The Queen and protesters 'celebrate' 50 years of Heathrow airport

Click to follow
The Independent Online
It was a day of two garden parties at Heathrow yesterday to mark the 50th anniversary of the largest airport outside the US. The official one, cheekily dubbed a Royal Garden Party by BAA, the airport's owner, was attended by the Queen and was rather fortunately, given the drizzle, held under marquees.

Nearby, along the Bath Road, protesters against airport noise held an Alternative Garden Party organised by the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (Hacan).

Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen officially opened a pounds 32m refurbishment of the Terminal 2 departure lounge before going on to a party at the 50th anniversary festival site nearby. It was familiar territory for the Queen. She opened the airport's first terminal, Terminal 2, known then as the Europa Building, in 1955. The new lounge, part of an pounds 80m redevelopment of the terminal, features a two-tier atrium with views over the airport.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, BAA has recreated a tented departure lounge like the one used by the first passengers on 31 May 1946 - the date the airport opened - complete with wicker chairs and staff dressed in period costume.

The royal partygoers were shown a model of Terminal 5 which BAA hopes the Queen will open at the end of the decade. But first it has to pass the hurdle of a public inquiry, being held in the nearby Ramada hotel, which has just entered its second year. The projected terminal, which BAA says will allow another 30 million passengers to use the airport annually in addition to the present 50 million, is the focus of the protesters' anger.

T-shirts bearing their motto, "Terminate Terminal 5" were on display at the alternative party where the tents were rather more modest than those for the Queen. With the continuous drizzle, they quickly repaired to Dennis Gould's house on Bath Road, barely a stone's throw from one of the main runways. His house suffers particularly badly when planes take off. The runway is used for take-off and landing alternately, but there are plans to allow mixed use as this would increase the airport's capacity.

Heathrow's 50th anniversary celebrations culminate tomorrow week with a flypast of 34 aircraft, led by a Lancaster bomber, and including Concorde flying in formation with the Red Arrows. At the mention of this, the protesters wince.

They all hate Concorde, which has special dispensation from noise regulations, more than any other aircraft.