As our climate crisis continues to escalate I have decided to report on the proposed expansion to Heathrow and discuss how this would catastrophically affect Richmond Park, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and a European Special Area of Conservation (ESAC) and a National Nature Reserve stretching over 1,000 hectares (making it the largest enclosed urban park in Europe). Richmond Park has over 5.5 million visitors per year.

The third runway is due to open in 2026, however, with the planned new flight path the flights could commence over Richmond Park as early as 2021.The new flight path will bring in an additional 260,000 flights a year. It is thought that this will mean 47 arrivals an hour and between 17 and 47 departures would fly directly over the park at below 900 metres. Currently, there are no arriving aircraft but some departures flying over Richmond Park.

Richmond Park is a haven for wildlife, it homes thousands of species of birds, bats, butterflies, beetles, bees, and 600 red and fallow deer (all descendants from King Henry the VIIIths reign) Richmond park has a fragile ecology, it has over 1200 veteran trees, some are up to 750 years old, and it houses the largest area of lowland acid grassland in London.
Richmond Park is the darkest place in London and has a background noise of less than 30dB(A) this is equivalent to a rural area. Heathrow suggests that if the expansion goes ahead the predicted peak noise intensity would increase to 68-76dB(A). However, Friends of Richmond Park believe that the noise intensity would be over ten times the current background noise. This dramatic increase in noise intensity would have a disastrous impact on the wildlife within the Park. Two scientists specialising in the impact of human disturbance on animals said that aircraft noise would make it harder for birds to attract mates with birdsong and leave them more exposed to predators because they might not hear alarm calls by other birds. They also suggested that birds breed less successfully in noisy places. Birds abandon territories if it is swamped by noise. A study showed that the total number of species declined by more than a quarter in places inundated by manmade sounds.

Low and loud aircraft would severely affect the natural environment of Richmond Park, there is also potential damage from nitrogen oxides from aircraft emissions to the acid grassland and veteran trees. Ron Compton, the chairman of Friends of Richmond Park, said: “It is disastrous. It is shocking to see the potential impact the proposed flight paths could have on Richmond Park and its wonderful wildlife and environment so treasured by millions”.

When the world is so focussed on climate change and our diminishing eco systems it is unclear how the government can support the third run way and meet their zero carbon targets. The expansion of Heathrow will not only affect my local area yet the whole world. 

By William Jagla, Hampton School