Simon Calder: Minimal fury for new Heathrow third runway plan ticks box for politicians

 

Regulars at the bar of the Five Bells in the village of Harmondsworth, just north of Heathrow, could last night celebrate the departure of runway blight. But customers at the pub’s namesake in Stanwell, on the other side of the airport, may be drinking at the last-chance saloon.

The proposed new southern runway could bring aircraft wingtips almost within dart-throwing distance.

“Gross National Happiness” is the concept used by the King of Bhutan to explain why development in his mountain domain is constrained. When a government and the aviation industry seek to expand airports in a crowded nation, they use a different concept: “Net Local Unhappiness”.

Their aim is to minimise the amount of fury their plans generate. According to these criteria, Heathrow “R3S” looks plausible. The intensity of opposition is much smaller for Stanwell Moor than for the villages of Harmondsworth and Sipson to the north, and the flightpaths would disturb fewer voters in marginal constituencies – the prime concern for many politicians.

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