How would a new runway at Heathrow affect Hersham?


plane-on-runway

How would a new runway at Heathrow affect Hersham?

I so often hear people argue that if you go on holiday you can’t complain about the planes overhead, but this is simply not a fair statement. Hersham is a village with an identity and community independent of Heathrow. On a good day with low traffic, taking a stroll down by the Mole or across the Green, you could be forgiven for forgetting that we are just a stones-throw from the airport. Yet the sound of children playing is increasingly interrupted by planes overhead. I know many residents can get irritated by the noise, but are generally persuaded to think “I can’t complain, I fly sometimes…” Of course all air travel causes pollution and yes it would be better for the environment if none of us flew, however you do have a right to complain. aeroplane-landingIf you think Heathrow needs a new runway because of your yearly summer holiday then think again, it is estimated that 15% of the UK population are taking 70% of all our flights (http://www.theguardian.com). So unless you’re a very frequent flyer you are unlikely to be responsible for more than 0.0000006% (Civil Aviation Authority) of UK air travel, yet as a constituent of Hersham you would be more affected by a new runway than 93% of the population. More traffic on the roads, more noise pollution and some of the worst air quality in Europe. We all know how an accident on the motorway forces hundreds of extra cars to drive through neighbouring towns and villages. The more passengers that drive to Heathrow, the worse this overspill will get. Let’s not forget the 10,000 homes expected to be demolished (www.dailymail.co.uk/news). It is hard enough for younger generations to buy or rent in this area with the current property prices. This decrease in housing around Heathrow will make it even more difficult for our children to stay close to home. Even those of you who work at the airport might want to reconsider your support of the idea. The airport expansion is likely to encourage airlines to increase routes, frequency of flights, employ more staff etc. all at huge costs to the business. Studies suggest that air travel is likely to decrease which means this might be an immensely unwise investment, which could ultimately lose airlines money. We are constantly told it is necessary to either expand Heathrow or Gatwick, or to build a new London airport. This “either/or” phrasing implies we must choose one, but in fact there is the option of no new runways at all. There are so many ways this could be achieved:plane-in-sky

    • Minimise domestic flights – Domestic flights are increasing as a percentage of air travel. Flying should never be cheaper than rail travel. We can’t blame people for taking the cheaper option, so why not increase taxes on domestic flights to subsidise rail fare. Once you factor in check in & security domestic flights are certainly not the fastest option.
  • Provide a viable alternative to short haul – travel to other European countries accounts for most flights from UK airports. Similarly to above we need to provide a financial incentive for people to choose trains over planes. Deals with other European rail providers could make this an attractive alternative to air travel. It is possible to buy InterRail passes but these are not well advertised. If cheaper prices were fixed by the EU, Britain would remain a competitive destination within Europe, remaining a big player on the global stage.
  • Encourage people to holiday in the UK. This would be good for the economy. Foreign tourists are more likely to spend their money in London, whereas many Brits would rather travel to the coast or countryside. Swapping some of the international tourists for UK residents would encourage a better distribution of income around the country.
  • Provide financial incentive for companies to use Skype conferences, remote offices and allow employees to work from home.

Another reason stated for expanding Heathrow is the economy. However, relying on a single airport to drive our economy is really ‘putting all our eggs in one basket’. The more our economy depends on air travel, the more fragile it becomes. Especially if this centres around one airport. It probable that at some point Heathrow will to have to close for a period of time due to security alerts or for flights to be grounded due to poor weather. The idea that a higher percentage of our GDP should rely on travel in and out of Heathrow actually means less economic stability for the country. It is now in the hands of our MPs to decide. If we want them to consider Hersham, we need to speak out now! Wouldn’t it be nice in ten years to still hear children playing on the Green rather than just airplanes and traffic? Let’s keep our village as it is, no more traffic, no more noise, no more pollution; no new runways. #NoNewRunways
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Olivia Palmer

Olivia is a blogger and social commentator who lives in Hersham. She has a Masters degree in Human Rights and International Relations. With a strong interest in politics and equality, Olivia has worked with a number of NGOs and recently stood as The Green Party's general election candidate for Esher and Walton. When she's not writing, you'll find her painting in the garden or head-banging in a moshpit at gigs and festivals!

You can read Olivia's blog here: esherandwaltongreens

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