The Horrors of Heathrow
Ian Gilmour on the horrors of Heathrow, the last time they were proposing to expand the airport (LRB, 19 March 1998):
Heathrow is the worst-sited major airport in the world. Probably no other country would be crazy enough to place its principal airport at a spot which, when the prevailing wind is blowing, requires all aircraft coming in to land to fly first over its capital, one of the world’s most heavily populated cities. And I am pretty sure that if any other country had committed such a blunder, it would not magnify it by building another airport next door to the original mistake. Yet that is what the privatised BAA, in its selfless wisdom, is now proposing.
The airport was conceived in deceit – and nurtured by subterfuge. It would never have been built had not one or two ministers and several civil servants tricked the War Cabinet into believing that it was needed for the RAF. Even though he believed it was intended for that purpose, Winston Churchill thought it was a misuse of resources to start it in 1944; but he had more important things to think about and eventually consented. Had the Air Ministry told the truth, they would not have been able to proceed with their pet scheme. They could not have turned householders out of their homes by compulsory purchase, or wrecked prime agricultural land. There would have had to be a public inquiry, which would have exposed their project as the folly it was. Since then, the behaviour of our masters has not greatly improved.