New research suggests that aircraft noise can raise your blood pressure as you sleep. That’s if you can sleep. Islington’s skies are getting noisier each year, and Lib Dem councillors have already launched an Islington Quiet Skies campaign.
The Government’s plans for expanding Heathrow are out for consultation until 25 February, when a major rally against the third runway proposal will take place in Westminster. If the government gets its way, and Heathrow its third runway, aircraft noise in Islington and all over north London will get much, much worse. An expanded Heathrow will be the equivalent of building another airport the size of Gatwick, with new flight paths over Islington, Hampstead, Ealing and Brent. It will produce as much CO2 emissions as Kenya.
Last week I spoke at a HACAN/Friends of the Earth meeting in Highbury, outlining why Lib Dems oppose the Government’s plans. We also had a “flying” visit from Labour MP Emily Thornberry, who was given a hard time over the Government’s decision to expand Heathrow and exempt aviation from the new Climate Change Bill. How can Labour claim they are serious about fighting climate change when they’re actually expanding air travel? It’s like ordering extra doughnuts with your diet Coke. So much for the government showing leadership on climate change.
British Airways and BAA want Heathrow to act as BA’s hub, able to maximise connections and compete for inter-continental passengers. Good for their business, but no good to London. We need regeneration of east London, sustainable transport links, more housing. Meanwhile, Heathrow’s plans will see a whole community flattened, with all the arrogance of an 18th lord moving the village to improve his view.
Ministers talk about the new localism, listening to local communities. London’s councils don’t support airport expansion. As the lead Lib Dem on the obscure ‘Inter-Regional Planning Forum’, I pressed for councils across London, South and East England to unite against airport expansion instead of trying to push it from one area to another.
Ken Livingstone initially supported increased airport capacity, but has now changed his mind. All the main mayoral candidates oppose the third runway. Millions of Londoners oppose it. Will the government listen? Or will the noise of the planes drown us out?