Nearly two years ago, Christina Smyth was asked by the council to set up a group to look into the effects on Hammersmith and Fulham of a third Heathrow runway.
As a former senior civil servant who had worked at the Cabinet Office and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs she was the ideal candidate.
In January last year, as chairwoman of the Hammersmith & Fulham Commission on Airport Expansion, she published their 56-page damning report into the plans for that runway.
It found that while there would be some minor economic benefits for the area, these would be vastly outweighed by the increase in flights over the borough (from 506- to 780-a-day) and in tube and road traffic congestion (one estimate was of 1,500 extra cars on the A4/M4 corridor at peak hours), and a subsequent increase in noise and deterioration in air quality.
But, a few months later the Airports Commission recommended a new runway at Heathrow, but the government put off the decision. With the decision due this year, Mrs Smyth, who has lived in Hammersmith for more than 30 years, has become one of the most ardent campaigners against the plans.
‘People don’t know what’s going to hit them,’ the mother of three says from her home on Benbow Road. ‘When they’ve built the runway and the first planes are flying over, it will be too late. We have to stop it.’
This year, she set up H&F No Third Runway campaign group which will email a monthly newsletter about the battle, as well as ways to oppose the runway.
‘The government has to know that there is a groundswell of opinion about this issue. Seventy per cent of flights are undertaken by 15 per cent of the richest people in the world. This runway isn’t about business flights, 85 per cent of flights are for leisure. The passengers won’t be paying the full economic cost of the expansion. Instead the people underneath their flight paths will be paying.
‘The private overseas companies that owns Heathrow want to expand to make more profit. But this is going to have an impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
‘Just before the 2010 election, David Cameron promised at a meeting in west London that there wouldn’t be a third runway. The phrase he used was “no ifs, no buts, no third runway.”
‘After the election he said it was off the agenda. We took him at his word and there was a sigh of relief.
‘Then there was a renewed campaign to say we do need a third runway.
‘A huge amount of money was spent looking into all that. In the end, a commission came out with a recommendation that it should be Heathrow.
‘Now we expect the government to make a decision this year, probably in the summer although it is being careful not to say when it is going to make a decision.’
Mrs Smyth is urging locals to join H&F No Third Runway by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to receive her newsletter and help better understand the issues we are all facing.