A Noisy Airport Threat To The City (2 May 1975)
A NOISY AIRPORT THREAT TO THE CITY
The idea of a third London Airport is being tossed around once more. The news fills me with unease, for the suggested site is Thurleigh in Bedfordshire, which is only a few miles from the Borough of Milton Keynes.
This minor airfield was among a number of sites from which the Roskill commission finally selected Cublington. Everybody remembers the great and successful fight against that recommendation. Not everybody remembers that although the struggle was primarily against the siting of the airport at Cublington, it was also against siting the airport at any inland site whatever.
Such was the case, however. So the site next proposed was Foulness. For a time it seemed that that scheme was very likely to go through. But again there was spirited resistance from the majority of the local people. A change also came over the economic and technical scene. The need for any new airport at all was strongly questioned. Finally the proposal was dropped and it was decided to develop the existing airports instead.
It seems, however, that there is still a strong “lobby” for a new airport and that its focus is now on Thurleigh. The Bedfordshire County Council have reacted immediately against the suggestion. But one factor is present at Thurleigh which was much less in evidence at Cublington.
Just about the only local people in favour of the Cublington proposal were a small group centred on Wing. They argued that the airport would bring great prosperity to the area. That same argument had been advanced by a considerable number of Bedford people when Thurleigh was originally mooted as a possible site. The hopes of those people have now been revived and they are returning to the charge.
It will be remembered that a feature of the Cublington affair was the noise-contour map produced ty the commission. This indicated the estimated degree of noise to which each town and village around the flight path would be subject.
This was the prime cause of the uproar of protest that followed. It showed that Water Eaton, Stoke Hammond, the Brickhills and Woburn Sands would all be affected to an unacceptable degree, to say nothing of the places nearer the flight path and those on its other side.
What was not so appreciated was that a similar noise-contour map for Thurleigh would have shown it to be a GREATER THREAT THAN CUBLINGTON TO MILTON KEYNES BOROUGH AND CITY.
Therefore, for this and other reasons, it is as much in the interests of Milton Keynes Borough Council and Bucks County Council as Beds County Council to keep a sharp eye on the Thurleigh situation.
Talking about possible new airports, it is amusing, perhaps, to recall that the former West Riding County Council of Yorkshire actually offered to accommodate the Third London Airport and its associated city.
The site they offered is known as Thorne Waste and is well named. Laying(sic) between Doncaster and the Humber estuary, it is the still-very-considerable remains of a vast expanse of moor and bog that for hundreds of years was the great barrier between north and south.
That barrier left a corridor only 12 miles wide between its primeval morasses and the Pennines. All armies had to pass through that corridor. There is evidence that the Ancient Britons continued to live freely in and about that area long after they had been driven from all the rest of the country, excepting Cornwall – probably because neither the Romans nor Saxons wanted it. What remains Thorne Waste has defeated all attempts to render it fertile.
So is it any wonder that the hard-headed county councillors of Yorkshire saw the Third Airport and its city as a profitable use for it? After all, the waste was big enough for Heathrow and environs to get lost in. Disturbance from noise would be negligible, except for the airport city dwellers. Probably only wild-life enthusiasts would object.
But the time factor? Well, that just might be a problem initially. It would not be possible to equal Heathrow as a time-access to central London – at least, not in the near future. But it was only 130 or 140 miles from Doncaster to London, and even the old steamer, Mallard, had travelled at over 100 miles an hour on that rail track years ago. So, with an enhanced rail service, it should be possible to come close to the Foulness time, at any rate. And if there was a rail strike? Well it would be the same for everybody, with the A1-M1 route being outstanding for bus speeds. Why, if fares were made inclusive, some classes of London passengers might even prefer Thorne Waste, besides those of the north and midlands. Etc, etc.
As I said, it was amusing. But some day there might be more in it than there seems to be today.