London’s Heathrow Airport has a problem: It’s too small. One proposed solution? Raze a few villages including a 15th century barn, some homes and a pesky lake for a new runway.
According to the UK’s Department for Transport, demand for air travel in South East England will rise to 300 million passengers per year by 2030. Current demand is 127 million.
The debate over how to expand capacity has two basic camps: Those who want to add a third runway, and those who want to build a new airport.
The latest proposal to expand Heathrow — the fourth busiest airport on the planet — comes from the owner of the airport, Heathrow Airport Ltd. In a new report, the company lays out three options for a third runway.
These plans, it says, would limit noise levels over London, meet long-term needs for growth, and fit within the UK’s air pollution limits.
But first, a few villages need to be destroyed.
Each of the three options would require that hundreds of homes be demolished, take more than a decade, and cost billions of pounds.
We decided to take a closer look at the first option presented, dubbed the North West approach.
Under that plan, Heathrow says that 950 residential properties would be subject to compulsory purchase and leveled. The runway would be finished in 2026, and cost £17 billion ($25.8 billion). The only cheaper option would require that 2,700 homes be destroyed. The third option, the most expensive, would demolish 850 homes.
Here’s how the airport imagines the North West runway would look, outlined in purple:
Here’s what’s there now, outlined in yellow. The red line follows the current perimeter of Heathrow.
Here’s a closer look at Harmondsworth, one of two villages that fall within the zone of the potential new runway. The report says “we are working to see whether this option could be developed so that the Tithe Barn and St Mary’s Church in Harmondsworth, which are both sites of significant heritage value, could be preserved in their current location.”
The Tithe Barn, aka Harmondsworth Barn, was built in 1426 and dubbed the “Cathedral of Middlesex” by late poet laureate Sir John Betjemen.
The village of Longford, while less full of history, would also be in the line of fire:
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