Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 12:41 GMT
Terminal 5: Welcome arrival or major infringement?
London's Heathrow Airport has been given the go-ahead for the construction of a fifth terminal following a four-year public inquiry.

Airlines, trade unions and big business have welcomed the new terminal, which will be able to cater for about 30 million travellers and help the airport handle a total of about 80-85 million passengers a year, according to airport operators BAA.

But while night-flight restrictions and a limit on daily aircraft movements have been introduced, environmental campaigners and local councils and residents groups remain bitterly opposed to T5.

Do you welcome the expansion of Heathrow Airport? Or do you think it will add to existing noise pollution and safety concerns about flights over built-up areas?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of you comments below.

Why an extra terminal at Heathrow, why not at Bristol, Liverpool or Leeds. Could it be that the Transport Secretary knows that foreign visitors entering through those ports would have to suffer his mishandling of the railway in order to reach the capitol?
C Cheyne, UK

The airport is the community's main source of revenue

Andrew, UK
I've lived close to the airport for most of my life. It saddens me that so many people in my own area - Richmond - are so upset by the airport. Although noise has got worse they are (on the whole) rich, mobile people who could move if it was really a problem. They all have double-glazing and largely ignore the noise. The only area that has been blighted by the airport is that directly around it - in Hounslow and the surrounding district. I feel sorry for the council housed people who live there and don't have a choice, but fewer of them complain, because the airport is the community's main source of revenue. Perhaps I care less than others, because I have since moved away. However, when I was there I was so used to noise that I didn't notice it and was relieved, when I used the airport, to have only a short bus ride home. Maybe other Richmond residents should reflect on that.
Andrew, UK

Mr Cox must be in a financially very good situation, and can afford to fit double glazing all round his garden. Or maybe he just doesn't notice that there is something outdoors? T5 is completely unnecessary. Yes I fly, use air-freighted goods, and first class mail. I wish I didn't have to. If the money was spent on a half decent Europe wide rail passenger and freight system, we wouldn't need another airport, and we could even get rid of some of the ones we do have.
Dave Burbridge, UK

Interesting to see how many people from outside the UK in this forum support the idea of Heathrow expansion. They of course, do not have to live there. As a former resident of the UK, I can empathize with those people still living along the M4 corridor. Already, the traffic noise and pollution is such that it is probably of the unhealthiest parts of the country to live in, and adding another Heathrow terminal will only add to the problems. The UK government should clearly be concentrating on forming new transport strategies, but what's needed is a nationally spread network of fast links, not an expansion of the bus station mentality that already exists.
Glenn Barker, Canada

It interesting reading all the opinions published on this page. The problem is that the people living under the flight paths do not have a completely unified voice. One person says they live nearby with no problems whilst the other says they live miles away with flights over their head every 20 minutes. In the end, the larger voice must prevail but if the local residents are hard done by, the local councils should at least apply for funding to fit double glazing around flight paths. I do share the view of others that the modernisation of T1, 2 and 3 would be justified, still it's a start. 'Hopefully' when it's completed people will look back and realise it was a good idea
Khaled Shivji, London, UK

Terminal 5 is a great idea

Brian Curnow, UK
Terminal 5 is a great idea and whilst they're about it how about rebuilding Terminals 1,2 and 3. They need it - look at the competition!
Brian Curnow, UK

There is far too much economic activity concentrated around London and the South East to the detriment of everywhere else as it is. I fail to see how the construction of Terminal 5 will do anything other than exacerbate this.
Jane, Wales, UK

Any residents who don't welcome T5 surely don't work at Heathrow. In that case they really owe it to themselves to move away.
Russ, UK

I avoid Heathrow like the plague

John D. Howarth UK
Personally, I avoid Heathrow like the plague. It is too big, not user-friendly and passengers are often treated with contempt and disdain. Why not expand one of the other airports as some of the other correspondents have suggested? And if the airlines are in such bad shape, why do they want another terminal? My preferred choice is to fly direct from Manchester which is a much better and more user-friendly airport.
John D. Howarth UK

I live under the flight path and I understand the "why don't you move" comments, but believe me, the noise has got considerably worse since we moved here 25 years ago, and the flouting of the mouse-like restrictions has become more brazen. England is small; given decent transport links nowhere should be more than three hours distant, so why do we need to concentrate all airport resources at Heathrow? Most passengers are passing through not disembarking, spending artificially engineered transit times spending money in glossy shopping malls on goods they don't need. They could do that anywhere - how's about Sedgefield? The government, all governments are in the thrall of greedy business interests. There is no hope that environmental issues will ever be considered.
David Coleman, UK

It will be interesting to see how the government proposes to get these extra passengers into the new terminal. I use the M4, M25, A4 routes around Heathrow and they are inadequate to cope with the current traffic volumes, the traffic is often queuing or at a standstill. At the moment, there are six lanes where the M4 meets the M25, how many more do they propose to add to cope with the extra volume?
Pete, UK

I live with both a commercial and forces airport (it has the second longest runway in Western Canada) and would welcome a new terminal in my location. I travel to Heathrow and consider T4 second only to Keflavik in Iceland. Eighty million on research? How much have building costs escalated in that time? T5 could have been built years ago for less money than now. As for the noise factor, that is why we have good insulation and double glazing! It doesn't bother me.
Martin, Canada

It is really a case of expand or die

Peter D, USA
I think it is really a case of expand or die. If this decision had not been made, Heathrow would have become a backwater to some other regional hub. The decision to expand should help ensure that Heathrow keeps its status as a major hub for air traffic, which brings tens of thousands of jobs to the area, and has other indirect benefits, such as making the UK a more attractive place to locate regional headquarters for companies that are expanding into Europe.

Those who want to promote the expansion of Gatwick and other regional airports are missing the point - Heathrow's attractiveness to travellers is the fact that it is a hub, where more connections can be made than any other European airport. Decentralizing those connections by expanding Gatwick would undermine the "network effects" of having a centralized hub. It is undoubtedly true that the expansion will increase noise and make the area even busier than it is currently, but the people who live around Heathrow will also benefit from the economic stimulus that it represents. It is less than ideal, but people opposed to expansion should ask themselves if they really want the alternative - loss of business to another airport in Europe that is prepared to expand, with the resulting loss of jobs, economic decline, and fall in house prices that would follow.
Peter D, USA

As a California resident I must fly in and out Heathrow if I want to take a non-stop flight from the west coast. I have been through Gatwick on flights that were not non-stop, but naturally I prefer to get on the plane in San Francisco and emerge in England. I would be delighted to go through Gatwick again if it were possible. I would also like to be able to fly into Manchester to visit that area, but again there are no non-stop flights from SFO to my knowledge. The noise from Heathrow can also affect visitors to your country. It can be an unpleasant event to be touring Windsor and have a plane come over your head. I found it even more annoying when visiting Kew Gardens. However I hope the "cheap" fares stay on a while so I can get there again. So I'll probably go through LHR. By the way perhaps a little bit of the money spent might be on improving the air bus system.
Rosalie Gjerde, USA

Heathrow is primarily a "business" airport rather than a "holiday" airport. Most foreign visitors are headed to London or the M4 corridor, so expansion elsewhere is of limited value. Most Brits travelling out are on tight timescales, and want a quick, painless experience. I welcome the expansion. Other airports are further away for me and millions of others - an extra hour's travel on each end of a day trip to somewhere like Dusseldorf or Dublin does nothing positive to the quality of life of those who travel out of necessity.
John L, UK

This was a done deal many years ago. BA have already moved their HQ to the appropriate side of Heathrow and the road infrastructure has also already been completed in part. With the new wider planes rolling off the production lines in the coming years, Heathrow needed to upgrade or lose a huge percentage of traffic. So, as I said, done deal. Oh and the 3rd runway is as well, but the government will change the consulting rules before that, to prevent any long term enquiry. Taking a tangential view, given events of 11th September, I would have thought that dispersing air traffic rather than focusing on a single airport would have been better forward thinking. Lets hope no terrorist act decides to pick on Heathrow airport! Interesting question - how on earth could you tell if a plane in the descent corridor was indeed planning to land?
Richard Philips, UK

Do one hundred million people actually need to fly in and out of the country every year? That's equivalent to the whole of the UK population coming and going. Air travel seems to be the only transport medium where provision is made for everyone who wishes to use it. In the meantime our roads and railways are jammed to well over capacity and no extra provision is planned.
Brian W, UK

The approval of T5: more air traffic, more pollution, more incessant noise, more overcrowding in areas that are already overwhelmed by all of these? Who on earth designed one of the busiest flight paths in the world to fly directly over one of the busiest cities of the world? As for the economic side of the argument as there are already four terminals here, couldn't another part of the country be allowed to benefit from this?
Paul Taylor, UK

I really must echo what other respondents have said- why decide to live near an airport and then moan about the noise? I think residents living near Heathrow will find they have very little sympathy from the UK as a whole - they have made their bed and they should lie in it. I live in Central London on a very busy road with traffic running at all hours -my solution is to use ear plugs-very simple! I did not expect to have the luxury of living in Central London AND have peace and quiet. The same goes for the whining minority near Heathrow who have cost the rest of the UK a small fortune with their protests.
Richard, UK

At last some common sense! Heathrow is already a major airport with the associated noise, pollution, traffic headaches etc so by expanding an airport in an already "blighted" area seems sensible rather than affecting somewhere else, and YES I am affected as I live within 3 miles of the airport and have done for the past 36 years. I do not work at the airport BUT I am certain that a lot of companies are attracted to the area because of it and for one I am pleased that they are! The fuss that a few people make about noise etc whilst its their right, I have to question why they live where they do as the airport has been in operation for over 50 years and the planes are now quieter than they have ever been so unless they have lived in the area for over 50 years I do not see what they have to moan about.
David B, England

The bigger the airport is the better. It's important to maintain Heathrow as the main gateway to Europe as well as to all major cities around the world.
Pisut Ruttanaporn, Thailand

It would have made much more sense to develop a terminal outside greater London

Why have a new terminal at Heathrow, when it would have made much more sense to develop one outside greater London, say at Luton or Milton Keynes? It's not as if access to and from Heathrow is convenient.

London is the crossroads of the world... T5 is needed.
Bruce Gilman, USA

I think it is a good idea to build an extra terminal, but you have to control the noise level. Apart from that, yeah, why not build a terminal. It will be good for tourism.
Deise MA, London UK (Brazilian)

Has there been any discussion of the impact of Heathrow expansion on international service to and from regional airports eg Glasgow and Manchester? There is a need for direct international service to the UK's major cities outside London. Otherwise, inward investment and the general economic well-being of the regions will be sacrificed to meet the perceived need for further centralisation of transport.
Neil MacCormick, USA

The money brought into the country by travellers, airlines etc is needed

Rich, UK
As a former Heathrow worker, I'm all for expansion, as long as the support/transport infrastructure is increased inline. The money brought into the country by travellers, airlines etc is needed. The naysayers should imagine what the area would be like without this income... quieter, yes, but poorer, duller, and with no transport links to escape!
Rich, UK

Has anyone looked at the way passengers are treated in the present terminal system at Heathrow before sanctioning yet another building? It is a nightmare. If you are a transfer passenger, the first sight of London after arrival is a cramped, dirty, smelly, uncomfortable, cold, often wet bus ride around the baggage handling area of the airport, and now they are adding yet another stop on the route?! As I fly trans-Atlantic 15 times a year, I'd welcome the ability to travel from my own country (Scotland) but until this happens I'll still take Schiphol over Heathrow every time!
Douglas Kinloch, Scotland

Of course we should have a new terminal, and the delay is a scandalous waste of time and money.
David Newman, UK

People who choose to live near an airport know what they are getting

Arri London, EU/UK
The comments about expanding international services at regional airports are quite valid. When one thinks about it, having to travel down to London to go out of the country is pointless. As for T5, yes do it and do it soon - as long as there are more rail and bus connections along with it. As for the noise etc, people who choose to live near an airport know what they are getting. Good double-glazing and earplugs work wonders, I must say.
Arri London, EU/UK

I work for an airline and most of our flights have moved from Gatwick to Heathrow. The flights from Gatwick were usually half empty. Now they're at LHR they are pretty full, even in the current climate. Why Londoners are so afraid of coming to Gatwick I don't know. It has very good uncongested transport links, like Stansted and Luton too. The passengers I speak to moan about LHR but refuse to fly from anywhere else.
Matt P, UK

The construction of a T5 is good news because it will improve passenger facilities in the overcrowded Heathrow and will be a better welcome to your beautiful country.
António Luis Pinto Pereira, Portugal

Heathrow is a great airport

Gavin Pearson, English in USA
Personally I would have preferred that expansion took place at Stansted or Luton because of traffic considerations. Heathrow is a great airport and I like it a lot. The problem is that there is always uncertainty about how long it takes to get there and you are either hours early or rushed if you travel from the midlands.
Gavin Pearson, English in USA

Good news... but the expansion should be made conditional upon the modernisation of terminals 1 to 3.
Jack, UK

Having lived under the flight path to an aircraft factory for much of my youth, I can verify that the noise levels of modern aircraft have dropped significantly. Assuming that BAA stick to their word on aircraft movements then noise levels won't be an issue. I do find it curious that people who dislike noise actually move to a location where it is obviously a problem. If people have lived in the area for a long time, then surely they are pleased that there are no more 707s or Tridents bursting their eardrums.
Christopher Laird, Japan

Expansion was clearly necessary

Robert del Valle, USA
Long overdue. Heathrow is the model for every major airport in the world as far as I'm concerned, but expansion was clearly necessary.
Robert del Valle, USA

Big success bonuses for the execs at BAA who don't care about wider issues. They take their success fees, having made promises about flight restrictions which they know they will not be around to keep. As happened with T4.
John, UK

At last! Finally something which might bring London up to the standard of the rest of the world. Landing at Heathrow T1-3 is hardly the welcome we want to give visitors to Britain: overcrowded, poorly planned, tatty and run-down. Absolutely we need to bring Heathrow up to the standard of airports such as Frankfurt and Paris. T5 is a must.
Mike T, UK

BBC says "Eleven local authorities around Heathrow have also been opposed to the scheme getting the go ahead." So how on earth can there be any justification for it whatsoever? That whole area is choked with traffic, it's noisy and it stinks. Who cares whether it's a 'leading' airport or not? Not the millions of people who have to live with the constant noise and pollution. Most people I know who come through there are astounded at what a dump the place is.
Colin, UK

I suspect Heathrow was there before you were - what did you expect?

Annwyl, Heathrow, UK
I live next door to Terminal 4, directly beneath the flight path and I have to say, it is quieter here by far than living anywhere else in London, I actually get a decent nights sleep now and that is the first time since I moved here 7 years ago. I have no objections, more money to the area, more jobs and the flights really aren't that noisy and lets face it you do get to choose where you rent/ purchase your house in England. If you don't like the idea - don't move here and if you already live here and you don't like the idea move - I suspect Heathrow was there before you were - what did you expect?
Annwyl, Heathrow, UK

I don't think T5 is necessary, but would accept its development if all flying were stopped between 6pm and 9am, and anyone who wished to move away from the airport were given a big enough grant to enable them to do so.

T5 is very, very much needed, as anyone who regularly uses Heathrow will testify. The arguments against it are weak to say the least: Heathrow's runways are virtually full, so T5 simply cannot lead to a vast increase in aircraft numbers. But having far more terminal space is a welcome move, and will make the place far more pleasant. Environmentalists should also note that aircraft get quieter all the time, and that a sewage works between two runways hardly counts as a "greenfield" site! The sad thing is that it took 6 years and £80m to reach the obvious conclusion. Only in the UK....
Alastair Stevens, UK

All these people who are anti-T5 need to realise the Heathrow is the backbone of the regions prosperity and wealth. The amount of revenue this will provide both in the short term with the construction work, the longer term for on-going jobs, and then what other money is spent by the additional tourists/business travellers and so on. And how can Simon H. whinge about the noise when he knowingly buys a property under the flight path is beyond me? And I myself live within half mile of the airport. Now is the time for these small minded people to drop the matter and find something else to "protest" against.
Mike Warner, UK

The cost of the inquiry into T5 has come from taxpayer's money

Richie Ellison, UK
The cost of the inquiry into T5 has come from taxpayer's money. I object to the fact that I have had to dig deep into my pocket to keep quiet a handful of people who moved near an airport obviously expecting peace and tranquillity. The house prices are cheaper in the North than in Surrey. And if London needs a 5th terminal - it has to go somewhere - wouldn't we have the same arguments from residents and councils near Gatwick, Stansted and Biggin Hill?
Richie Ellison, UK

Environmental campaigners & residents making a fuss? No surprise there then. When was there a major development of any piece of transport infrastructure that didn't attract protest from environmental groups and locals? Of course they should put their case, but this project has been held up for too long (14 years), and the enquiry has cost too much (£80m), this should have been granted years ago, the economic benefits far out way other factors. By the way I have lived under the flight paths for both Birmingham and Leeds/Bradford airports with no undue interference, this is because of a little invention called double-glazing.
Christopher Cox, UK, Solihull, Birmingham International's flight path

As usual, everything gravitates towards London and the South East. There is no good argument for expanding this airport that could not be applied to some of our provincial airports. If we had the infrastructure our taxes deserved we could redirect the additional passengers towards Birmingham, Bristol or even up north and provide some very welcome jobs for those regions instead. Another case of Westminster myopia!
Shaun, Teignmouth, UK

With the UK on the brink of economic meltdown why has this Government sanctioned further development of Heathrow? Surely an increase to the amount of air-traffic over our capital is the last thing we need! Why not develop airports like Stansted that have excellent links into the capital? With ALL major airlines cutting back flights we'll have another white elephant in our capital to compete with the Dome. If this had been the decision of any other party in power Mr Blair and his puppets would have condemned it!
Robert, London, England

When will the government listen to the concerns of its people rather than big business? If 11 councils and numerous groups oppose it, might they not have a valid point? Does London really want more air pollution, a greater threat of accidents and increasing road traffic? NO it's stretched to breaking point already. Pity those people who suffer 24/7 under a flight path and pity many thousands more who will once T5 is built.
Kate, London, England

I'll keep it short, why not spend the spare cash on more security, it is an ignorant comment, but while so many people are out of work now from the airline industry, spend it other ways than making money, make jobs instead.
Vinny, Holland

They chose to live there and they can't move the goalposts now

Stuart, UK
People in the area have benefited from lower house prices than they would have otherwise have been - they chose to live there and they can't move the goalposts now.
Stuart, UK

Users of London's Heathrow will no doubt know how chronically cramped passenger facilities are. T5 is about creating an airport that once again can be a pleasure to travel through. If the UK airline industry is to remain competitive, we must remain ahead of increasing threats from the continent - Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt and Schipol. Despite the current downturn, British aviation, and specifically London's accessibility to North America and Europe is a significant factor in why our small island remains one of the world's major economies. It seems to me strange that people living in the flight path choose to continue to live in this location if they have such strong feelings against airport noise. Surely no one expects the vicinity of a major international airport, T5 or not, to be a silent rural idyll. The advantages to the capital must be balanced against what is a realistic expectation of life near Heathrow.
Craig H, Brighton UK

I used to live under a runway and am appalled at the outcry from local residents. If you don't like living near an airport go and live somewhere else and stop trying to restrict the economy and the growth that this facility will bring.
Chris Burnet, UK

T5 is very welcome and necessary. If you object to this decision I hope you never go abroad, consume airlifted products or use the first class mail otherwise you are a HYPOCRITE.
M.P. Marshall, UK

I also live close to Heathrow and under it's flight path, but I welcome the decision to go ahead with T5. It is only in this country where the needs of a few local people can potentially impact the economic prosperity of not just London, but the whole of the UK. For many people, living close to an airport is beneficial as it provides easier access when travelling. I quite accept that we should enforce noise restrictions, but the economic value of creating many thousands of jobs is surely more important.
Chris R, Surrey, UK

This is a victory for big business and commercialism over the lives of people who will suffer ever-increasing noise and pollution

John, UK
Who cares if Heathrow is the busiest airport in the world. Why do we need people whose final destination is not in UK to be landing here other than to make money from them while they're sat in the terminals waiting for connecting flights? This is a victory for big business and commercialism over the lives of people who will suffer ever-increasing noise and pollution.
John, UK

Why expand Heathrow when many of the other UK Airports are chronically underused? I imagine that no improvements to public transport will be part of this deal. How do the customers of the bigger Heathrow expect to get there?
Giles Jones, UK

Of course if the space currently wasted on shops was used to process passengers they wouldn't need T5. Also if they didn't need to keep us captive in their shopping mall, in the hope that our girlfriends will fail to notice that the prices are now virtually the same as that on the high street, we could have much shorter check in times.
Essada, London, UK

At fifth terminal! They're joking right? All the major airlines are in a bad way since September 11 and they still want another terminal. This makes no sense. I know in time the airline industry will recover, but by how much is the question.
Jason, Manchester, England

I live about five miles from Heathrow. I have extremely noisy planes going over my flat every 20 minutes or so. Now there'll be even more of them. I guess the people who gave the OK to T5 don't live anywhere near a flight path. Yes, I know I chose to live in Surrey, but in this overpriced county this was the only property I could afford - mainly because it's on a flight path, I would suppose. I don't have the option to move elsewhere and still be in commuting distance to work. I guess I'll have to try to find a new job outside of Surrey and move, or risk the value of my property going through the floor once T5 is fully operational.
Simon H, UK

See also:

20 Nov 01 | Business
Terminal five 'set for take-off'
20 Nov 01 | Business
Terminal five's long delay

Links to more Talking Point stories