Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Heathrow plans 'madness'

Can anyone who bought a house near Heathrow in the last 50 years really be surprised by a compulsory purchase order? Predictably, those affected by the latest expansion plans for the airport are pretending to be shocked. They are also pretending to be environmentalists; always a good cover for reactionary behaviour and particularly amusing in the case of people so in love with nature that they chose to live under a flight path.

In the advanced economies, we are rapidly approaching a position where the majority of trade (by value) is moved by air. The United States is already there. Its motor cars and other heavy items exported by land and sea are not as valuable as its software and other light goods exported by air. The City of London's "invisible exports" move, not on pallets, but on briefcases carried through Heathrow Airport.

Britain's economy is dangerously dependant on London. Years of misguided "regional aid" have done no more than make our other cities "aid-junkies". Every individual state or "Land" in Federal Germany has a major city which is a net contributor to the economy. Each "Land" could stand alone economically. In Britain however, only London could stand alone.

London's infrastructure, on the other hand, has been neglected for decades. The economic engine of our little ship stutters on, despite lack of regular maintenance. The situation is unlikely to improve under the "Scottish Raj" (and to a lesser extent, the Welsh and Northern English Raj) of New Labour. We can confidently expect the wealth generated in the Square Mile to continue to be injected, literally and figuratively, into the veins of Salford and Glasgow.

How long can it be before hapless commuters who cannot afford to live in the same city as their job give up on such miserable lives? London's geography is NOT its main competitive advantage. Its transport infrastructure is such a mess that no-one who has left it to work abroad ever wants to go back to such daily misery. The City of London's only competitive advantage is its workforce. Its catchment area contains the greatest concentration of suitably experienced professionals in Europe. If those people decide London is not a place they want to work any longer, the whole British economy could collapse.

Frankfurt and Paris make periodic attempts to topple the City from its position. It's fair to say that only the English language (via the economic power of America) defends Britain from its just economic deserts.

The knee-jerk "temporary Greens" who object to the extension of Heathrow should understand what they are doing. The airport, like it or not, is a key artery of the nation's only net wealth-creating city. If they succeed in blocking it, the resultant heart-attack will kill them too.

the Mail online | Mail - news, sport, showbiz, health and more | Heathrow plans 'madness'


Anonymous said...

Hang on. You don't like land being "stolen" for the right to roam but you're OK with compulsory purchase orders. Some inconsistency here I think?

As for the problem of the UK economy being concentrated in London, we could alleviate that by developing the regional airports and spreading things out a bit. At the moment, people travel from all over the UK to Heathrow, clogging up the roads and what passes for a rail service into the bargain.

The main argument against the 3rd runway, though, has to be Five Bells at Harmondsworth. An excellent 17th century pub, serving Adnams and Fuller's, due to dsappear under the tarmac.

Tom Paine said...

No inconsistency at all. My "right to roam" post asked if there would be compensation for the loss of the owner's rights in relation to their land. Of course, there will be none. But these Luddite nimbies will be compensated.

Personally, I would like to see a wave of compulsory purchase orders throughout the South-East to acquire land to build 12-lane freeways so that the poor people who live there can actually get about - but with every landowner who loses property in the process being fully compensated after a proper public enquiry of course.

Aviation, like motoring, just isn't possible without legal regimes to permit the infrastructure. If you own land in England your rights go up to the edge of the atmosphere, so the Civil Aviation Act was needed to give planes the right to trespass in your airspace. In my view there should have been token compensation even for that, if only for the State ritually to acknowledge the primacy of private property rights.

The Heathrow protestors should have their objections heard and then (if they lose land) should be fairly compensated for the loss in value. There is no libertarian problem with that - libertarians are not all rifle-toting survivalists you know!

As for "spreading things out a bit", the "things" in question are people who are choosing to live in the South-East. It is the job of Government to organise matters to suit the people, not people to suit the matters. London's infrastructure needs massive investment - and the truly environmental thing to do would be so to arrange matters (increasing the density of development in the city, for example) as to allow more people to live near their offices. No-one willingly commutes. I did it for years and it was hell - physically and in terms of family and social life.

Shame about the pub, of course. If the regulars get themselves a good lawyer, I am sure BAA will relocate it for them. The last Heathrow enquiry lasted years and cost many millions. If locals were prepared to play ball to save all that money this time, all kinds of miracles could occur.


Anonymous said...

People only "choose" to live down in London because this is where the work is. I would get out tomorrow if I thought I could find the same level of work elsewhere.

Most developed countries have their business and governmental capitals in different places, in the UK, everything is in London. We could start by moving the government to Manchester.

You can stuff the 12 lane highways too - we have enough pollution as it is.

Relocating the Pub though - now that's an idea I like.....

Tom Paine said...

There is probably more pollution from all that traffic standing still than from cars movng swiftly to their destination. The 12 land freeways are therefore perfectly sensible.

You may be right as to why people choose to work in London. That isn't really the point. They are making their choices - for whatever their reasons - and their Government's job is to support them, not second-guess them.