Leading article: Green-blooded

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The Independent Online

A proposal to turn a small aerodrome outside the Italian city of Siena into an international airport has provoked an opposition campaign. There is nothing unusual about that. The Heathrow and Stansted expansion plans did the same here.

But the Save Siena group has an unusually patrician, British flavour. It is being organised by the grandson of Lord Lambton and has attracted the support of a smattering of Guinnesses, Heskeths and other scions of London society. The group held their protest at the weekend not in Siena, as one might expect, but at the National Gallery in London. Why? The National's exhibition of Siena's Renaissance art was sponsored by the Italian MPS banking group, which is also strongly behind the Siena airport redevelopment plan. Proximity to the participants' homes might also have had something to do with it.

The protesters point to the environmental impact the enlarged airport would have on the surrounding national park and argue there are already enough airports within driving distance of the city. But it has also been suggested that the horror of these privileged blue-bloods can be explained by the prospect of a budget airline setting up a Siena route, swamping their exclusive holiday destination with the very hordes they jet out there to escape.

That, of course, is a viciously cynical and mean-minded thought. And no doubt these wealthy young aristocrats are even now preparing to disprove the charge of hypocrisy by promising to take the train in future whenever they visit their unspoilt Tuscan playground.

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