Letter: Judge BAA on its past record

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MICHAEL Maine of British Airports Authority says (Letters, 2 October) that BAA does not wish to construct a third runway at Heathrow and wants to know what more BAA can do to persuade people that it means what it says.

We can only judge BAA and its predecessors by past performance. On this basis, there is obviously cause for deep concern about BAA's true intent. Heathrow airport was developed as a civil airport during the war under the pretext that it was being constructed as a military airfield for the Royal Air Force. This allowed the authorities to requisition the land without going to a public inquiry. Ever since, each further development at Heathrow has been said, at the time, to be the last. But each time planning permission has been gained, it has been followed by pressure for further development.

Until now, BAA has been careful to make sure that each development was in place before proceeding with the next. Things are now going badly wrong because there are proposals for the widening of the motorway network around the airport, the construction of a fifth terminal and a possible third runway all coming up at the same time. BAA claims that these proposals are not connected, but many are becoming alarmed at the grandiose plans.

In 1990 the Government set up a Working Group on Runway Capacity in the South-east (RUCATSE) on which BAA was represented. This group identified Heathrow as the favourite option of the aviation industry for the site of an additional runway in the South-east. However, the working group acknowledged that it was the worst choice on environmental grounds, and the environmental groups represented asked for the Heathrow option to be removed.

If BAA was serious in its claim that it did not wish to have a third runway at Heathrow it could also have asked for this to be done. It did not do so - and the reasons are obvious. If BAA obtains permission for a fifth terminal at Heathrow it will be followed, as surely as night follows day, by a demand for extra runway capacity.

P T Sherwood

Hayes, Middlesex