The cost - two ancient monuments, 54 listed buildings, 200 homes and a great deal of anger

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Irene Jones pointed to a dramatic red sunset across undulating Essex countryside she has lived in for the past 26 years and sighed with dismay. "That's where they are proposing to build the new runway. Right on that gorgeous ridge, right next to my house," she said.

The retired teacher said she was appalled at Alistair Darling's proposals for airport expansion. As someone who lives one and a half miles from Stansted airport, in the village of Broxted, she dreads the prospects of another runway on her doorstep. Already she feels besieged by the noise and pollution of the existing runway.

"The noise is already so loud that it sometimes drowns out my TV and radio," Mrs Jones said. "If they go ahead and build the runway I will be completely surrounded. I cannot stand by and watch this glorious countryside be churned up."

Among the properties which would be demolished under the proposals are 54 listed buildings, two ancient monuments and more than 200 homes. Posters and banners of protest flutter outside the cottages on the approach to the hamlet of Bamber's Green, a mile and a half from the airport.

Lynne Sandland, 22, an architecture graduate and barmaid at the 16th-century pub, the Three Horseshoes, in Molehill Green, Takeley, said she would face enormous personal loss. "This pub would be demolished and so would the converted barn where I live with my fiancé ... Hatfield Forest, one of the oldest forests in England, would be gone."

But she said the expansion plans "had always been a matter of time for Stansted".

Peter Gowan, 67, who has lived in a sprawling cottage at Bamber's Green for 14 years - it would be demolished under the plans - is fighting the proposals. The retired aviation consultant said he loved aeroplanes but opposed the plans on environmental grounds.

"Stansted has always been an airport in the countryside which respects the countryside, but what they are considering would rape this rural neighbourhood," he said.

Some residents approve of the plans under the banner of progress. Allen Ashton and Guy Phillips, who work with a ground-handling agency at the airport and live only a few miles away, talked excitedly about the proposals. Mr Ashton, 40, who has lived in Bush End, Takeley, for seven years, was the only non-protester in his village and took to tearing down the posters.

He said: "I live in a picturesque period house and I would be affected. But this is about progress. Aeroplanes do not make the noise they used to and I don't believe it would ruin the countryside.''