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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 07:12 GMT 08:12 UK
Airports face battle for take-off
An airplance comes in to land over houses
More residents face disturbance as flights increase
The expansion of up to 25 airports across the UK could start a war between developers and residents - BBC News Online's Neil Aitchison examines the issues.

With its manicured lawns, tasteful houses and hedge-lined roads, Halfpenny Green would appear an unlikely setting for a battleground.

But now the picturesque village is set to become the frontline in a clash which could be played out in other areas across the UK.

For next to Halfpenny Green lies an aerodrome - and while its windswept runway and spartan buildings provide little indication of its surging ambition, the site could soon become an international airport for Wolverhampton.

And with passenger numbers potentially soaring to one million every year, neighbours fear their ears could be in for a bashing.
The control tower at Wolverhampton Business Airport
Wolverhampton airport would be transformed

"There will be more noise, more pollution, more traffic on the roads," said Norman Jones, chairman of the local parish council.

"We will have medium-sized passenger jets in the air day-in day-out. We will completely lose our tranquility and privacy.

"We would hope that the existing major airports can take all the extra passengers they can and that the overspill is not too large."

He points to Bristol as one of the airports that could be expanded.

Indeed, with the number of passengers using UK airports set to double over the next 20 years to more than 400 million a year, more and more small aerodromes could try to cash in on the boom.

It's a nightmare, the noise shakes the place to pieces, it makes life very stressful

Airport neighbour Jo Lucas

It is estimated up to 25 airports across the UK will need to expand to meet the demand, from well-established airports like Birmingham and Bristol to smaller hubs like Norwich and Sheffield.

Developers say the expansion is unstoppable and will create thousands of jobs, but homeowners fear that life under a flight path will become unbearable.

About 12m is being earmarked by developers to expand Wolverhampton Business Airport, six miles east of the city.

Although currently home to a fleet of small jets, its owners hope to create a small terminal for holidaymakers and business travellers.

Journey time cut

Proposals for the new facilities include a 60-seat restaurant.

Developers hope to fly 100-seater passenger jets to destinations like London, Edinburgh, Brussels and Malaga.

Chairman of the airport Graham Silk estimates the airport would create or maintain 12,000 jobs and predicts that up to 25 airports across the country will need to expand to match the demand.

"It will cut the four-hour train journey to London to an hour-and-a-half from office to office," he said.

A house at the end of the runway at Wolverhampton Business Airport
Residents fear their tranquillity will disappear
Yet in Bristol, which already boasts a thriving small airport, it is not an idea that gets the support of Jo Lucas.

She lives with dozens of airplanes flying at 300 feet over her house each day as they take-off from Bristol International Airport.

"It's a nightmare, the noise shakes the place to pieces, it makes life very stressful," she said.

She has been unable to sell her bungalow, despite dropping the price by 70,000.

"We're trapped, there is nothing we can do about it," she said.

"I don't believe anyone who tells us that residents' views are being considered, they aren't.

"I just hope that other people don't get an airport near them because it will make their lives a misery."

Tourism boost

But Paul Morgan, who runs a hotel next to the airstrip near Wolverhampton, can see the benefits.

"As long as adequate measures are taken to reduce the noise the effects could be quite negligible," he said.

"The airport could open up the tourism business for south Staffordshire."

The government is set to publish a consultation paper later this year considering the expansion of regional airports and plans to outline its proposals for legislation by the end of the year.

Click here for more from Stoke

Click here to go to Bristol
See also:

11 Apr 02 | England
Airport expansion boost to area
22 Mar 02 | England
Airport plans more night flights
04 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Attack on planning shake-up
23 Jan 02 | England
Three new runways considered
20 Nov 01 | England
Terminal five cleared for take-off
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