London’s where we do stuff, innit?

This week it’s appeared that serious consideration has been given to building a third runway, and a sixth terminal, at Heathrow Airport. The project will require the destruction of an entire suburban village, blight another tract of London with flight noise, and put a whole lot more traffic on the roads around Heathrow.

The justification for all this is that London’s flight capacity absolutely has to grow, because this maintains the capital’s ability to be a hub for international flights. Businessmen, it seems, like to be able to fly in here from Singapore or wherever, and then just jet off to any place they feel like, and big airports are what you need to do that. Dell apparently shifted its facility from west London to Germany because it found the infrastructure limiting. If we don’t get even more capacity at Heathrow, with its two long runways and four terminals with a fifth nearing completion, people will just go where the capacity is.

Well, last time I looked on the map, the reason other places like France and Germany have the capacity is because they’re bigger countries - it’s that simple. You only have to look on a map to know that France is much bigger than the UK, and much more of Great Britain is unproductive (mountains, marshland and the like) than France or Germany. France and Germany have much more land to waste on concreting over for airport runways. As for Holland, they can just reclaim another bit of inland sea. We cannot do that here.

We are just short of land here in the UK and it’s one reason why there is a dire housing shortage and land and house prices are going crazy. What is the sense in tearing down a whole neighbourhood in a city where people are crying out for housing, just to extend an airport when there are three other big runways within an hour’s driving distance? Surely it would be less damaging to improve the rail links between Heathrow and the other London airports at Luton, Gatwick and Southend, and perhaps even Southend whose runway can accommodate the smaller commercial jets?

How much land can we waste on urban runways? Perhaps before long, they will decide that they need to pair up the third runway with, perhaps, another on the West Drayton side of the M4? Perhaps they will bulldoze yet more houses to build a seventh terminal? What will all this do for the traffic situation in that part of London, which is close to three motorways leading west and north from London and the M25 ring road which never seems to be wide enough? No doubt they will need to upgrade the A312 or other urban main roads, leading to even more land use for transport.

If London cannot afford to be the centre of the world’s air transport industry, so be it - we just need land to do stuff, like live and work. If there is space for another runway, it is out in the countryside, not in west London. We have heard much about this government’s Big Brother tendencies, but I am sure we do not want to turn into Airstrip One either.

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