Protesters march from Sipson to Harmondsworth, June 2003

But the fight is far from over, and I think that eventually truth and reason will prevail, and that Boris and others who say the third runway is undeliverable will be proved correct. At least I hope so, and like many others will do my bit to make it so.

Rally against 3rd runway at Harmondswith, June 2003. In the background a placard is a newspaper report with Heathrow’s claim that T5 would be their last airport expansion

Heathrow has always been built on lies. It started as a ‘military’ airport for which there was no military need, but which in wartime allowed the airport’s proponents to get a civil scheme started which would have probably proved impossible in peacetime. The very name – that of the village it obliterated – was retained to suggest that it was a development on bare and barren land rather than, as the vast tithe barn at Harmondsworth attests, some of the richest agricultural land in the country.

Harmondsworth tithe barn, June 2003

Every major development at Heathrow has been accompanied by the lie that this would be the last – while at the same time the Heathrow bosses were already preparing for the next expansion.

I grew up and have lived most of my life in the area, much the same age as the airport. One of my late brothers at one time worked there, along with many others that I knew. I’ve grown to live with the noise and the traffic, though it can still annoy, particularly when conversation sitting in the garden during the summer becomes impossible, or a low-flying aircraft wakes me up during the times that night flights are banned.

‘Make Planes History – Plane Stupid at Heathrow, August 2007

My objections to Heathrow are not a matter of nimbyism – which the government is trying to make out, though I do believe that the airport should have been moved to a more suitable location at least 50 years ago – and that its current site could be put to uses that would be of more benefit both to London and to the national economy.

John McDonnell MP at T5 flashmob against 3rd runway, January 2009

The contribution that aviation makes to the national economy, another aspect stressed bv the government is yet another lie, conveniently forgetting the subsidies and associated costs – including those due to congestion and pollution. Also overlooked is the huge contribution that it makes to global warming.

Climate Rush and local actitivists at Heathrow against 3rd runway, September 2009

Cloud-cuckoo forecasts of growth in demand are no basis for national policy on aviation or any other huge national expenditure or infrastructure development. Sooner or later the realities of climate change have to be acknowledged – though it may already be too late.

Reclaim The Power T2 flash mob against airport expansion, October 2016

There are a number of reasons why I think the scheme will be undeliverable, dogged by legal challenges and by mass protests, including some which will take new forms. It takes very little, for example, to cause total grid-lock in the very overstressed road systems of the area, which includes the M25, M4 and M3, and entirely legal forms of protest could bring the whole area to a halt and effectively close the airport – even if the construction work for Heathrow has not already had that effect.

And in the unlikely future that the new runway is built, I forecast that its opening date – probably around my 90th birthday in 2035 – will be almost immediately followed by the closure of the airport on environmental grounds.


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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.

To order prints or reproduce images


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.