15th September 2007

It’s humanity’s back yard – not BAA’s, says Will Self

Author and columnist Will Self today spoke out against major expansion plans at Stansted Airport when he led Stop Stansted Expansion’s mass Runway Ramble at Hatfield Forest.

Describing the reasons for his involvement in the sixth annual walk and addressing those who have consistently tried to denigrate the fight against expansion plans, Will Self said: “It’s narrow-minded in the extreme to regard the campaign to stop Stansted’s expansion as mere NIMBYism. The world is humanity’s back yard, and irresponsible, profit-driven corporates like BAA and the international airlines are the equivalent of fly-tipping neighbours who play loud music all night and burn toxic waste on their bonfire. For me the right to roam and the responsibility to adopt a more harmonious and sustainable lifestyle are one and the same. That’s why I joined the ramble.”

The author and columnist agreed to take part when he visited Hatfield Forest and other ancient woodland threatened by BAA’s plans for expanding Stansted last year as part of his exploration of the ‘psychogeography’ of airports and the land and people around them.

The future of the 1000-year old National Trust-owned forest which lies just to the south of the airport is in jeopardy from BAA’s proposals to expand aircraft numbers and nearly triple passenger numbers at Stansted (currently capped at 25 million per year) with a second runway. If successful, these plans would enable the ‘airport in the countryside’ to handle as many passengers as at Heathrow today (68 million) entailing, amongst other things, significant heritage loss, noise impacts and environmental damage including climate change. Extreme pressure would also be put on the region’s road and rail infrastructure.

At the heart of the reasons for concern over the expansion threat to Hatfield Forest are noise from overflying aircraft and its effect on the enjoyment of the forest, and air quality issues because of the damage that would be caused to the delicate ecosystems and habitats. Longer term, there are fears for the forest’s long term survival because of the damage from the changing weather patterns expected to result from climate change which would weaken the stability of the ancient trees. Aviation is the fastest growing source of the global warming emissions which cause climate change.

Beyond the perimeter of the forest, the massive land grab being sought for the airport’s development would see the destruction of nearly 500 hectares of land (much of which is of special landscape value) and up to 27 hectares of woodland. A total of 73 homes including 18 listed buildings would also be demolished if the plans were ever allowed to go ahead.

A planning application is expected for the proposed second runway at the end of this year, with a public inquiry to follow. Meanwhile, the separate, five-month public inquiry continues into BAA’s plans to expand beyond the current 25 million passenger limit on the single runway and is due to conclude on 19 October. The Inspector’s report to the Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government and for Transport is due at Christmas, with a decision in the New Year


Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits