a big decision to make, with the new runway remaining a hot debate of ethical, economic and environmental concerns until the time comes.


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