If not my back yard, then whose?

Overview of the proposed third runway at Heathrow.

Overview of the proposed third runway at Heathrow.

As I write this at 10:18 p.m. on 10th September 2015, an aeroplane has just flown overhead, disturbing the peace and quiet of Teddington.

It’s a regular occurrence happening roughly every 3 minutes for bursts of three hours every other day. And randomly at other times. This morning it started at 5:45 a.m.

It’s pretty unpleasant, but not surprising since I live roughly 10 kilometres from Heathrow airport. It is inevitably occasionally noisy.

For me – like most people in the area – this is just a fact of life and I just get on with things. Some people find it unbearable.

And there are much worse places than Teddington. For example, in Richmond the noise is much worse.

So what do I think about the proposal to build a third runway at Heathrow?

From a personal point of view I would obviously like the airport noise to go away.

But I acknowledge that the country needs airports, and  that those in the South-East are full.

The government asked someone to consider all the facts – balance the pros and cons with the cost – and they said that a third runway should be built at Heathrow.

And for me – that’s it.

If it’s not built in my ‘back yard’ it will be built in someone else’s.

The reason I feel this is simple: the country needs lots of things besides airports – some much more urgently. For example:

  • We need houses – and lots of them.
  • We need wind turbines – and lots of them
  • We need places to permanently dispose of nuclear waste.

And the people who live in the places where these things are proposed inevitably complain that a thing – whatever it is – will make there lives marginally worse.

In short, they complain because something will change which benefits their fellow citizens, but brings no personal benefit to them.

So I don’t feel I can object to Heathrow expansion given that it’s a decision based on the best interests of the UK and was arrived at democratically.

Choice and cost

Insisting that an airport be built in a place which doesn’t degrade my quality of life would cost money. The Heathrow plan will cost about £20 billion but – for example – the cost of building an airport in the Thames estuary could be in excess of £100 billion.

This is equivalent to asking the other 37 million working age people who don’t live near Heathrow to pay an additional £2,400 each to keep me in the style to which I have become accustomed.


  • Placing excessive restrictions on where houses can be built inflates the price of houses and brings misery to millions.
  • Campaigning against Wind Turbines slows down our transition to a low-carbon electricity supply causing the unnecessary emission of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide.
  • Objecting to the construction of a nuclear waste depository extends the highly unsatisfactory storage that currently exists – costing everyone else bilions of pounds while we wait to find a County Council to which will allow the project to go ahead.

The projects I have mentioned – and lots of others – represent cases where projects of national importance are routinely blocked by small numbers of people complaining very loudly.

But there is a bigger picture and we need to keep it clearly in mind if we want infrastructure which meets the needs of all the people that live here.


Post Script: I’ve finished editing this article on Sunday night 13th September, and I noticed the last plane fly over at 11:09 p.m. It’s been a long and noisy day – it must be time for bed.

3 Responses to “If not my back yard, then whose?”

  1. telescoper Says:

    Why not a second runway for Gatwick?

  2. protonsforbreakfast Says:

    If I recall, it wasn’t what the Davis commission recommended. Why go to all that trouble and then discount the results of a prolonged enquiry. Its bad for me, but good for someone else.

  3. H Stiles (@HStiles1) Says:

    It seems to me that it would make more sense to develop a Midlands airport such as Birmingham, if people will insist on flying. It is going to have a high speed rail link after all. Or we develop large VTOL aeroplanes!

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