HEATHROW expansion is officially back on the agenda, in what is a hammer blow for the south of Hillingdon borough.
The Airports Commission, in its interim report published yesterday (Tuesday), revealed that a third runway to the north-west of the airport over Harmondsworth was one of three options being considered to provide extra hub capacity in the south-east of England.
A second runway at Gatwick, and the shock inclusion of a plan for a longer northern runway at Heathrow – up to 6,000 metres in length – are the other two.
The commission has found that one runway is needed by 2030, to maintain Britiain's strong international connectivity.
A runway at the north-west location, one of four options first revealed by Heathrow in July, would mean Harmondsworth and Longford effectively wiped off the map, with around 950 homes facing compulsory purchase and demolition.
Harmondsworth's 14th century Great Barn, and St Mary's Church are also under direct threat.
The M25 would have to be reconfigured, and the scheme would cost an estimated £17billion to build. Heathrow estimates that it could be up and running by 2026.
The airport also says the 'noise footprint' would be 15 per cent less than it is now, because of its westerly location.
While Sipson, the site of the first third runway bid which was scrapped in 2010, and Harlington, would be spared the bulldozers, the south of the borough will inevitable still face 18 months of blight and uncertainty, and the prospect of aircraft landing and taking off directly overhead around the clock.
Leader of Hillingdon Council, Ray Puddifoot, has reaffirmed the authority's opposition to more runways, and has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to keep to his promise not to build a third runway, "no ifs or buts", or face losing his credibility.
"This country needs a new hub airport, 'no ifs or buts', and we are wasting years talking about options that are not realistic.
"He should show clear leadership now and ditch the Davies Commission, otherwise he will be seen to be supporting a third runway at Heathrow and just kicking the issue past the next general election."
The Airports Commission, being led by Sir Howard Davies, was set up by the Government to look into ways to deliver extra airport hub capacity in the south-east of England, to meet future aviation demand. It is due to make a final recommendation in summer 2015, after the next general election.
John Stewart, chair of HACAN ClearSkies campaign group, said: "It is disappointing that this hasn't been put to bed, but I think it will act as the trigger for a massive campaign in 2014.
"Gatwick has made clear in the past that another runway there would only be viable if there was no expansion at Heathrow.
"People whose homes will be knocked down, and those under any new flight paths, will be furious.
"We saw it off before, and I am confident that we could do it again."
Thames Estuary 'Boris Island' airport options did not make this initial shortlist at this stage because of 'too many uncertainties and challenges surrounding them,' but there is an outside chance it could be added after further studies, to be carried out by the commission in the first half of next year.
The report also proposes ways to use existing runways more efficiently, with rail access to Heathrow from the south, and trials at Heathrow to minimise stacking and delays, and deliver respite for people on the flightpath amongst them.
A publc consultation on the three shortlisted options will take place next autumn.
A 'Say No to Heathrow Expansion' petition online, launched last week, already has more than 3,300 signatures. To sign it, visit www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-third-runway.