Tributes are paid to Winslow judge who headed anti-airport campaig

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a respected High Court judge who died on June 29, aged 77.

Sir Desmond Fennell, who lived in Winslow, achieved national fame when he chaired the public inquiry into the Kings Cross tube station fire in 1987, in which 31 people lost their lives.

But closer to home, he may be better remembered as chairman and leader of the Wing Airport Resistance Association from 1969 to 1971, an action group which successfully fought off plans to build ‘London’s third airport’ on a site centred on a former Second World War airfield at Cublington.

Had it gone ahead, the four-runway airport, three times the size of Heathrow, would have destroyed the villages of Stewkley, Cublington and Wing.

The proposal, which came after the most detailed and costly planning exercise ever undertaken in Britain, would have meant the biggest eviction of people from their homes in Britain since the Highland Clearances of the 19th century.

The association gathered 60,000 members at its height and its biggest rally was attended by 12,000 people.

When the recommendation was finally overturned in April 1971, Sir Desmond led a celebratory torchlight procession through Stewkley, and three years ago he returned to the village to attend an archive film show in the village hall telling the story of the campaign.

Sadly, in 1991 he suffered a major stroke, which ended his judicial career.

However, with the great strength of character for which he is remembered, Sir Desmond continued to take an active role in the leadership of good causes as chairman, and latterly president, of the fundraising appeal for the burns and wounds research unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, now known as Restore.

He married Susan Trusted in 1966. Lady Fennell survives him, together with their three children, Alexandra, Simon and Charlotte.

At his Requiem Mass last week, his close friend Sir John Waite described Sir Desmond as: “a great man, great lawyer, great server of the community, great advocate of noble causes, great father and grandfather, husband and friend”.

He added: “Those memories will remain fresh in our minds because Desmond’s qualities of leadership and loyalty were not of the kind that can be dimmed by time. We mourn him but we hall never forget him.”