Heathrow and the surrounding area represents a diverse historic environment with a long history of settlement going back before the Bronze Age. Since the establishment of the airport in the first half of the 20th Century, the area has been associated with international aviation and Heathrow represents an evolving heritage asset within the wider community.
The expansion of Heathrow presents both challenges and opportunities for the historic environment and for the heritage assets which may be affected. We need to take account of the key historic environment planning policies at national, regional and local levels.
We are proposing an approach to the historic environment that builds on these planning policies and is based on key design principles which seek to avoid or minimise conflicts between the expansion of the airport and the conservation of heritage assets. At the same time we want to look for opportunities to make a positive contribution to the character and local distinctiveness of the surrounding area.
Our approach considers the historic environment under the three main headings below.
The historic environment embodies all aspects of our history resulting from the interaction between people and places. As part of the development of our proposals we are undertaking a series of baseline studies in the area around the airport. We will identify those heritage assets which may be affected by our scheme, to understand and assess their significance. This information will enable us to better evaluate the potential effects of Heathrow expansion and help us make informed design decisions.
We recognise that while our development needs to seek to avoid loss or harm to heritage assets, due to the scale of the expansion proposals some loss is unavoidable. This includes the likely loss of the Longford Conservation Area and part of the Harmondsworth Conservation Area. This would result in the loss of a number of listed buildings and other heritage assets.
We also recognise that our development will impact the settings of heritage assets such as the grade I listed Harmondsworth Great Barn, the grade II* listed St Mary’s Church and the Colnbrook Conservation Area. Visual and noise effects will also likely affect more distant heritage assets.
We will look to minimise this impact and any harm on other heritage assets by challenging the location and design of airport related development and restricting the need for land to that which is essential to expand Heathrow. We want to integrate the historic environment into our architectural, landscape and environmental designs and are actively looking at the ways heritage assets can continue to be used and enjoyed.
We want to work with others to help provide assistance and support to existing conservation activities. We also want to encourage new activities that help to sustain and enhance heritage assets as important parts of the local community.
We want to make a positive contribution that seeks to integrate an expanded Heathrow in celebrating the wider historic environment.
We are beginning to explore in detail the design opportunities and innovative solutions that can be applied to specific heritage assets such as the Harmondsworth Great Barn (pictured above – copyright English Heritage) and St Mary’s Church to provide viable and sustainable uses.
We also want to ensure that our approach to the historic environment helps guide the design of associated green infrastructure. This may involve linking historic places around the expanded airport with improved cycle and pedestrian routes and with wayfinding signage to enhanced historic areas.
The expansion of Heathrow offers an opportunity to tell the story of the continuing history of the airport and the surrounding communities in a way that can help understanding and appreciation of the historic environment for those living and working in the local area or visiting the airport.
Heritage assets may be buildings, sites, places, areas or landscapes which hold value to present and future generations as a result of their historical, archaeological or artistic interest.