Heathrow expansion stalled on the tarmac for now
Josh Ballard, Staff Writer
September 21, 2012
Filed under World & Nation
A proposed expansion of London’s Heathrow Airport has hit turbulence.
The addition of a third runway was the main component of the original proposal.
“The annual number of take-offs and landings (would) increase to 605,000 by 2020 and 720,000 by 2030 — up from 480,000 today,” said then Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon in a 2009 BBC interview. “A new terminal, capable of handling 35 million passengers per year, would serve long- and short-haul services.”
However, opposition sprung up over the possible environmental effects of expansion as well as the effect it would have on the surrounding areas.
“The development would result in the loss of around 700 homes, including the entire community of Sipson and Heathrow Primary School,” said Hoon in the same interview.
Although Business Secretary Vince Cable said it is “not going to happen,” this is not to say the plans are completely off the table. According to a Sept. 7 BBC report, there probably will not be a final decision until after the general election.
“The people who wanted to stop it were displaced in the recent Parliament reshuffle, which has screwed everything up,” said senior Nigel Espey, currently studying abroad in London, in an email interview. “Most likely the project will be picked up in the next election, and because U.K. elections are super weird, that’s probably not until 2015. It’s a whole lot of flip-flopping and party politics.”
An official spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said, “This is a contentious issue and if we are going to deliver a lasting solution for the U.K., we need to move forward on an agreed evidence base and, if possible, a high degree of political consensus.”
Proponents of the expansion cite the need to compete with other airports throughout Europe as a reason the expansion should follow through.
“The government believes that maintaining the U.K.’s status as a leading global aviation hub is fundamental to our long-term international competitiveness,” said Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. “But the government is also mindful of the need to take full account of the social, environmental and other impacts of any expansion in airport capacity.”
Those outside the government see benefit from the expansion as well.
“In my opinion, the expansion would benefit London immensely, like splicing a pigeon and a Russian Soyuz rocket capsule,” said Espey. “If London wants to keep competing with New York and Tokyo, it needs a terminal that facilitates business as efficiently as those cities.”
In an email interview, London-based business owner Edward Bennett said, “The Heathrow extension has been a point of controversy here. Even though the environmental factors and quality of life effect it would have are not to be ignored, I can’t help but think of the benefit it would have for the city, which generates the lion’s share of money coming into the entire U.K.”
Amidst worries of noise and air pollution, loss of living spaces and continued political battles, the expansion plan still has the possibility of taking to the skies. A commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies, formerly of the Financial Services Authority, will be examining ways to expand airport capacity. They plan to report in 2015.