SUPPORTERS of the Government's plan to expand Heathrow Airport were very much in the minority as a lively debate took place in Hayes last night (Wednesday).
Representatives from Future Heathrow and West London Business gamely attempted to get the packed crowd at The Beck Theatre to see their point of view - but to no avail.
The frank and often angry exchange of views was part of Mayor of London Boris Johnson's People's Question Time event which are aimed at including all Londoners in helping to shape the capital.
Mr Johnson was joined on the anti-expansion side of the debate by Hillingdon Council Leader Ray Puddifoot and prospective Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith while the pro-lobby was made up of Labour peer Clive Soley and Frank Wingate.
As a long line of residents queued to get into the free event Mr Johnson outlined what he was hoping to achieve from the debate. He said: "This is the first chance the public has had to talk about the issue of expansion since the Government made its decision last week.
"This is completely the wrong project for London and I am hoping we send out a strong signal to the Government that they need to think again.
"I am very glad Ray (Puddifoot) is on the panel with me as he brings a wealth of experience in this matter and will be a good ally in the battle ahead.
"I want to stress that none of us is saying Heathrow does not need to secure a vibrant future but it needs to improve, not expand. More flights means more pollution, more congestion on the roads, more noise and increases greatly the risk of a plane coming down over a densely populated area."
Once inside the debating hall the crowd listened to opening arguments from all five panelists before chairman and deputy London Mayor Richard Barnes threw open the floor to public questions.
Mr Soley gave the bleakest view of life without an expanded Heathrow and said: "Heathrow directly employs 72,000 people and a further 100,000 jobs in the Thames Valley depend on it holding its hub status.
"We are rapidly being left behind by the rest of Europe and business say they will go elsewhere if we don't have the third runway. At the end of the day it is jobs and prosperity which matters.
"I can promise you silence, but it will be the silence of the economic graveyard."
Mr Puddifoot responded by saying Prime Minister Gordon Brown was putting business before the environment and outlined all the homes, schools and churches which were in line for destruction.
He added: "Expanding Heathrow would be environmental, economic and political madness. BAA has created a non sustainable business case and have totally failed to recognise the effect on our communities.
"We have not got the space to put everyone and everything that will be removed from its current location."
Questions taken on the night included the idea of creating a fund to help pay for the legal challenge and demands to know if those in favour would give up their homes if they were in the same position.
Discussions also took place on the alternatives to expansion, including new high speed rail links and a brand new airport in the Thames Estuary in Kent.