Wednesday 5 August 2009

Heathrow, an inauspicious start...

In recent years an increasing concern into the affects that airport activities have on the local environment (in terms of direct and indirect noise and atmospheric pollution) have been compounded by a growing awareness of the affects that emissions from aviation have on the global environment such that any proposed development or expansion of Heathrow is fiercely contested by local residents groups climate change pressure groups alike. However, this has not always been the case.

The early development of Heathrow from an airfield into an airport was in response, during World War Two, to the urgent need for a military airfield close to London and as such land, which under normal civilian procedure could not have been acquired for the development of a civilian airport, was requisitioned using the Defence of the Realm Act. The memoirs of Harold Balfour, Aviation Minister at the time, describe how the site had previously been earmarked as suitable for civilian use and that, for individuals within the Air Ministry with a vested interest in civil aviation, the requirement for a military airfield provided a pretext for the acquisition of the land for an airport’s construction, that after the war may be transferred to civilian use (Wings Over Westminster, 1973). Indeed the airport was never used by the RAF (Royal Air Force) and before its completion Heathrow was transferred from the Air Ministry to the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

So, without any consideration to the noise pollution that it would cause local residents, London ended up with an airport just 20 kilometres from Hyde Park Corner with east-west orientated runways, pointing in one direction toward the historical town of Windsor and in the other towards the heavily urbanised areas of west London.
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