Lend a hand: A public thank you to the quiet volunteers

In 2012, as part of her work at CVS, Fadahunsi was recruiting volunteer Games Makers for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. “That was when I decided I wanted to do something,” she says. “It involved a lot of juggling, but it was fun, and I enjoyed giving something back.” That experience inspired her to sign up for Team London’s schools’ programme, aimed at engaging youngsters in volunteering. She spends a few hours every fortnight at Saint Saviour’s Primary School in Herne Hill, south London, and the Ursuline High School in Wimbledon. “I’ve found it humbling that it was a five-year-old boy at Saint Saviour’s who persuaded the rest of his school to raise money for children in Syria. They raised £4,000, which, in such a small school, equates to £150 for every pupil.”

The same sustained engagement is seen in other short-listed individuals, such as Sharon Frankfurt from Barkingside in Essex, chief trainer at the Redbridge Dippers Swimming Club. It is the only facility for disabled people in the borough and for 30 years Sharon has been introducing people from four to 80 to the joys of swimming. Or Dr Nhara Krause, a clinical psychologist, who in her free time runs the charity STEM4, which she set up to raise awareness of mental health conditions in teenagers.

As part of The Telegraph’s Lend-a-Hand campaign, readers were asked for nominations for the paper’s own Volunteer of the Year award, to be presented at the Mayor’s ceremony. And you responded with gusto. A short-list of three has now been selected.

Twenty-eight-year-old Katie Metcalf was diagnosed with ME as a teenager. She was supported in meeting the challenge by the charity AYME and is now donating her time and knowledge to run their national volunteering programme. At St Ives Hockey Club near Cambridge, 54-year-old Kishor Shah is coach, umpire, fixture manager, and anything else that needs doing – in addition to a senior job in IT.

And Elizabeth Ewart, a 43-year-old mother of two from Wanborough in Wiltshire, is a mainstay of her community – helping out at the local school, an old people’s home, volunteering with the Samaritans and working with troubled teenagers.

All do what they do quietly, but all have been noticed by those whose lives they change. When they gather, with their families, at City Hall later this month to hear their achievements celebrated by Mayor Boris Johnson, they will prove once again that we really are a nation of volunteers.


Only with a new hub airport will Britain truly take off

All that is true, but what frustrates me is that a third runway is so desperately short-sighted. You could not conceivably get it built before 2029, by the airport’s own admission – and as soon as it opened it would be full. Even with three runways, Heathrow would be lagging woefully behind our continental rivals. By 2050 the airport claims that with three runways Heathrow would serve 170 destinations – even though the number used to be more than 200. Well, Paris CDG already has four runways and serves 257 destinations; Frankfurt serves 291 from four runways; Amsterdam serves 277 from six runways.

In fact, it is one of the most shameful consequences of our failure to provide more hub capacity that Amsterdam now serves more UNITED KINGDOM destinations than Heathrow itself. As soon as a third runway opened, in other words – after the interminable judicial reviews and appeals – there would be instant pressure for a fourth; and we would be put through the whole miserable argument again.

Britain is haemorrhaging vital connectivity to growth markets. You cannot fly direct from London to Osaka, for heaven’s sake, or to Lima, or to Dar es Salaam. If we cannot connect swiftly to these markets, we will lose exports, and opportunities, and eventually we will lose our position as a great trading nation. The country needs not a third runway at Heathrow, but proper hub capacity of the kind that every single one of our competitors has now built or is building.

The fundamental problem with Heathrow is that it is situated in the western suburbs, so that unlike any other major hub airport it requires planes to land by flying over the heart of the city. The answer is not to keep compounding the mistake, but to look at a new site.

Gatwick can’t be the long-term solution, because you don’t get the hub capacity – a point the CBI has rightly identified this week. By far the best solution is to do what we should have done in the Sixties – locate the airport in the Thames estuary, sufficiently close as to be readily accessible but with a 95 per cent reduction in noise pollution.

The beauty of this project is that it helps us to address all the main challenges facing London. We are going through an era of vast population growth, heading for a staggering 11.3 million by 2050. We need 49,000 new homes per year. We can either send the bulldozers scything through the green belt and destroying the Home Counties, or we can build sensitively in the many post-industrial brownfield sites to the east of London.

That is why George Osborne has rightly identified Ebbsfleet, for instance, as a potential new city. But you won’t get Ebbsfleet going if there are no transport links and too few jobs.

Studies by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London have concluded that a new hub in the east would have a sensational and beneficial effect on the UK economy – creating 222,000 jobs for Londoners in the Thames Gateway, and supporting 336,000 jobs across the country as a whole.

By 2050 the airport would be contributing £92.1 billion per year to the UK economy – far more than Heathrow; a point the Davies Commission has already acknowledged. You would have a four-runway, 24-hour service and at last Britain would be able to stop our rivals eating our lunch. Finally we could re-connect London, by air, with other cities around the UK who have been seeing a steady reduction in services.

Every one of the objections can be despatched. Including risk, land acquisition and construction, the cost – £25.9 billion by 2030 – is not appreciably higher than Heathrow’s third runway. The connections to central London would be superb – 24 minutes to London Bridge; 28 minutes to Waterloo.

The road and rail improvements should be seen not as projects exclusive to the airport, but as essential to the homes and communities that will need to be built in the area. As for the existing hub at Heathrow, you could keep an Orly-style airport; but you could also release huge quantities of prime land as a wonderful new district for London.

In the estuary there are some technical difficulties, sure: but TfL and our consultants are certain that neither fog nor birds nor the SS Montgomery present anything remotely approaching a deal-breaker to a country that used to have a reputation as the greatest engineering nation on earth.

Plenty of other countries have by now built very similar projects. This year for the first time Dubai is overtaking Heathrow as the world’s busiest airport, and about a third of that country’s GDP now comes from aviation. We need the scale and ambition to compete, and Heathrow is no answer.