London Airports

I can’t understand why London has always failed to sort out its problems over airports, although it’s something that has affected me much of my life.  I was born just a mile or two from the site of one of London’s earliest airports, and with another just down the road. As a kid I played in my back garden with the planes streaming into Heathrow sometimes so low overhead that I felt I could reach up and touch them and had nightmares having seen them come over with flames coming from their engines.

Speeches after protest march at Harmondsworth against proposed Third Runway at Heathrow, 2003

Heathrow was a mistake from the start, pushed through by dressing it up as a military airport (which wasn’t needed)  in WW2 by people who knew it would not get approval as a civilian project. By the 1960s it was glaringly obvious that London needed a new airport, and both the Roskill Commission and the Edwards Report concluded Heathrow was in the wrong place (and was badly designed.)  Roskill called for a new airport, suggesting 3 sites to the north of London and Foulness, eventually making Cublington their preferred choice. PM Edward Heath responded to nimby pressure and rejected this, going instead for Foulness (Maplin Sands),  and things started to get moving, only to be cancelled a couple of years later as too expensive.

Cliffe, 2002

Various studies and proposals followed, with another estuary site, Cliffe, being finally rejected in 2003, and Boris coming up with his island plan in 2008. Another runway for Heathrow – which would have made the problem of it being in the wrong place even more acute – was rejected in 2010, but in 2012 the Davies Commission was set up in a thinly veiled attempt to revive this dead duck.

Climate Rush protest against Heathrow Expansion, 2009

Meanwhile, other countries facing similar problems have gone ahead and built their new airports in sensible places. In London we’ve made things worse by developing yet another airport in the wrong place, London City Airport. Roskill I think got it more or less right back in 1971, and we should be considering sites in that general area, around the M1 and the A1.

‘The Future’ protest at London City Airport, 2014

So when Tamsin Omond  handed me a flyer and invited me to photograph a protest by a group who call themselves ‘The Future’ at London City Airport, I was keen to do so, even when it did mean travelling across London rather earlier than I like.

The Eye, The Future. London City Airport, 2014

On their web site they write:

The Eye is The Future’s symbol.  A large circle drawn around the eye to mean:

We are connected:
We unite with a circle drawn around our eye to fight for our future.

We are the watchers:
We judge the powerful when they do not act to protect the future from climate change.

We are the creators:
We refuse to be victims. We create our own world.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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