Will this be the line in the sand?

From John Vidal’s article on the Stansted airport expansion:

The Stansted public inquiry, which began today and may last six months, will be the greatest test yet of the government’s direction. BAA, which owns Stansted, wants to greatly expand the existing capacity of Britain’s leading “cheap flights” airport by 40%, from 25 to 35 million passengers a year, and later to double the size of the airport with a second runway. This will be good for business, good for jobs, good for the UK, good for the local economy and good for families wanting to go on holiday, they say.On the other side, the environment groups are spitting. Stansted is their new line in the sand, the Newbury of the airways, the unacceptable face of constant economic growth. Allowing the airport to expand to take another 200 flights or more a day, they say, signals that BAA does not care a fig for national commitments to climate change. Impassioned Inuits on the frontline of climate change, scientists and others will show that for all the government’s huff and puff about global warming, the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are still rising; and if Stansted is allowed to keep growing, then we will never meet our targets.

But this inquiry is not just about climate change. This is a beautiful part of Essex, treasured by very many people for its countryside and community. Already, people from miles around the airport testify to how the quality of life in the region is rapidly deteriorating as cheap flights literally take off. Those living closest to the airport, tell of the constant noise and light pollution; further afield, the fly parking and increased road traffic, the litter and the accidents, the whole faster speed of life, is said to be becoming unbearable.

I’m glad he wrote the last paragraph. This is about the kind of life the government encourages us to live. Some might say it’s not the government’s role to dictate. I agree. But there’s no question governments and planners the world over influence the choices available to people. John Vidal is prepared to bet £10 the government will have a change of heart and at last draw a line in the sand.

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