Hatfield Forest has coexisted with humanity for generations without coming to much harm. But this week the forest, among the last remaining of its type in Europe, faces what its custodians at the National Trust say is the sternest test yet of its survival, the ever-increasing thirst for air travel. It lies too close to Stansted airport.
The 1,000 acres of woodland and pasture in north Essex stands less than a mile from Stansted airport, beloved of millions of users of no-frills airlines and the proposed site for a £2.7bn second runway to cater for a massive expansion of passengers and aircraft in south-east England. A public inquiry begins on 30th May, into urgent proposals by the British Airport Authority to expand the permitted number of passengers by 10 million to 35 million a year and flights by more than 20,000 to 264,000 a year. The present limit of 25 million is expected to be reached by 2008. If the second runway is built, 68 million passengers are forecast for Stansted by 2030.
But in what will be the most demanding test yet for the Government’s plans to expand aviation, environmental groups and residents say the proposals must be refused to avoid an increase in pollution which would destroy the forest for little or no economic gain. Hatfield Forest is among the few surviving havens of ancient woodland in Britain, with nearly 2,000 trees that are more than 600 years old. But nitrogen levels around the forest generated by air pollution from aircraft and vehicles is already twice that at which environmental damage, including tree death, is caused, says the National Trust.
Independent article: Ancient forest threatened by airport expansion bid