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Last Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Campaigners lament take-off of T5
By Victoria Bone
BBC News

Heathrow Terminal 5 under construction
Terminal 5 will open officially on 27 March next year
With much pride, BAA unveiled Heathrow Terminal 5 to the media on Thursday, six months before it opens to the public.

Chief executive Stephen Nelson said he was "deeply proud" of the new terminal and the benefits it would have for travellers and the economy.

However, from its inception T5 was hugely controversial and environmental groups and local residents campaigned fiercely to stop it.

John Stewart, chair of protest group HACAN ClearSkies, said: "Terminal 5 may well be very beautiful, but for people under the flight path, it's what will make possible the misery of even more planes going over their heads."

Many members of HACAN live on the Heathrow flight path and they fear what T5 may lead to.

"Our big worry isn't so much increased terminal capacity," Mr Stewart told the BBC News website.

"It's clear that flying from Heathrow is not a nice experience at the moment and it probably does need greater capacity.

If the government is happy to allow the planet to be destroyed to make BAA's shareholders richer, that's fine
Graham Thompson
Plane Stupid

"However, our fear has always been that this big increase in capacity will actually allow BAA to bring in more planes.

"BAA is talking about a third runway and the possibility of having more flights and we think it's no coincidence that they're doing that at the same time as opening Terminal 5."

Noisy skies

Simon Bowens, transport and climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said the opening of T5 on 27 March next year would not be a happy day.

"Our objection to Terminal 5 was that it was an expansion of Heathrow, already one of the busiest airports in the world, and the expansion of aviation is having a major impact on climate change.

"There's also a huge impact on the local community around Heathrow. There will soon be very few places in west London now where you don't have planes going overhead."

Some campaigners condemn the government.

Graham Thompson, of protest group Plane Stupid, said ministers had put private profit before the good of the planet.

Climate camp at Heathrow Airport
Protesters staged a week-long camp at Heathrow Airport in August

"Obviously BAA is acting in the interests of its shareholders, as you would expect", he said. "Terminal 5 will help it make more money and put on more flights.

"If the government is happy to allow the planet to be destroyed to make BAA's shareholders richer, that's fine, but really a government that governs for the good of everyone should have put a stop to it."

Plane Stupid was made the subject of a High Court injunction sought by BAA banning it from taking part in a week-long Camp for Climate Action at Heathrow in August.

Countryside destruction

There are fears that the green light for T5 paves the way for much greater development at regional airports too.

Ed Pomfret is head of campaigns at The Woodland Trust, an organisation currently battling the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport in Essex.

"It's obvious that BAA wont curb expansion of its own accord, so the government needs to lay down the law," Mr Pomfret said.

"BAA might be happy with their new terminal, but until they address the issue of the destruction of the countryside and climate change, they really shouldn't be."

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