Chicken Licken Lobby running scared

Martin Newell: Increased air traffic and the assigning of its various flight paths are very much a cause for complaint in Essex at present. The growing row over the designation of new holding areas for planes is leading to a new branch of nimbyism.

Martin Newell

Increased air traffic and the assigning of its various flight paths are very much a cause for complaint in Essex at present. The growing row over the designation of new holding areas for planes is leading to a new branch of nimbyism. The Not Over My Back Yard, or NOMBY movement was pioneered by my late father in the mid 1970s. An ex-military environmental health officer and an eccentric of Milliganesque proportions, he fought a long-running war with the United States Air Force to prevent them flying A10 tankbuster jets over Great Bentley. He besieged the Air Ministry with letters and telephone calls for months. So persistent was he - so he proudly claimed - that an insider at the Ministry informed him that they'd had him filed under 'Nutters'. After about a year of attrition, he won his battle. The USAF still conducted their training flights in the Great Bentley area. They just didn't do it over his house, that's all.

Three decades on, with environmental issues to the fore and air traffic hugely increased, the Chicken Licken Lobby are more scared than ever that the sky is about to fall down. And they have a point of sorts. On a summer night, when walking the marshes near the River Colne estuary, the tail-lights of the aeroplanes in the clear skies above, can be so numerous that it's like an overhead fairground. The marker buoys in the channel blink up, the planes wink back and the stars take a back seat. You never get total silence for more than a couple of minutes. There's nearly always the back-drone of a plane against the more poetic sound of the crickets and curlews.

Though, I remind myself, in a way it's a happy sound. It's the sound of people going on their holidays. It's Valerie the care-worker and her partner taking a month's dream break in Vietnam. It's a party of local journalists coming back from a stag night in Prague. It's Sean the builder and his girl going to see the Pyramids. And it's nearly everyone you know en route to Spain, or off to do a bit of DIY on their house in France. They are the people of Essex for whom Colwyn Bay, Skegness or Cleethorpes will simply no longer do. They are happy to stand in the queue for the metal detector with their shoes in one hand and a small bottle of water in the other. So long as they eventually get away, that is. They reason that in an over-crowded kingdom of exhilaratingly expensive public transport, iffy weather and scuzzy high streets, after all their hard work, why shouldn't they jet off somewhere exotic for a bit of the good life?

Me? I'm happy with a few days up-country in Suffolk cycling around. But then, I'm funny like that. I was born into times when Egypt was where they'd recently shot at my dad during the Suez Emergency. They were times when Prague was in the communist bloc and Vietnam was a war zone. Besides, I'm also an old jade who's sick of travelling. Nowadays though, almost everywhere on the globe, is either a holiday resort, a film location - or both. You wanted the world. You've got it. Its price is the stack, the changing flight path and a certain amount of noise and pollution. If you can countenance that for the 48 weeks of the year when you're not actually a part of it, why be a NOMBY about it?

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