Expansion plans at both Stansted and London City airports have been approved by the Government. Under the proposals, rubber-stamped by new Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon, another 10 million passengers will join the 25 million currently enjoying the jaunt Essexwards on the Stansted Express each year, while City will welcome a 50% increase in flights, bringing a total of 3.2 million passengers annually.
Green campaigners and local residents have reacted with typical incandescence, made particularly acute as, mere days earlier, the Climate Change Committee suggested aviation emissions be included in governmental targets. Still, with the financial meltdown, the airports may not see a huge increase in traffic: Ryanair are parking 16 planes at Stansted this winter due to low passenger numbers. The probable bankruptcy of thousands of businesses and impoverishment of countless families – dire prospects that some more militant greens wholeheartedly embrace – could curtail any serious gains in air travel.
City’s expansion will be a boon to the those in the Square Mile, though it’s unlikely the wuncha bankers (apologies to Bill Spooner) will care right now: with their blitzkrieged bonus packages, not too many are feeling fine as we face the end of the world as we know it. So instead, we’ll distract them with an anecdote about a proposed London airport that was never built.
A recently published book, Naked Airport, illuminates a brief fad in the 1930s, championed initially by Le Corbusier with an urban plan he authored called Ville Contemporaine pour 3 Millions d’Habitants, in which airports would be situated at the heart of a city instead of on the outskirts. Fortunately, it was soon realised that having countless aircraft taking off and landing in densely packed urban areas was not the safest of ideas. That didn’t stop a certain C.W. Glover from taking a flight of fancy and designing an airport for the King’s Cross area that would “take the form of a giant wheel supported by the roofs of the tallest building”. Sadly that design seems lost to the ages, but it’s easy to imagine a huge, central Jetsons-style transport hub with St Pancras nearby; perhaps the Barlow shed could have functioned as a runway – and as we know, the clock tower is already equipped for dirigibles.