Ordinarily, writing an article about the London Mayoral elections would be a daunting task but in my case it has be made easier because all four of the main party candidates actually agree on the issue of Heathrow Expansion. In fact they agree so much that they all recently appeared together, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, in a press advert on the issue.
The cynics would tell us not to believe a word the candidates say, after all they’re just after votes and in the scheme of things Heathrow Expansion comes way down in the list of most Londoners’ priorities. The majority of people are more concerned about rising crime and the state of public transport, so the expansion of Heathrow is not a real vote winner – or is it?
Four million people, mostly Londoners, will be affected by more aircraft noise. New areas of London will be overflown, at low altitude, by arriving and departing aircraft – the numbers are set to increase from 480,000 to over 700,000. Thousands of people will be affected by higher levels local air pollution.
So, are there any differences between the candidates’ views that can give us an idea of who to vote for?
They all agree there is no case economically. Their responsibility doesn’t just lie with making us, the voters, happy. They have to make sure that London is a prosperous, attractive city, so you wouldn’t expect them to turn their backs on the supposed cash cow, but they have.
They all agree it isn’t good for the environment – even they can see that more planes and more traffic do not add up to less noise and less pollution.
Ken is categorically against the expansion of Heathrow. He sees Heathrow and expansion of other airports as environmentally catastrophic because it would undo most of the steps he has taken over the last eight years to protect our environment. He would like to see more people taking the train to short-haul destinations. During his visit to Sipson he pledged to provide support for our grassroots campaign.
Boris makes the point that a new estuarial airport should be built, but also concedes that internal flights are unnecessary and the switch should be made to the train. He came to Harmondsworth to see the village left behind, and he was captivated by the sense of community within the village with its village green, the local pubs and the historic church. Boris vowed he would not allow the quality of life here to be diminished.
Brian’s answer is high speed rail, moving people off short-haul flights and onto trains, he understands how this would free up capacity for the long haul flights expected to come flooding in from countries countries such as India and China. This has long been the argument of campaigners and is a viable, sensible solution.
Siân, of course, will never support expansion of Heathrow or any other airport in London or the south east. She came to Sipson, on her own without any fanfare to take a look for herself. If she is unsuccessful in her quest for the mayoralty but successful in gaining a seat on the GLA she has pledged to work with us, with practical help, to fight this heinous proposal and she’ll be with us every step of the way.
So, based on this one issue, who do you vote for? I can’t tell you one is better than the other, my organisation is non-political, but as far as we are concerned they are all reading from the same page and that’s the best thing we could have hoped for. However, one thing is certain, whoever wins the mayoralty had better be prepared to deliver on their promises because I and my fellow campaigners will be knocking on their door expecting results.
Geraldine Nicholson is the Chair of No Third Runway Action Group (NoTRAG)