planes plane-over-roof StopAirportExpansiontshirt BRITAIN HEATHROW AIRPORT EXPANSION

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* * * * main Heathrow news stories * * *


Grayling’s team at DfT deliberately tried to conceal information about Heathrow 3rd runway noise, which might have risked “further scrutiny”

A totally damning, ‘smoking gun’ memo has been located, showing how DfT staff in November 2017 were keen to avoid information showing how bad Heathrow noise would be – and how many people would be affected – with a 3rd runway. The Times reveals how DfT staff plotted to cover up warnings about the extra aircraft noise, with a 6-page document sent to Chris Grayling (Transport Secretary) recommending blocking a plan to tell millions of households (up to 13 million people) about the extra noise they could face from a 3rd runway. Grayling and the DfT claim publicly that a 3rd runway could be introduced with fewer people affected by plane noise even with 265,000 more annual flights – which, of course, beggars belief of anyone with half a brain. The DfT memo wanted to avoid alerting people to the noise problem, for fear that would cause “disruption” and “public debate” and “further scrutiny” and “unnecessary controversy” before the parliamentary vote on the NPS (in June 2018). The memo included a map that reveals DfT officials knew well how badly vast swathes of London and southern England (and Grayling’s own constituency) would be badly affected. Disgraceful DfT behaviour.

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Summary of the hearings into the legal challenges against DfT approval of Heathrow 3rd runway

The hearings at the High Court, into the legal challenges against the government’s decision to press for a 3rd Heathrow runway, were complicated. They were hard to follow, even with daily transcripts – as there were constant references to text in documents in “bundles” that the public are unable to see. Neil Spurrier, who individually brought one of the legal challenges, and is a solicitor, has done a user-friendly summary of some of the key points that came up. Four of the challenges were largely on environmental grounds (the 5th was a rival runway builder, Heathrow Hub). Neil gives a brief summary of some of the points on noise, air pollution, carbon emissions, and economic benefit including comments on the response by the government’s barristers and their attempts to brush aside the criticisms. The judges may make their judgement in about May – there will probably be a few days notice before hand. As well as the summary, there are some notes made during the hearings, to help clarify some points.  The Résumé

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Government (James Brokenshire) rejects ‘call in’ of Stansted Airport planning application to increase passengers from 35m to 43 mppa

The Government has decided not to ‘call in’ Stansted Airport’s planning application to increase passenger numbers, which was approved by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) last year.  In February 2018, Stansted Airport owners, Manchester Airports Group, submitted a planning application to UDC that sought permission for the airport to increase the annual passenger number from 35 to 43 million per year. UDC granted this planning permission in November 2018, by a narrow vote of the Planning Committee, only won by the Chairman’s casting vote. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, has now written to say the decision by UDC is correct, saying:  “… the application does not involve issues of more than local importance justifying the secretary of state’s intervention.” That is, of course, wrong as planes using Stansted fly over a wide area. Brian Ross from campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) said the planning consent still faces a legal challenge from SSE, versus the transport secretary in the High Court, which began last September. The case has been on hold for 4 months, pending the decision, but SSE is now takin legal advice on whether to widen the basis of its legal challenge.

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Open letter from 90 academics to European governments – carbon offset markets (eg. CORSIA) will not effectively cut carbon

There is an interesting letter from 90 academics calling for governments to withdraw support from new carbon offset markets – with a specific reference to the UN Corsia scheme for aviation emissions. The academics call on European governments that care about climate change to withdraw their support for the creation of a new doomed carbon offset market at the COP25 this December. The proposals for carbon offsets are entirely unable to meet necessary criteria, needed to ensure they actually succeed in “offsetting” carbon. The letter says: “Yet, beyond the well-known issues of excess permits and frauds, it has also been demonstrated that carbon markets have major conceptual flaws that cannot be fixed, such as the inability to provide a reliable price signal or the fact that the climate impact of offset projects is not calculable….It is well documented that carbon markets have failed spectacularly in achieving their environmental objectives and that many carbon offset projects have a devastating social impact. In spite of this evidence, carbon markets remain the main policy tool to address climate change in Europe, based on the misguided hope that they will work “once the price is right”.”

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Austrian higher court approves construction of 3rd runway at Vienna Airport, refused on climate & noise grounds in Feb 2017

The Supreme Administrative Court in Austria has approved construction of a 3rd runway at Vienna Airport. The court overturned appeals made by local residents and environmental groups on the basis of noise complaints and environmental impact of the runway. Opponents had successfully argued that noise would be a problem across urban Vienna. Also that it could not be justified on climate change grounds.  But the airport appealed – and has now won.  It says the noise will not be a problem as there will not be landings over the Vienna city area during normal operations, and it aims at “decreasing noise pollution in the area.”  There are the usual claims that it will “reduce delays, fuel consumption, and noise by abolishing allotment patterns and queued aircraft during peak hours”.  Back in February 2017 a court said the increased greenhouse gas emissions for Austria would cause harm and climate protection is more important than creating other jobs. Also that the ability of the airport to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by its own measures were not sufficient, and emissions would rise too much. All now forgotten, it seems. Making money trumps climate stability.  No wonder young people want the ways things are done to change.

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Evidence on air pollution, given to the High Court hearings on a 3rd Heathrow runway, by Neil Spurrier

Neil Spurrier, a solicitor from Teddington, made one of the 5 legal challenges against the Secretary of State for Transport’s decision to approve a 3rd Heathrow runway, through the Airports National Policy Statement. The legal hearings from the councils, the Mayor of London, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Plan B Earth and Mr Spurrier took place between the 15th and 19th March. There are transcripts of each day’s proceedings here. Neil addressed the issue of air pollution in particular, and the emissions of NO2 and particulates from planes themselves. He made important points, such as that air pollution is known to spread much, much further from an airport than the 2 km that the DfT has tried to use. Also that there is evidence of possible damage to the foetus from particulates found in placentas of people affected by air pollution, and that the government should not be risking the health of future generations. He made the point, on ultrafine particles, that merely because they have not been specifically studied (being part of the wider category of PM 2.5, is no reason for the government to discount them or consider their impact to be negative. The absence of evidence is not enough to avoid the precautionary principle. Read the full transcripts for details.

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At High Court legal hearings, Friends of the Earth says 3rd runway illegal as DfT failed to consider the need for stringent CO2 targets

Friends of the Earth have accused the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, of acting unlawfully when he agreed to the 3rd Heathrow runway, in the Airports NPS. Their lawyers at the High Court legal challenge hearings the DfT failed to consider the full impacts of climate change and the need for more stringent targets to avoid catastrophic global warming. “Friends of the Earth is concerned that the expansion of Heathrow by adding a 3rd runway will jeopardise the UK’s ability to make the very deep reductions in greenhouse gases that are necessary to prevent global warming from causing catastrophic, irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”  The Court heard that the government knew when it approved the third runway that the Paris agreement, which UK ministers have signed, was likely to involve more stringent emissions targets than domestic law required under the 2008 UK Climate Change Act. David Wolfe QC, for FoE, said ministers were told by the Committee on Climate Change in January 2018 that as a result it was “essential that actions are taken now to enable these deeper reductions to be achieved”. But Grayling pressed on regardless, ignoring the advice.

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At Heathrow legal hearings, Court told Grayling left thousands of people in the dark over the impact of Heathrow flight paths if expansion allowed

Chris Grayling left thousands of people in the dark over increased noise pollution from an expanded Heathrow by under-stating the impact of new flight paths. At the High Court hearings, lawyers for five London councils, the London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Greenpeace claim this amounts to a breach of the law under which the Transport Secretary should have identified all areas that might be affected. The Councils say that instead of an environmental report showing which communities were going to be hit by noise from flights, Mr Grayling only published “indicative flight paths.”  They say “The flight paths were drawn in such a way that the numbers of people affected were minimised. This meant the health and environmental costs of the north west runway were under-stated.”  Maps compiled by the councils suggest as many as 1 million more households will be affected by planes at 7,000 ft, or below, with decibel levels of at least 65, (equivalent to a vacuum cleaner in a room). A vast circular area stretching from Didcot in the west, Dartford and Romford in the east, Tring, Harpenden and Welwyn Garden City to the north, and Godalming, Leatherhead, Epsom and Copthorne – and many more places – to the south would be affected. The NPS failed to deal properly with the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.

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Severe impact of 3rd Heathrow runway on residents laid out in High Court hearing

The Government’s approval of a third runway is being challenged at the High Court by a coalition of councils, residents, environmental charities and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.  Representing five London boroughs, Greenpeace and Mr Khan, Nigel Pleming QC said the plans could see the number of passengers using Heathrow rise to around 132 million, a 60% increase.  Mr Pleming said: “The new development, if it goes ahead, will add, in effect, a new airport with the capacity of Gatwick to the north of Heathrow” and that the adverse effects and consequences for local residents of such an expansion are “bound to be severe”. The legal challenges (other than the one by Heathrow Hub) say the Government’s National Policy Statement (NPS) setting out its support for the project fails to properly deal with the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.  The claimants argue the NPS is unlawful and should be quashed, which would mean the Government would have to start the process again and put it to another vote in Parliament. Scores of demonstrators gathered outside the court ahead of the hearing, addressed by MPs, Council leaders and campaigners. All are determined that this runways is NOT going to go ahead. The hearings will last for 2 weeks.

The transcript of the proceedings on the first day of the hearings, Monday 11th March, can be seen here:   https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/110319.txt

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Judicial reviews into government approval of Heathrow 3rd runway plans begins on 11th March

People are invited to join the protest gathering outside the Courts at 9am on Monday 11th March, and then (focused on climate change) on Wednesday 13th March too. 

London’s High Court will on Monday 11th March begin a judicial review into the government’s approval of a third runway at Heathrow airport, with local authorities, environmentalists and rival bidders arguing the £14bn scheme should be scrapped. Five legal challenges to the decision are being heard together, including one brought by a consortium of local authorities (Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Windsor & Maidenhead), Greenpeace and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, on the grounds of air quality, climate change, noise pollution and transport access. The negative impacts of Heathrow already affect many councils, and those would get far worse with planned expansion to have 50% more annual flights.  John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Governments are very happy to talk the talk when it comes to protecting the air we breathe and the climate we all share, but unfortunately getting them to walk the walk often takes legal action.” There is also a legal challenge by Heathrow Hub, which wants to build a 3rd runway by extending the current northern runway, rather than adding a runway further north. The hearings are expected to last about two weeks, with the judgment being reserved.

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How Heathrow has been getting away with paying so little tax to the UK government

UK tax rules have allowed airports like Heathrow to pay far less tax than they should. It is estimated that Heathrow’s foreign owners have been able to get a tax break of perhaps £120 million per year from the UK government. And the airport’s shareholders (which include the governments of China, Qatar and Singapore – with only 10% by the USS being British – .have paid themselves about £3 billion in dividends in 5 years. Rules on how firms can cut tax bills due to large debt interest payments began in 2017, but the Treasury has given an exemption for infrastructure projects like Heathrow. The think-tank, Taxwatch, said: “In the case of Heathrow, the benefits of the exemption appear to flow overwhelmingly to the owners of the company.” …“The company was bought using a huge amount of debt. Instead of paying back the debt themselves, the new owners managed to push this liability on to Heathrow, making the company liable for large interest payments… The large debt repayments wiped out the company’s pre-tax profit.”  Revenues at Heathrow have risen to £2.9billion but its owners have paid little corporation tax, due to massive debts. Between 2007 and 2014 the group reported a total pre-tax loss of more than £2 billion, and paid just £15 million in corporation tax. In the past 3 years it declared pre-tax profits of more than £1 billion, leading to  corporation tax payments of £122 million (ie. £70 million in 2018 and £53 million in 2017.

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Epsom & Ewell Borough Council sends highly critical response to Heathrow’s expansion plans – inflicting hugely more aircraft noise on them

Epsom & Ewell Borough is an area that is currently overflown by Heathrow planes at about 6,000 and 7,000 feet. Its Council has submitted a robust response to Heathrow’s airspace change consultation, furious about the vastly worse noise burden with which the borough is threatened. The proposals would perhaps mean additional flights operating as low as 3,000 feet at a frequency of up to 47 flights per hour for arrivals, and 17 flights per hour for departures.  Even the extra flights, in the short term, through IPA, could result in 25 flights per hour operating as low as 3,000 feet between 6am to 7am and 6 flights per hour at other times. Cllr Eber Kington, Chairman of the Council’s Strategy & Resources Committee, said the changes could mean a four to five-fold increase in noise levels in addition to the significant additional impact from the frequency of flights overhead and the impact on air quality. Cllr O’Donovan complained at how bad the consultation was. Residents are angry that their own MP, Chris Grayling, is pushing for these hugely damaging noise impacts on his own constituents and voters – with inevitable decrease in local quality of life.

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Heathrow’s shareholders get £500m as profits rise (including income of £126m from car parking)

IAG, the owner of British Airways, is angry that Heathrow has paid out  £500 million in dividends to its foreign investors while charging its airline customers more. IAG says the dividend payments – now totalling £3.5 billion since 2012 – make Heathrow more costly for airline passengers (so slightly deterring them from flying perhaps). Heathrow said “It is right that our shareholders receive returns in record years and it will ensure we expand whilst keeping airport charges close to 2016 levels.” Heathrow’s top shareholders include the Qatar Investment Authority, Singapore’s GIC and the China Investment Corporation. Its largest single investor is Spain’s Ferrovial. The only UK shareholder is the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) with a 10% stake.  Heathrow’s figures out last week show revenue growth of 3% to £2.97 billion in 2018 with 80.1 million passengers (up 2.7% from 78 million).  Car parking income was £126 million (up 5% from £120 million in 2017). Retail revenue per passenger was £8.94 (up 5.8% from £8.45 in 2017). Total retail income was £716 million (up 8.6% from £659 million in 2017). Heathrow paid £70 million (2017: £53 million) in corporation tax.

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Council leaders say Grayling’s claim a 50% larger Heathrow, with new flight paths, will mean fewer people affected by plane noise is a giant con

Heathrow’s own noise maps in its current “consultation” show vast areas in and around London to be negatively affected by aircraft noise from Heathrow, if it was allowed 25,000 more annual flights or a 3rd runway. Many areas of the capital and the home counties that have not previously suffered jet noise, could be getting up to 47 flights per hour overhead.  Many areas not currently overflown could have planes over them as low as 3,000 feet. Some areas currently somewhat overflown will get more planes going over them, and at lower altitudes. Heathrow deliberately keeps the details vague. In October 2016 Grayling promised parliament that “fewer people will be affected by noise than is the case today” after the third runway was built – even though there would be than 250,000 extra flights a year, equivalent to bolting an additional airport almost the size of Gatwick onto the existing site. Affected councils are challenging the government decision in the courts, starting on 11th March. Ravi Govindia, the Tory leader of Wandsworth council, said the public had been the victims of a “giant con”: “It beggars belief that people will believe Chris Grayling in his assertion that no more people will be affected.”  The DfT commented that “We absolutely refute these claims and are confident that fewer people will be affected by noise pollution under the new flight paths planned.” (sic)

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Heathrow expansion plan involves large number of low planes over lovely, tranquil (now) Richmond Park

Richmond Park has been known for its rich wildlife and tranquil landscape for hundreds of years, but the proposed expansion of Heathrow would mean hundreds of aircraft flying at low altitude it. Maps of the new flight paths, from Heathrow’s consultation, show the extent of proposed air traffic over Richmond Park, with some aircraft flying as low as 300 metres (1,000ft). Current flight paths to Heathrow are not routed directly over the park. The consultation documents indicate that – with a 3rd runway – up to 47 arrivals per hour and between 17 and 47 departures would fly directly over the park (a SSSI and national nature reserve) at below 900 metres. Heathrow’s flights are currently capped at 480,000 a year, but it wants to increase this by 25,000 in 2021 and further to around 720,000 when/if the 3rd runway is built. The noise and pollution from the planes overhead would be disastrous for the sensitive wildlife and the tranquillity. The Park is visited by more than 5.5 million people per year. Thousands of nocturnal animals – including 11 of the UK’s 17 bat species, (all protected by law), as well as little owls and tawny owls – will be threatened. This is just another “price that Heathrow is demanding of residents, so that it can increase its operations” by 50%. It is “simply disproportionate and unacceptable.”

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Highways England warned Heathrow (spring 2018) about problems (including driver distraction) with the M25 being in a tunnel under the 3rd runway

Highways England has said that Heathrow’s possible 3rd runway over the M25 may lead to more accidents because of drivers being distracted by aircraft landing on a large bridge above them. The sight of huge passenger planes landing (or even taxiing) could cause motorists to take their eyes off the road. Highways England has told Heathrow to introduce measures to “reduce driver distraction” on the affected section of the M25, which is Britain’s busiest stretch of motorway – 6 lanes in each direction at that point. This could include lengthening the tunnel under the runway or simplifying the road layout. Heathrow was also told to consider the “landing zone of aircraft”, suggesting they should avoid arrivals directly over the road itself. The intention is to lower the M25 by 7 metres, while raising the runway slightly. Highways England is also concerned that there is a high risk of “fatigue damage” to the tunnel caused by aircraft as big as the A380 and Boeing 747, on the runway above it, so it could have a reduced lifespan. They also say the runway must be “raised enough to avoid the M25 having a gradient of more than 3% which would cause lorries to move slowly, leading to congestion. Heathrow was told this in spring 2018. The full details will be published for public consultation in June.

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GMB union (keen on the 3rd runway) calls on Heathrow to force airport contractors to pay living wage (which they do not)

GMB – the union representing many staff at Heathrow (that strongly backs a 3rd runway) – has urged it to force contractors to pay their employees the living wage, after the airport announced the busiest year in its history.  Revenue climbed by 3% last year to £3 billion, and £2.3 billion was raised from private investors across 7 currencies (up from £1 billion in 2017). Adjusted profit before tax was £267 million, up 23% on 2017. The airport also said airport charges fell 1% to £21.78.  Last year, GMB welcomed the airport’s announcement that all contracted staff working at Heathrow will be paid the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour by 2020.  But contractors have been slow to back the commitment. Over the past 3 years GMB have led the campaign for ensuring all staff at Heathrow, both direct and contracted, are paid the London Living Wage. GMB’s regional organiser for aviation and Heathrow, Perry Phillips said Heathrow’s profits mean “that success is built on the back of 1000s of workers who keep the airport clean, safe and operational. Yet despite these blockbuster results, many of them don’t earn enough to live on, enough to make sure their rent is paid and their families are fed. That can’t be right.

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Greta Thunberg: EU needs a minimum of 80% CO2 reduction by 2030 (not 40%) and that must include aviation & shipping

Image result for greta junker

The remarkable Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, says the EU cannot just “wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge”. She told political and business leaders in Brussels that the EU should double its climate change reduction targets to do its fair share in keeping the planet below a dangerous level of global warming. She started doing a solo school strike, in Sweden,  on Fridays outside the parliament, to try to draw attention to the problem of climate change – and how no real action is being taken to combat it. The school strikes have spread around the world, with tens of thousands of students taking part. We need a fall in global carbon emissions soon. The EU intention to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. Greta told them this is not going to keep global warming below 1.5C. “This target is not sufficient to protect the future for children growing up today. If the EU is to make its fair contribution to stay within the carbon budget for the 2C limit then it needs a minimum of 80% reduction by 2030, and that includes aviation and shipping.” Greta said “When people talk about the climate strikes … they talk about almost anything except for the climate crisis… They don’t want to talk about the climate crisis … they just want to change the subject.”

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Letter from Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC – to Grayling on “Aviation 2050” the DfT’s aviation strategy green paper

In a letter to Chris Grayling, dated 12th February, Lord Deben provides the Committee on Climate Change’s views on the current aviation strategy green paper consultation, Aviation 2050 – The future of UK aviation [the aviation green paper]. He says “You will be aware that my Committee has been asked by Ministers to offer advice on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK’s statutory framework, including when ‘net-zero’ emissions can be achieved. A stronger UK target would require more effort from all sectors, including aviation. We intend to provide an updated view on the appropriate long-term ambition for aviation emissions within our advice on the UK’s long-term targets. We will publish our report in spring. Following that, we will write to you directly to set out the implications for the Aviation Strategy.”  It also says: “The final white paper should further clarify that this will be met on the basis of actual emissions, rather than by relying on international offset credits.”  And “Achieving aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels in 2050 will require contributions from all parts of the aviation sector,… It will also require steps to limit growth in demand. In the absence of a true zero-carbon plane, demand cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term.”  Read the whole letter.

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Chiswick, Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush, etc residents horrified & stunned by likely impact of Heathrow proposed airspace changes

Residents from Chiswick, Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith were stunned to hear that their area would experience 25,000 extra flights by 2022  – and a further 260,000 by 2026 if a 3rd  Heathrow runway were ever to open. Over 300 residents turned out to a heavily over-subscribed meeting, organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition, to learn how the plans for airspace change at Heathrow will drastically impact their area.  The meeting also heard from local MPs Ruth Cadbury and Andy Slaughter, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council Stephen Cowan, as well as local campaign groups Chiswick Against the Third Runway, Bedford Park Society and Hammersmith & Fulham No 3rd Runway.  The airport is currently consulting across west London (and wider) on how future operations at the airport would work with a 3rd runway, with a range of options put forward for consultation. By the end of the meeting there was outrage as people understood the impacts, and the extent of the noise nuisance, that is proposed for the communities of Chiswick, Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park. Those changes could start within a few years. It is vital that people who will be newly, and very negatively affected, respond to the consultation, stressing their strong opposition.

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Plan B Earth’s skeleton argument against the DfT on how the Airports NPS (Grayling …) failed on climate

Plan B Earth is making one of the 5 legal challenges against the government, due to their decision to support the building of a 3rd runway at Heathrow, through the “Airports National Planning Statement” (ANPS). They have filed their skeleton argument, which is the basis of their submissions at the trial. Plan B says: “In essence, it’s a simple argument. Chris Grayling considered the Paris Agreement “irrelevant” to his decision. He was wrong.”  Part of the skeleton argument states: “(1). At the heart of all three grounds of Plan B’s claim, lies a common concern: the Secretary of State’s failure to assess the ANPS against the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (“the Paris Agreement”) and specifically the Paris Agreement temperature limit (“Paris Temperature Limit”), which, according to the best available science, demarcates the boundary between humanity and an intolerable risk of disaster: disaster for the environment; for the economy; and for international security.  (2.) Initially the Secretary of State purported to have taken the Paris Agreement into account. His own witnesses, however, undermined that claim. Once Plan B drew that to his attention, the Secretary of State modified his position: when he said that he had considered the Paris Agreement, he meant only that he had considered it to be irrelevant.”  Read the full skeleton.  Another Grayling “fail”.

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European aviation report “in numbers” highlights growing noise and carbon problems which will continue

A report about aviation in the EU has been produced as a joint publication by EuroControl, the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).  Called the second European Aviation Environmental Report(EAER), it shows the growing impacts of the industry in recent years, saying:  “the contribution of aviation activities to climate change, noise and air quality impacts is increasing, thereby affecting the health and quality of life of European citizens”. Comparing 2005 and 2014 with 2017, on noise,  in 2017 more people were exposed to noise than in 2005. Measured across some of Europe’s busiest 47 airports, the number of people inside the 55dB Lden noise contours rose to 2.58 million in 2017.  The average noise energy per flight decreased by only 1% between 2014 and 2017 compared to a decrease of 14% between 2005 and 2017. On carbon emissions, though aircraft fuel efficiency improved 8% for commercial flights between 2014 and 2017. But the increase in flights meant that compared to 2014, gross CO2 emissions in 2017 rose by 10% to 163Mt CO2.  So there was a 3% rise in net European aviation CO2 emissions from 2014 to 2017. NOx, which has a net climate warming impact when emitted at altitude, increased by 12% to 839,000 tonnes

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Heathrow court case won’t be live-streamed but there will be transcripts and maybe link into another court

An application to live-stream a legal proceedings at the High Court on the expansion of Heathrow has been refused at a hearing on 5th February. Justice Hickinbottom ruled that the trial by five claimants, versus the Secretary of State for Transport – set to begin on 11 March for two weeks – could not be live-streamed as the law dating from 1925, and 1981, did not allow for proceedings within the court to be recorded. The Judge agreed that the case was of considerable public interest, and being able to watch hearings live would be a benefit to many people. However, the court will seek to provide another large and accessible additional courtroom for members of the public wishing to watch the proceedings who won’t be able to fit in Court 76. Tweeting from both courtrooms is also to be permitted. Additionally, on application, screening of the proceedings in other courts around the country will be considered, an acknowledgment that the case is of wide public interest, allowing those from other parts of the country to avoid considerable costs of attending the hearings in London – a point acknowledged by Justice Hickinbottom. Transcripts of proceedings will also be published, online, although it remains to be decided as to how costs of these scripts will be apportioned.

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Richmond Council reaffirms opposition to more Heathrow flights, as plans show there will be no escape from aircraft noise

Richmond Council voted to reaffirm its stance against Heathrow expansion last night, in a motion criticising the airport’s proposal to add an additional 25,000 flights a year, prior to expansion.  Last week the Council condemned Heathrow’s latest consultation which considers several issues, including; 25,000 flights added prior to expansion, noise, runway alternation and night-flying relating to its 2 existing runways, as well as the proposed controversial new 3rd runway. At the full Council meeting, members from all political parties were united in agreeing that the proposals were unacceptable and would prove disastrous for Richmond upon Thames. The impact from the additional flights would be felt across the whole borough, as curving flight paths may impact on areas that haven’t been impacted by aircraft noise before. By contrast, currently most aircraft noise from approaching aircraft is concentrated over the north of the borough including Barnes, Kew and Richmond. A key councillor said this 25,000 is just the tip of the iceberg. An extra runway would mean an additional 260,000 flights a year. That is unacceptable for our health, our sleep and our environment. It will ruin the lives of thousands of people.

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Heathrow slammed for ‘by-passing Chiswick’ for one of its consultation events

Local MP Ruth Cadbury has joined Chiswick campaigners against Heathrow expansion who say they are angry at the airport’s failure to hold a local consultation on changes which will significantly affect W4, particularly north Chiswick. The airport’s current round of consultation events (Airspace And Future Operations ) features events in Hammersmith, Ealing and Hounslow Civic Centre, but none in Chiswick.  This is despite the fact that the area faces significant potential disruption by proposed changes to flight paths or changes to respite periods even without a third runway. With a 3rd runway, the area will be intensely overflown by planes arriving to the new north runway, from the east. Campaigners say the level of low flights directly over the North Chiswick area area could reach 47 per hour (almost 1 per minute). It is likely that, with a 3rd runway, an estimated 35,000 residents could be affected. They consider that Heathrow is avoiding holding events in areas where opposition is likely to be strong and forceful, to try and ensure a more positive overall response to the consultation. The Bedford Park Society (BPS) and local group CHATR are planning a public meeting in Chiswick instead.

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London Assembly report says Heathrow 3rd runway should be scrapped, due to ‘severe effects’ of aircraft noise

A report, by the London Assembly environment committee, calls for Heathrow expansion to be stopped, due to the effects of aircraft noise. The report has renewed calls for the 3rd runway to be stopped. The noise from aircraft negatively affects work, relaxation and sleep, with “severe effects” on health and wellbeing. Caroline Russell, chairman of the committee, said: “The experiences of residents living with the daily nightmare of overhead noise are deeply worrying. This drive towards filling airspace capacity must be checked. For too many people, including children, aircraft noise is a major dominant intrusion into their everyday lives.”  If Heathrow builds the new runway, the number of flights will increase from around 475,000 to 740,000 a year.  It is likely that around 200,000 more people will be badly affected by aircraft noise. Heathrow also plans to increase its flights by 25,000, to around 500,000 per year and change flight paths, including overflying new areas, even before any 3rd runway. Ms Russell added: “…aviation authorities and operators must prioritise the health and well-being of Londoners and give us a break.”

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Report from London Assembly says due to noise, air traffic should NOT increase at Heathrow or London City airport

The London Assembly’s Environment Committee has produced a report on aircraft noise, particularly now that Heathrow not only wants a 3rd runway, but has also recently announced plans for 25,000 extra flights a year, bringing new areas of London under its flight paths. The noise is increasing the negative impact for those who have no choice but to live with a debilitating noise invasion. The report found that noise nuisance levels are unacceptable; it calls for a halt on all air traffic growth at Heathrow and London City airports. The report details the impact of altitude, flight paths and out-of-hours flights on the noise suffered by many Londoners. Among its recommendations are that the noise thresholds for disturbance should be lowered, to take account of people needing to open their windows. They say: “Air traffic at Heathrow and London City should not increase and Heathrow’s third runway should not go ahead.” It also says that planes should be kept higher, and the impacts of noise from both Heathrow and London City should be considered together, not separately. Night flights should be stoped, and there should be better restrictions on flights in the early morning.

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New study by London TravelWatch shows more airline passengers using cars or cabs to get to Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton

A new report has been produced by London TravelWatch. “Way to go: Improving public transport access to London’s airports”. It gives comprehensive details about the various components of surface access transport, with information on what works well and what does not for each airport, and current state of any improvements.  The report indicates that airline passengers are more likely to travel by car or taxi to catch flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton than they were 7 years ago, in a trend they say is “concerning”. Despite major investment in rail and coach links to the three airports, the proportion of passengers using public transport actually fell slightly between 2012 and 2016. But at Stansted, with accessibility improved by new coach connections, the use of public transport had improved. The proportion using public transport fell from 41% to 39.1% at Heathrow, 44% to 43.6% at Gatwick and 33% to 31.4% at Luton. Failings of public transport and the growth of taxi apps like Uber cited as reasons. Numbers using public transport rose at Stansted from 51% to 54.7% and at London City from 50% to 50.9%. Heathrow continues to encourage car parking, from which it earns huge revenues.

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Bristol airport hope to expand from 8 to 12 million annual passengers; 73% rise in CO2 emissions

Bristol Airport is hoping to expand. There is a consultation that started on 19th December, and ends on 26th January, on their plans. Details can be found here.  The headline application issue is a 50% growth in passengers – from the current 8.2 million per year, to 12 million by the mid 2020’s. Carbon emissions from flights are estimated to rise by 73% from 746 ktCO2 in 2017 to 1,290 ktCO2 with 12 million passengers. The increase in passengers will be achieved by de-restricting night flights up to 4,000 per year, expanding car parks, changing road lay outs, and building a multi-storey car park (persuasively capped with some wind turbines). There are further plans to raise passenger numbers to 20 million by 2040. There is a lot of local opposition, focused on issues such as congested roads, ‘parking blights’ (cars parked in lanes etc), other local environmental impacts, noise pollution – through the night and day. There are some minimal hyper-localised ‘Noise Insulation Grants’ (up to £5000 for glazing). The airport plans to get more income in from cafes, shops and car parking, to boost profits. Bristol Airport is entirely owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan – it is not British owned at all.

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Government tries to deny its climate responsibility to aim for 1.5C temperature rise, in pushing for 3rd Heathrow runway

The pre-trial hearing for the series of legal challenges against the Government’s decision to expand Heathrow takes place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday 15th January.  In legal correspondence between the defendant (Government) and one of the claimants, Plan B Earth, the Government argues that “[Plan B] is wrong to assert that “Government policy is to limit warming to the more stringent standard of 1.5˚C and “well below” 2˚C’.  This means that the Government is effectively denying that its own policy is to limit warming to the level that has been agreed internationally is required to avoid climate breakdown. The legal challenge brought by Plan B Earth and Friends of the Earth assert that the Government decision to proceed with Heathrow expansion was unlawful as it failed to appropriately consider climate change. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell described the case as “the iconic battleground against climate change”.  The Committee on Climate Change had previously expressed surprise that neither the commitments in the Climate Change Act 2008 nor the Paris Agreement (2015) were referenced in the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement (aka. the plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway).This is a huge inconsistency.

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Pre-trial hearing on 15th January of the 5 legal challenges against ‘unlawful’ Government decision to approve 3rd runway

Campaigners are taking the government to court in a bid to overturn the “unlawful” decision to approve a 3rd Heathrow runway. The pre-trial hearing for Friends of the Earth’s case will take place on Tuesday at the High Court, when the activists will lay out their opposition based on several grounds. There are 5 separate legal challenges being brought by a range of organisations, on  grounds of climate, air quality and harm to the wellbeing of local residents.  It would be virtually impossible for Britain to meet its obligations to cut emissions under the Paris climate agreement if a new Heathrow runway is built [or for that matter, one at Gatwick either]. The Government’s advisory body on climate change, the Committee on Climate Change, has warned the expansion also threatens the government’s own legally binding pledge to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Transport secretary Chris Grayling said, without any justification for his belief, that he was “confident” that technical innovations would cut aviation CO2 emissions enough, so expansion could happen without breaking the targets. Hopes that either biofuels or electric planes would enable aviation to become a low carbon means of transport are unrealistic.

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Richmond Council condemns latest Heathrow consultation – for unacceptable increases in noise and air pollution

Heathrow has a consultation, closing on 4th March, on its future airspace, both for the existing 2 runways and with a possible 3rd runway. Heathrow claim they will take the responses and view of residents etc into account. However, Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, has condemned the latest consultation – claiming 25,000 extra flights would be disastrous for the borough. He, said: “We have always said that Heathrow needs to be better and not bigger. But clearly size is everything to the airport. Heathrow are proposing the biggest changes to its flight path since it opened. People living in Richmond and other areas of West London will find their respite from overhead noise cut under these proposals. Not to mention the additional 25,000 more flights a year – which will no doubt be crammed into the early morning schedules, delivering more misery for our residents. Let’s not forget, these extra flights will still require Planning consent.” He said it was a bad case of the government “putting the cart before the horse” in having got a parliamentary vote in favour of the runway (many votes by MPs who very little indeed about it) before details of flight paths and other impacts were known.

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Heathrow opens new consultation on airspace – including 25,000 more annual flights, by using IPA

Heathrow has opened another consultation – this on is on “Airspace & Future Operations”. It ends on 4th March. Not only is Heathrow planning for a 3rd runway, and up to 50% more flights eventually, it is also now trying to get another 25,000 flights (about 5% more). fairly soon. And it wants these extra 25,000 flights whether it gets its 3rd runway, or not. The current flight numbers cap is 480,000 per year, set after the Terminal 5 Inquiry. It is currently using about 475,000 – with the few spaces at unpopular times of the day or week. Heathrow plans to get the extra flights, added at times already very busy, by what it calls IPA – Independent Parallel Approaches, which mean planes can come in on two runways at once, at the same time. Currently if they do this, they have to be staggered, at slightly further distances apart than with IPA. Heathrow admits this will mean different flight paths, and people not currently being overflown, by narrow concentrated flight paths.  Planes on IPA would join the final approach path about 8 nautical miles from the runway. It will be important that the areas to be newly negatively affected are made aware of what is going to hit them. The extra flights would also give Heathrow more income in the short term, to help it pay the immense cost of its 3rd runway plans.

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New Fellow Travellers report on the potential for electric aircraft to mitigate aviation emissions. Spoiler: it’s very limited.

A new report, “Electric Dreams – the carbon mitigation potential of electric aviation in the UK air travel market” (by Jamie Beevor for Fellow Travellers) looks at how much, realistically, electric planes could cut UK aviation CO2 emissions in the foreseeable future. They conclude that though small electric planes might be able to serve domestic and short haul routes, the cut in CO2 would not be large. The report says: “Delivering this level of emissions reduction before 2050 would require regulation and major market intervention to accelerate product development and fleet turnover industry cycles …Engineering constraints mean larger gains are unlikely in this timeframe, and it is probably not possible for transatlantic-range battery powered craft to be economically viable …There are no electric aircraft currently in development which could compete with the majority of the current global civil aviation fleet on range or capacity”. It concludes: “There is no realistic prospect – and there are no industry plans – for improvements in aircraft technology to bring about large overall reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from passenger flights within a timeframe  that is meaningful to averting catastrophic temperature rises.” This is useful in countering aviation industry techno-greenwash.

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Gatwick airport: majority stake 50.01% sold to French group Vinci; GIP and partners retain 49.99%

New owner says Brexit threat helped Vinci get 50.01% stake in UK’s second-busiest airport for ‘reasonable’ £2.9bn. A consortium led by the US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) is selling a majority stake of 50.01% in the airport to Vinci Airports, one of the world’s top airport operators and part of the infrastructure group Vinci. Vinci and GIP will manage Gatwick together.  Gatwick will be the largest in Vinci’s portfolio of 46 airports spread across 12 countries. The French group’s network includes Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport, Nantes Atlantique and Grenoble Alpes Isère in France; Lisbon and Porto in Portugal, Funchal in Madeira, and Osaka Itami and Kansai International in Japan.  The GIP-led consortium bought Gatwick from the airport operator BAA for £1.5bn in 2009 and spent £1.9bn modernising the airport in subsequent years. The shareholders are selling down their stakes, leaving GIP with 21%, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority with 7.9%, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund with 8.6% and two public pension funds in California and South Korea with 6.4% and 6% respectively.

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No 3rd Runway Coalition comment on DfT’s Aviation Strategy: IT UNDERMINES GOVERNMENT CREDIBILITY ON ENVIRONMENT

The Aviation Strategy Green Paper published today is seeking to deliver sustainable growth of the aviation sector to 2050. It fails to set out how continued aviation growth is compatible with existing environmental commitments, with the Government appearing content to let action on CO2 to be delivered at an international level This attitude is in stark contrast to the advice from the Committee on Climate Change, which the DfT has ignored, warning recently as June 2018 that that higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 “must not be planned for” and raised a series of concerns about how one additional runway would be compatible with efforts to reduce emissions, let alone two. They also warned that expansion of Heathrow will require significant operational restrictions on all other UK airports. The paper will also consult on the decision-making process for delivering a further runway in the UK by 2050. The DfT claims that the need for exploring another runway is due to higher growth than was predicted in the 2015 forecasts.  Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition said: “The Green Paper simply contains no strategy, either for delivering on existing environmental commitments or for addressing the significant negative impacts of airport operations on local communities.”

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DfT consultation starts, on its aviation strategy green paper, for huge growth of UK airports

The Department for Transport will today publish a long-awaited aviation strategy that pledges to deliver “greater capacity at UK airports”. It intends airports other than Heathrow all growing and having more flights  – “if tough environmental and noise restrictions are met” (ignoring CO2, of course). The strategy also outlines plans for the biggest overhaul of Britain’s airspace in more than 50 years to create new flight paths into the biggest airports. There would be a considerable increase to the 600 or so dedicated flight paths in operation now, and will subject households directly beneath the flight paths to unbearable noise levels. The DfT hopes to offer a sop, in terms of being able to alternate flight paths, so people get periods of less noise, in compensation for periods of intense noise.  New flight paths are expected to be designed by the summer of 2020 and introduced in 2024 and 2025 subject to CAA approval (CAA gets its funding from airlines – so not dispassionate).  The strategy, which will go out for public consultation. The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) has been created to police the system. NATS says the number of UK flights is expected to grow 700,000 to about 2.9 million by 2030.

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Crawley Council object to Gatwick Master Plan – due to detrimental effect on the local environment

Recently a YouGov poll commissioned by Gatwick airport – unclear what the exact wording was, or who was polled – claimed about three quarters of residents backed the airport’s expansion. However, at a Crawley full council meeting, the majority vote was against the proposal. This is what they will put in the council response to the Gatwick Master Plan consultation that is currently going on. The opposition is unsurprising as Crawley council have made their feelings clear in previous years, objecting to the 2nd runway. A year ago Crawley approved the building of a new Boeing hangar, for aircraft maintenance, as they hoped this would bring local jobs.  In the council there is a real concern that the growth proposed would have too detrimental an effect on the environment. Gatwick claim it is making less noise now (a claim that many severely overflown residents would not believe, especially with noise at night) and “30% of its fleet will comprise quieter aircraft by 2022.”  Local group CAGNE has asked hat the airport disclose details the safety incidents that have already occurred whilst using the emergency runway when the main runway is closed for maintenance. Crawley opposed the 2nd runway strongly (25:11) in January 2015, during the time of the Airports Commission.

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IATA anticipates profitable years ahead for aviation sector – cheap fuel etc – average ticket price 61% below 1998 levels

IATA (International Air Transport Association) says carriers are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about 2019 as it predicts the global airline industry will net US$35.5 billion throughout the year. This forecast comes before the final result for 2018 is know, but is expected to be $32.3 billion. Overall airline industry revenues in 2019 are expected to reach $885 billion, which is 7.7% higher than in 2018.  IATA believes demand growth for passenger traffic will be 6% (about 4.59 billion, compared to 4.34 billion this year) and for growth for air cargo will be 3.7%.  Due to lower fuel costs (predicted at $65 per barrel) – due to increased output from the US, the industry expects profits, even if there is slightly slower world economic growth.  In Europe profits may drop fractionally in 2019, with net profit expected at $7.4 billion in 2019 compared to $7.5 billion in 2018, due to “intense competition” between airlines. There were profit reductions in 2018 in Europe due to air traffic control strikes, and not enough air traffic controllers. Average fares are expected to be $324 (at current currency rates, before surcharges and tax), which IATA says is 61% below 1998 levels – when adjusted for inflation. IATA’s CEO De Juniac said: “Air travel has never been such a good deal for consumers.”  No concerns about the carbon emissions.

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Study by German NGO, Atmosfair, shows airlines are failing to take up the most fuel efficient planes – so not reducing CO2

Airlines are failing to take up the most efficient planes in sufficient numbers to make a significant dent in their carbon dioxide emissions, a new study by Atmosfair has found. The most efficient new aircraft models, such as the Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350-900 and A320neo, can achieve substantial CO2 savings over older models, but no airlines have invested sufficiently in the new types to reach the top levels of energy efficiency, according to the 2018 ranking by the German NGO. In it no airlines received an A for efficiency, and only 2 airlines were ranked in efficiency class B.  Atmosfair also found that only 10% of airlines worldwide were succeeding in keeping their greenhouse gas emissions constant (let alone not reducing them) while flight numbers grew. Carbon emissions from airlines grew by about 5% last year, while the number of kilometres flown increased by 6%.  The results show that the efficiency improvements of the vast majority of airlines worldwide is not sufficient to keep within the 2C or 1.5C target of the Paris agreement.  The sector needs new and radical measures to limit their carbon emissions, and CO2-neutral fuels – if they were possible [which is probably unlikely]. British Airways was placed at 74th, with an efficiency rating of D.

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Head Commissioner for the ICCAN announced – Robert Light

11.12.2018

Robert Light has been announced by DfT as the Head Commissioner for the new Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN). He has stood down as a Conservative councillor after 30 years. Details  Formerly a Yorkshire council leader, deputy chair of the Local Government Association, and Environment Agency board member.  The DfT is now recruiting for 3 further ICCAN Commissioners – candidates should have a strong background in one of three areas: acoustics & aviation noise, aerospace & the aviation industry, community engagement & representation. The job is 2 days per month, salary £12,000 pa. Applications close 2nd January 2019. Details

More about ICCAN here  


AEF discussion paper on what – on air pollution – needs to be in UK’s forthcoming “Aviation Strategy”

The Aviation Environment Federation have produced a series of discussion papers, on environmental aspects of aviation policy that need to be properly dealt with in the government’s forthcoming new “Aviation Strategy”  consultation, and then an Aviation White Paper in 2019. There are papers on noise and carbon emissions, and now one on air pollution. The AEF says the UK needs clarity on how airport expansion can be achieved keeping to air pollution commitments. We need better information on pollution that comes from planes, outside the “landing and take off cycle”, which only covers planes up to 3,000 feet altitude. We also need better mapping of where the air pollution is, around airports, showing legal limit values and WHO maximum levels for pollutants. There should be clarity on how air pollutants will increase, if the number of flights at an airport increase, and how this affects the “National Emissions Ceiling Directive” (NECD) limit values.  AEF says a lot more clarity is needed, on whether it is true most of the air pollution around airports comes from road vehicles (associated with the airport or not) and how much is from  planes themselves. There has been no national review of airport air pollution since 2003, for airports other than Heathrow.

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“Heathrow unveils its plan for carbon neutral growth”: except there is no credible plan … not for a 50% increase in flights

Heathrow has set out a “plan” to (magically) help it to increase the number of flights by up to 50% but do this in a “carbon neutral” way. Needless to say, there is no detail of how it can actually do this.  There is plenty about how it will be investing in “sustainable” fuels. Plenty of blather, without any actual details, about how can achieve an entirely impossible goal. Heathrow says it is looking at action on 4 key areas including: cleaner aircraft technology, [by that it means more fuel efficient, not more clean]; improvements to airspace and ground operations; sustainable aviation fuels [none probably exist, without huge unintended side effects]; and carbon offsetting methods [ie. keeping on emitting, and paying to cancel out the carbon savings made by others elsewhere, postponing the evil moment when they actually reduce aviation CO2 emissions.] There is hype like how they will: “Make Heathrow a leading hub for the development and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels by providing the necessary airport infrastructure, and support for pilot projects” and how they are calling on “ICAO to develop global goals for the uptake of sustainable alternative fuels.”  And lots of hope about those peat bogs, which they are hoping will save their bacon ….

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No 3rd Runway Coalition’s message loud and clear at London Climate March

At the Climate Change march in London on 1st December, to mark the start of the COP24 climate talks in Katovice, Poland, the No 3rd Runway Coalition was out in force.  Many hundred people marched – 700 or more? – with a large input from anti-fracking activists, and many from Extinction Rebelling. After rallying outside the Polish Embassy for speeches, including Neil Keveren from Stop Heathrow Expansion, the march set off down Regents Street and Piccadilly to Whitehall. The key concern was that in the UK, from fracking to a Heathrow third runway, our government is failing to face up to the climate crisis. The recent IPCC report is a landmark for our planet, setting out just what is at stake if we breach 1.5C warming. We need action now to move to a Zero Carbon Britain, with climate jobs to build the future we need. Instead of rapidly committing to effective action to cut CO2, the UK government is actively backing measures to make CO2 emissions higher or cut funding for initiatives that would cut burning of fossil fuels.  The No 3rd Runway Coalition banner took up pride of place at the start of the march.  There were many Coalition members present, many placards on show, the huge Chatr black plane clearly stating “No 3rd Runway”, and a good turnout by Stop Heathrow Expansion.

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Approval of Stansted expansion:  UTTLESFORD COUNCIL PLANNING CHAIRMAN DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT HE WAS VOTING FOR!

Following the decision of the Chairman of Uttlesford Planning Committee, Councillor Alan Mills, to use his (additional) casting vote in favour of the airport planning application, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) health adviser, Professor Jangu Banatvala, wrote to him to ask whether he had reviewed the latest important WHO Noise Guidelines, published on 10th October, prior to voting. The disturbing reply from Councillor Mills suggests that he was not aware of the WHO Guidelines and he believed the planning application was for 174,000 flights, rather than 274,000. He did not appear to have understood that the application was for an increase in flights, by about 25,000 per year, despite claiming to have read a third of the documents. Five councillors voted in favour of the Stansted application, but SSE has found that at least some of them had either not read, or had not understood, even the most basic information about the application. SSE said this is entirely unsatisfactory. It confirms that this application should be dealt with at a higher level than a small district council, with limited resources to deal with such a significant application with such widespread implications. SSE’s lawyers are now working on the detailed legal submissions to the Secretary of State on why he must now ‘call in’ the application for national determination.

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No 3rd Runway Coalition blog: Still no clarity on Heathrow finances for its expansion

In a blog, from the Chairman of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, Paul McGuinness, he says that serious concerns remain about how Heathrow might fund its hoped-for 3rd runway. The CAA has written to the DfT asking for clarity, as it does not have adequate or detailed information from Heathrow. As Nils Pratley highlighted in the Guardian “in most industries, a rebuke from the regulator would be met with an immediate promise to do better. Heathrow’s response, however, amounted to a shrug of the shoulders”. In Heathrow’s “Scoping Report” to the Planning Inspectorate in May they said, buried deep within the highly technical documents, it says that it seeks ‘early release of capacity’ that would be created by a 3rd runway. In short, Heathrow are trying to secure an additional 25,000 flights each year, (68 per day) above the current cap of 480,000, years before the 3rd runway opens. The current cap was a key condition of the T5 planning permission. Heathrow wants the income from these extra flights to help pay for the runway. Nobody knows who would be affected, or what noise, pollution, congestion etc impacts there would be. There has been no assessment. Read the full blog.

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New structure for GACC Committee as they continue longstanding fight to protect residents from Gatwick airport

GACC, Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, announces a new structure to better utilise the dedicated long standing GACC Committee, with the aim of being more agile and responsive in its work to counter the threat from Gatwick Airport and its expansion master plan. Brendon Sewill, having being the Chairman of GACC for over 6 decades and hugely respected, is now GACC President.  Lisa Morris, after 5 years on the GACC committee, becomes Chairman, and said “I am honoured to be entrusted with the role of Chairman at a time when GACC seeks to fight Gatwick’s master plan for a 3 runway airport. The GACC committee is poised to use its combined forces of knowledge, expertise and sheer determination, to challenge Gatwick’s master plan, which includes bringing the emergency runway into routine use and safeguarding land in the Gatwick vicinity for a 3rd runway”.  Peter Barclay, Brendon’s successor last year, steps down from his role as Chairman to take on the important role of Vice President in addition to continuing to be the GACC lead with Gatwick, nationally and regionally.  GACC will be further strengthening and enlarging the Committee, to fight on behalf of all communities negatively affected – and not only from noise – by Gatwick airport.

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Warning at UN Biodiversity Conference that humanity’s rush into biofuels/biomass will devastate global biodiversity

Growing enough plants to provide biomass and biofuels, that are meant to slow climate change (climate breakdown) compared to burning fossil fuels, will need a biofuel land grab: a 10 to 30-fold rise in land devoted to these crops from the level now. This means the destruction of the habitats for plants and animals, seriously undermining the essential global biodiversity. This warning was spelt out at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Egypt by Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the  Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES.  The latest IPCC report, on limiting climate warming to 1.5°C, had given “a sense of extreme urgency” for ways to cut CO2 emissions, fast. But this mean “tradeoffs and synergies between climate, biodiversity and land degradation.”  More land would be used for monocultures of plants like maize. Perhaps by 2050 up to 724 million hectares, an area almost the size of Australia, might be used for biofuel crops – compared to perhaps 15 to 30m ha now. There is very little “marginal land” that could be used for these crops (they need water etc, and decent soils). This use of biomass will inevitably have “negative consequences for biodiversity.”  By contrast, reforestation and forest protection helps reduce carbon more effectively. As does cutting energy use. Tragic that the global aviation industry hopes to use huge volumes of biofuel, just so it can keep expanding and creating ever more desire for hyper-mobility, and a sense of entitlement to inter-continental jet travel, largely for leisure and recreation.

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PhD study indicates flight ban until 6am could save £ millions on NHS prescriptions for health impacts

A PhD thesis by an economics researcher at Kings College London, Silvia Beghelli, looked at “The Health Effects of Noise and Air Pollution”. She looked at the medications prescribed to patients in areas affected by Heathrow planes, and the medical costs of the health impacts. She looked at a trial performed over 5 months at Heathrow in 2012, when planes did not fly over designated areas in the early mornings, between 4:30am and 6am. She found that  fewer drugs were prescribed for respiratory and nervous system conditions in areas with the reduced air traffic. Mrs Beghelli cross-referenced NHS data with the trial’s findings and found a link between air traffic and health, notably a 5.8% decrease in spending on pills including anxiolytics for conditions such as insomnia, anxiety and depression in the no-fly zones. As well as meaning the quality of health of people in these areas must have been better, the lower prescribing saved the NHS money. She calculated that modifying flight schedules could save £5 million in NHS prescription costs. It could also cut demand for hospital appointments. The study suggests that early morning planes are causing people to need more prescriptions.

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Uttlesford DC approves Stansted expansion plan, only by Chairman’s casting vote – but plans may now be “called in”

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has expressed dismay and disappointment that the vote on 14th November)by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) Planning Committee granted approval for Stansted’s planning application to grow – to an annual throughput of 43 million passengers per annum (from the 35 million cap now).  If this approval is allowed to stand, it would mean that Stansted could increase its flights by 44% and its passenger throughput by 66% compared, to last year’s levels.  The Planning Committee, comprising ten elected Uttlesford councillors, split right down the middle with 5 in favour of the application (including the Planning Committee Chairman) and 5 against.  Where there is a split vote, the Council rulebook gives the Chairman an additional (casting) vote – so he gets 2 votes.  Both BBC and ITV regional news teams filmed the session, which was attended by many local people.  UDC cannot issue a decision notice until the Sec of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) has considered whether the application should be called in. This should have been done already, as the planned expansion is very near the threshold necessary – of an increase by 10 million annual passengers.  SSE will now submit further representations to the Secretary of State asking him (again) to call in the application. They are currently also legally challenging the decision.

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Government, not content with ONE new runway breaching UK carbon targets, is now planning for TWO

The Government will open the door for another new runway by 2050, in addition to the plans for expansion at Heathrow, in a consultation to be launched next month.  The DfT’s “Aviation Strategy Green Paper” will consult on the decision-making process for delivering a further runway in the UK by 2050, according to Sarah Bishop, DfT’s Deputy Head of Aviation Policy. This would be in addition to a 3rd Heathrow runway, and perhaps Gatwick making use of its emergency runway. Ms Bishop says there could be a “need” (sic) for more expansion, to meet air travel demand. Classic outdated “predict & provide” thinking.  [The DfT gives the impression it is entirely unaware of of global climate breakdown, or the UK’s responsibilities on its carbon emissions]. It remains unclear how even ONE further runway (perhaps Heathrow) could be delivered within the UK’s legally binding CO2 emission targets – which require the aviation sector to keep its CO2 emissions to their 2005 level by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change warned as recently as June 2018 that higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 “must not be planned for” and raised a series of concerns about even ONE new runway (let alone two). The No 3rd Runway Coalition believes the possibility of yet another runway being approved by the DfT would cause concerns for investors in Heathrow.

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Living near to a busy road or airport TRIPLES your risk of a heart attack and stroke because the noise triggers a harmful response in the body

More evidence – now from Massachusetts General hospital – is showing that living near to a noisy road or a busy flight path significantly increases risk of a heart attack or stroke. The added risk is in addition to risks of smoking and diabetes. It is thought that exposure to environmental noise alters the amygdala – a brain region involved in stress regulation and emotional responses.  This then promotes blood vessel inflammation, which can lead to cardiovascular problems. Those exposed to chronic noise, such as near an airport, showed “a greater than three-fold risk” of suffering a heart attack or a stroke and other major cardiovascular event. People with the highest levels of noise exposure had higher levels of amygdala activity and more inflammation in their arteries. The study looked at 499 people, with an average age of 56 years old. None had cardiovascular illness or cancer. They all underwent simultaneous PET and CT scans of their brain and blood vessels. To gauge noise exposure, the researchers used participants’ home addresses government noise maps. The researchers say more research is needed to determine whether reduction in noise exposure could meaningfully lower cardiovascular risk and reduce the number of cardiovascular events on a population-wide scale.

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Birmingham airport unveils draft Master Plan, for huge growth over next 15 years

Birmingham Airport has unveiled its draft Master Plan, with its hopes of expansion over the next 15 years. There is a consultation till 31st January. It wants to increase its capacity by 5 million passengers a year (mppa)  Much of the intended spending will be for a larger departure lounge with a mezzanine floor, new retail and restaurant units, more toilets and seating. Also more self-service desks (ie. fewer jobs…) and “the latest bag-drop technology and a new back-of-house baggage sorting area aimed at improving efficiency.” (ie. fewer jobs). This has been seen by the airport’s consultative committee on 5th November.  There is no plan for a 2nd runway, but the expansion will cause more environmental damage, more noise, CO2 emissions etc. – of which, no mention is made. (The usual airport attitude is “the majority of emissions are from planes in the sky and that is nothing to do with us…”). In the 2006 Master Plan the forecasts were for 25mppa by 2030; now they have reduced that to 18mppa by 2033. There were 12.9 mppa in 2017. Local campaigners suspect this will not be encouraging shareholders to fund expansion plans till the runway situation in the south east is sorted out. The airport is claiming the increased number of passengers will boost the local economy by £xx billion, and increase jobs by yyy.  (These claims never materialise).

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“Back Heathrow”, massively funded by Heathrow airport, tries to discredit Hillingdon, for their spending to protect residents

“Back Heathrow” is the “astroturf” group set up, managed by and (probably entirely) funded by Heathrow airport, to promote its 3rd runway, largely by claiming it has huge local support. Their accounts show that in 2017 “Back Heathrow” had current assets of £1 million (£1.24m in 2016). They have Net Worth of about £951,300. They complained in January 2017 about how much money Hillingdon Borough had spent in trying to defend its residents from the adverse impacts of an even larger Heathrow airport. Back Heathrow is complaining again. It has got figures from Hillingdon Borough Council, through FoI, for what it has had to spend to oppose Heathrow’s plans.  (Not being a council etc, Back Heathrow cannot be FoI-ed). It says Hillingdon has spent £1.4 million of taxpayers’ money on this, between 2007 and now. In fact Hillingdon has spent about £1.12 million, as they received some funding towards the expenses, from other councils. Meanwhile, it is known that Heathrow spent £1.25 million advertising on Transport for London between June 2016 and 2017. It is also known that, between July 2015 and January 2017, the DfT spent over £3.8 million on external firms such as financial advisers N M Rothschild & Sons, law firms DLA Piper UK and Allen & Overy. No wonder local councils are given little alternative to spending money, to counteract this.   Lots of info at the link below.

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Might Heathrow only be able to afford its 3rd runway scheme, by being allowed another 25,000 annual flights well before runway was ready?

The Times’ Chief Business Commentator, Alistair Osborne, has written on the deeply unclear finances of a possible Heathrow 3rd runway.  Alistair suggests, one way the airport could try and get in some extra cash, early in the building programme (when no airlines can use the new runway yet) is increasing the current numbers of flights and passengers. Heathrow loves to say it is full, but it is not. Each year the number of passengers creeps up – there is spare terminal capacity. But if instead of the current cap of 480,000 annual flights, Heathrow could get consent for an extra 25,000 (ie. to 505,000), it could add perhaps 6-7 million more passengers, up from the current 78 million or so.  That could bring in much needed income, to help fund the vast project – including what to do with the M25. But adding 25 million more annual flights means about 65 more per day. Heathrow hopes to appease the ire of badly impacted local residents, by saying they would start flying at 5.30am rather than the 4.30am start now. But there would then be plane after plane after plane then, when people are still trying to sleep. And the airlines don’t like the idea, as it upsets their lucrative long haul schedules, and causes less resilience if there are delays, at the peak periods.

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SSE say Stansted airport spin doctors are in a desperate final attempt to sway Uttlesford DC planners

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has described the latest Stansted press release claiming public support for its expansion plans as a complete distortion of the facts and a desperate eleventh hour attempt by the airport’s spin doctors to influence members of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) Planning Committee. The Committee is due to consider the airport planning application – for 44% more flights and 66% more passengers per year – on 14th November. The expansion would mean far higher CO2 emissions (over 1 million tonnes) from Stansted flights than now.  SSE says the expansion plan “would have very serious environmental consequences for this generation and future generations.  It would inflict yet more noise misery upon local residents and it would be a recipe for gridlock [local roads]. … We simply do not have the infrastructure to support an airport the size of Gatwick”. When Stansted claim hundreds of people support its plans, this is in part due to “repeatedly badgering all airport employees to trigger automatic computer-generated “I support expansion” emails. Only 16 members of the general public sent individual letters or emails to UDC backing the proposals. But UDC received 934 individually-written letters and emails opposing the plans including objections from 47 Parish Councils.  No Parish Council has registered its support for the expansion proposals.

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Heathrow regulator, the CAA, demands answers urgently on airport’s 3rd runway plan

The CEO, Richard Moriarty, of aviation watchdog body, the CAA, have written to the Department for Transport (DfT) asking that they should “decisively and urgently” address major concerns about the funding for the 3rd runway scheme – at least £14 billion, and doubtless more with cost over-runs and things not going to plan. They say Heathrow must “provide assurance that its revised timetable is realistic” and would “ensure timely delivery” of the expansion. The CAA threatens enforcement action against Heathrow to force it to provide clear evidence about how it would finance the scheme, while avoiding pushing up costs for airlines and passengers. The CAA says the project had been hit by a further delay, with a public consultation on detailed plans for the new runway now scheduled for June rather than in the first three months of next year. Heathrow is already the most expensive airport in the world, with landing charges of over £20 per ticket, and that is likely to rise – regardless of flimsy Heathrow assurances. Mr Moriarty said there is a  “lack of high quality and comprehensive information” about how Heathrow would keep costs down, while being commercially viable, and these concerns had “not been adequately addressed, despite repeated requests”.

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Stop Stansted Expansion says Uttlesford DC planners’ recommendation is just an uncritical rehash of MAG’s claims

The recommendation by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) planning officers, published on 22 October, that the current airport planning application should be approved, will not surprise anyone who has followed UDC’s handling of this airport planning application from the beginning.  As far back as July 2017 – before the application was even submitted – UDC were openly discussing concessions that might be extracted from Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the owners of Stansted, in return for approving the application. SSE say the UDC officers’ report is little more than a rehash of MAG’s planning statement with no attempt made to challenge the many unsubstantiated and misleading claims made in the planning application. They say UDC planning officers haven’t even bothered to check the many wholly implausible assumptions made by MAG which allow it to claim that there would be no significant adverse impacts if the application is approved – thought that would mean a 66% increase in passengers and a 44% increase in flights compared to last year.  But UDC say this “would not result in significant adverse impacts.”  It is now for UDC councillors on the planning committee to decide.  This case seems too large and complex for a small team of planning officers in a small local authority, without the necessary resources or expertise.

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Local group SHE advises residents they should NOT be intimidated by, or respond to, Heathrow demands for their household information

Residents living in the CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order) area for the proposed Heathrow 3rd runway have received a letter, questionnaire and information sheet from Heathrow even though many of those people have already refused to take part in its surveys linked to the proposed runway. Local group, Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE) says this repeated pestering of residents for data looks like harassment. In a long, detailed article here SHE gives information on what Heathrow is doing, what they ask for, and how residents do NOT have to give Heathrow any of the details they ask. The runway is NOT a done deal, and until it is, no resident is under any obligation to reveal personal information about themselves, their household members, their mortgage etc. The details are wanted by Heathrow, in order to facilitate future acquisition of the properties. The persistent propaganda by Heathrow, and the letters etc are having a demoralising effect (which suits the airport) on residents.  SHE advises residents that they should NOT feel under any obligation to help Heathrow, and they should “NOT let this letter and accompanying paperwork upset or stress you. It can be binned with a clear conscience if that helps. Otherwise, just put it at the back of a drawer and get on with your life.”

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Edinburgh Airport flight path plan rejected by CAA, as it was not the same as in the consultation

A deeply unpopular plan to change a flight path at Edinburgh Airport has been rejected by the CAA. The proposed changes would have seen aircraft flying to the west of Cramond and along the Firth of Forth. The CAA said it could not approve the proposal due to “significant” differences between the final plan and the version developed in consultation with local communities. Had the correct information been in the consultation, it could have made people respond differently to the questions asked. It was the second set of plans submitted to the CAA after the industry regulator told Edinburgh Airport to do more work on the original proposal. Helena Paul, of Edinburgh Airport Watch, said: “On behalf of communities affected by these damaging proposals we are highly relieved the CAA have looked carefully and agreed the process was fatally flawed and could not be allowed to stand. Our hope now is the regulator does not allow Edinburgh Airport to continue using an outdated set of rules for any future consultations and instead enforces the new set of rules brought in for any consultations on new flight paths.”  Further consultation would be necessary.  The airport said modernising the airspace was necessary for growth.

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Campaigners fighting Gatwick expansion issue “State of Emergency” for the Sussex countryside

CPRE Sussex has taken the unprecedented step of declaring a “Countryside State of Emergency” in response to Gatwick Airport’s new expansion ‘Master Plan’, published on October 18th.  The Master Plan details the airport’s proposal to expand from one to potentially three runways. A 2nd runway created from Gatwick’s existing emergency runway could result in an estimated 14 million extra passengers travelling through Sussex to/from the airport every year. A 3rd runway to the south – on the “safeguarded” land – would add millions more passengers and require “significant changes to the airport and surrounding roads”.  “This plan would have a devastating impact on our countryside,” says CPRE Sussex Chair, David Johnson. “It would change the landscape and rural character of Sussex forever – scaring our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and deeply damaging the tranquillity and ecology of our National Park.” He commented: “It would be unthinkable to allow Gatwick to urbanise Sussex in this way, so we will be joining with all other community and conservation groups to oppose these plans”. We need to give our National Parks and AONBs more, and better protection – not risk ruining them with the impacts of developing an airport about the size Heathrow is now.

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Gatwick opens 12 week consultation on using its emergency runway, for some take-offs, adding 30% + more flights

Gatwick has announced its draft “Master Plan” which (quote) “sets out how Gatwick can grow and do more for Britain.”  In order to cram more flights into a one-runway airport, they hope to make more use of their emergency runway, parallel but close to the main runway. It is too near to be used properly as a second runway, on safety grounds. There will now be a 12 week consultation period on the plans, and Gatwick hopes to finalise its plans some time into 2019. The plans also include how the airport hopes to “meet future aviation demand with sustainable growth” (sic) into the 2030s. Under its 40-year current planning agreement, Gatwick’s existing standby runway is only used when the main runway is closed for maintenance or emergencies. But Gatwick hopes it “could potentially bring its existing standby runway into routine use for departing flights, alongside its main runway, by the mid-2020s.”  This could mean a maximum of 390,000 flights annually (P. 88) compared to 290,000 in 2016, (ie. about 34% more.). That could mean up to 70 million annual passengers, compared to 43 million now – and a current theoretical maximum of 61 million (ie. about 15% more). “We would be able to add between 10 and 15 additional hourly aircraft movements in the peak hours.” (P.10)   Oh …. and  with no extra noise …. obviously….

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Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is looking to buy part of GIP’s 42% stake in Gatwick

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is looking to buy part of a stake in Gatwick airport that could be worth more than 3 billion pounds $3.92 billion, Sky News on Friday. CPPIB is said to be part of a group of investors proposing to buy out Global Infrastructure Partner’s (GIP) 42% stake in the second-busiest airport in Britain, the Sky News report said.  The Canadian pension fund would invest “hundreds of millions of pounds” in the airport, if the deal gets finalised, insiders told Sky News.

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Teddington TAG shows London Assembly data proves Heathrow NOx travels far, far away from the airport (not just Grayling’s “2km”)

The Airports Commission had, as its study area for the effects of Heathrow expansion, an area of just 2 kilometres from the boundary of the expanded airport. Chris Grayling wrote to the Chair of the Transport Committee on the 23rd February 2018  letter saying that this area “captures over 98% of additional emissions that could occur from expansion”. Teddington TAG asks if this figure of 98% emissions captured within 2 km of the boundary is true. They located air pollution data from the London Assembly, available by Borough. It apportions how much of the NOx in different areas is from vehicles, aviation and other sources. This shows that in Richmond Old Deer Park, according to the Data Apportionment Tool, about 77% of the NOx is from aviation. In Kew / North Sheen, 11km from touch-down, about 57% is from aviation.  At Putney, which is under the flight path but is over 15 km from touch-down at Heathrow, about 33% of the NOx is from aviation. Putney is worse off than Kew as total emissions are greater. And all that is just from 2 runways! Aviation apportionment readings stretch back to Clapham Junction and beyond. So why did Grayling tell the Transport Committee that 98% was within 2km.  Ignorance of the facts? Failure to be properly informed?

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WHO Europe publishes tough guidelines & recommendations for policymakers to cut aircraft noise

WHO Europe has now published its long-awaited environmental noise guidelines, (for aviation, road, rail, wind turbine and leisure noise) the first complete update of the guidelines launched in 1999. For aircraft noise, the relevant guidelines strongly recommend reducing noise levels to below 45 dB Lden during the day, as aircraft noise above this level is associated with adverse health effects.  For night noise exposure, they recommend reducing noise levels to below 40 dB Lnight, as aircraft noise above this level is associated with adverse effects on sleep. They say that to reduce health effects, policy-makers should “implement suitable measures to reduce noise exposure from aircraft in the population exposed to levels above the guideline values for average and night noise exposure.”  Groups concerned about aircraft noise have long asked that WHO health guidelines are included in UK aviation policy documents, but they are not. There is no mention of WHO in the Government’s Aviation Strategy documents so far. Tim Johnson, AEF Director, said:  “The Government has the perfect opportunity to respond positively in its draft Aviation Strategy due later this year. Rather than electing to ignore the WHO’s advice on the basis that it is too challenging, it should use set out appropriate measures to tackle this issue.” 

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NGOs urge EU to stand firm on aircraft emissions, keeping ETS and not letting ineffective CORSIA replace it

NGOs working on aviation’s climate impact have called on the European Commission (EC) to reject industry demands to hastily sign up to the controversial ‘Corsia’ carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation. T&E is warning that Corsia threatens the only effective measure currently in place to address aviation emissions, the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). In 2016, ICAO’s general assembly agreed a Corsia to come into effect in 2021. Its aim is to stabilise net emissions from aviation at 2020 levels – a low level of ambition. It also relies on offsetting – a mechanism which is increasingly discredited. T&E said: “Corsia is essentially an attempt by industry to dismantle the only effective measure in place to address aviation emissions – the ETS – and replace it with a weak and uncertain Corsia. The motivation is clear: emissions trading is working, but as the rules for Corsia get close to finalisation they are being weakened to the point where Corsia will have next to no environmental benefit.”  That’s why industry is lobbying the EC to accept the Corsia rules without reservation.  Three NGOs working on aviation’s climate impact, T&E, AEF and Carbon Market Watch, have written to the EC, calling on it to keep aviation as part of the ETS, and object to Corsia’s draft rules, that prevent the EU being able to regulate its aviation emissions.

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UN climate science body’s (IPCC) report highlights that aviation must accelerate emissions reductions

The IPCC’s Special Report on trying to keep global warming to 1.5C highlights that we are not on target to keep global warming to below 2 degrees C much less 1.5C as countries agreed to in the Paris Agreement in 2015. Most notably, the report shows that progress in the transportation sector is lagging behind and needs to start its own transformation immediately This includes the global aviation sector. Some downplay the extent of aviation’s climate impact – some 5% of global warming when accounting for both CO2 and climate effects at altitude. The international portion of aviation’s emissions was “excluded” from the Paris Agreement and is being addressed entirely inadequately by the UN’s ICAO instead. But the IPCC report makes clear that cutting emissions from the fast growing aviation sector is essential. ICSA (the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation) says:  “The IPCC makes clear that, without action on this major and growing source of emissions, the goal of limiting a temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C cannot be achieved. The report’s finding that efficiency improvements alone aren’t enough is a wake-up call to governments to put aviation on a flightpath to decarbonization to ensure the sector plays its part in delivering a zero-carbon future.”

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Launch of “Stay Grounded” network – organisations around the world opposing unsustainable aviation/airport expansion

The Stay Grounded network has been officially launched. It now has over 130 signatories, (including the No 3rd Runway Coalition, and others in the UK) and more than 80 member organisations. Stay Grounded aims to reduce the environmentally and socially damaging impact of aviation, by stopping its fast rate of expansion across the world. The industry has privileged status in many ways, including its out-of-control increasing carbon emissions. The Stay Grounded network has published a position paper outlining 13 steps for a transition towards a transport system that is more socially just and ecologically sustainable. Many non-violent actions took place in countries around the world, in a recent week of action. These were directed against airport infrastructure projects, many of them leading not only to rising CO2 emissions, but also noise and health issues, loss of homes, biodiversity and fertile lands.  Around the world there are about 1200 airports planned to be built or being expanded. Stay grounded will also highlight the industry’s inadequate “greenwashing” strategies, which will lead to increasing pressure on ecosystems, local farming communities, and indigenous peoples, particularly in the Global South.

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The 5 legal challenges against a 3rd Heathrow runway will be heard over 2 weeks in March 2019

Five legal challenges against the Government’s plans to expand Heathrow have reached the next legal hurdle and will proceed to a full judicial review in March 2019. Justice Holgate today (October 4th) confirmed, in a hearing at the High Court, that the cases lodged by five different parties would be heard over 10 days in March 2019.  Due to the size of the cases, amount of paperwork involved, and the public interest in the case, the hearings in March will be heard by two judges and will be heard in the largest courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice. It was also noted that a separate courtroom may have to be used as overspill, with a TV link to the main proceedings, also due to level of interest. Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “These legal challenges are of the Government’s own making. It is not insignificant that the judge has permitted all five claimants to proceed to judicial review. In addition to the claim from several councils and the London Mayor, the four other claims raise some serious points of law. If the government had not ignored available evidence in their blinkered enthusiasm to expand this already highly disruptive airport, parliament would not have supported the proposal, and these actions would not have been necessary.”

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Stansted Airport expansion decision delayed again, (from 17th October) – no date set

Plans to expand Stansted have been grounded, for now. Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has postponed a meeting to determine the future of the plans, under pressure from expansion opposition. The airport wants to increase the annual passenger limit by 35 million, from 8 million now up to 43 million. Expansion plans include work to build new aircraft stands and taxiways for additional aircraft (not a runway). The meeting was originally due to be held in July, before being pushed back until October 17th. A rearranged date has yet to be set. Expansion opposition group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) successfully requested the latest delay so that technical issues can be discussed. Highways England also complicated matters with concerns about road traffic implications.  SSE said it is important that approval is not given before all the implications have been properly considered.  They say it is “astonishing” that UDC were preparing to approve the expansion “even when important issues were – and still are – unresolved.” UDC said:“As a consequence of accommodating this request, officers expect to need extra time to address any technical issues that may arise from these enhanced consultation arrangements”.

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Legal proceedings against Heathrow expansion begin – groups against the 3rd runway welcome “decisive action”

Plans for Heathrow expansion will meet their first legal test on Thursday 4th October, as claimants against the proposals seek to proceed their cases to full judicial review.  Five parties have lodged judicial review claims against the plans including a consortium of 5 local authorities with Greenpeace and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Also Heathrow Hub Limited (promoters of a rival scheme to expand Heathrow), and Friends of the Earth. Also Plan B and a Twickenham resident, Neil Spurrier. The claims are against the Government’s National Policy Statement (NPS) – which only included Heathrow expansion – which Parliament voted on in June 2018, despite many unanswered questions about the projects legality and wider environmental impact. Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “Having ignored evidence, such as the report of parliament’s Transport Select Committee, the decision to expand Heathrow was always going to end up in the courts, under judicial review …”  Government lawyers have conceded that all applicants are likely to get permission to proceed with their applications for JR, they are unlikely to oppose the granting of permissions at this pre-trial hearing.

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Environmental NGOs write to European Commission asking that they do not allow CORSIA to replace the ETS for aviation

AEF, along with Carbon Market Watch and Transport & Environment, recently wrote to the European Commission to warn against any decision taken to exclude aviation from the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) before details of ICAO’s offsetting scheme (known as CORSIA) have been firmly established. The EU ETS covers only intra-EU flights and requires airlines to surrender sufficient carbon permits to cover their CO2 emissions in the previous year.  CORSIA (Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), a global market-based measure, was agreed in 2016 and its first phase is due to come into effect in 2021. Under CORSIA, operators will be expected to buy carbon credits equivalent to the additional carbon the sector emits above its 2020 level, for international flights globally. The aviation industry would like to see CORSIA take over from the ETS and replace it, as it is weaker and less effective in reducing CO2 emissions. The NGO’s letter asks that the European Commission should not allow CORSIA to replace the ETS for aviation, as CORSIA has many unresolved issues and well as “environmental weakness and lack of alignment with European climate ambition”.

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AEF discusses how UK’s aviation strategy should effectively tackle climate change

The Government has promised that by the end of this year it will have laid out proposals to address one of the key policy gaps left by the Heathrow NPS, namely how UK plans to square its growth plans for aviation with its commitments on climate change.  In the second of their discussion papers on the key issues the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) want to see addressed by the Aviation Strategy Green Paper, and the AEF sets out – in some detail – why the current set of UK, regional and international policies fall short, why the Government’s carbon forecasts for aviation underplay the scale of the action needed, and just how big the challenge of fitting aviation into a net zero future is going to be.  AEF argues that the strategy should:  1. Show as much ambition on climate change as on safety, technology and customer service.  2. Make an unambiguous commitment to limit aviation emissions to 37.5 Mt by 2050 as a maximum level.  3. Map out a policy plan for ensuring that emissions do not exceed this level.  4. Consider the implications of the Paris Agreement for domestic aviation policy.  5. Set out a clear UK position in relation to international efforts. 6. Propose policies to address aviation’s non-CO2 emissions. Details

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Air pollution by NOx linked to much greater risk of dementia

Research published in the BMJ indicates there is an increase in the chance of developing dementia. About 131,000 patients in London aged between 50 and 79 were followed for 7 years, with air pollution exposure estimated by post code. People over 50 in areas with the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air showed a 40% greater risk of developing dementia than those with the least NOx pollution, according to the data from London. The observational study cannot establish that air pollution was a direct cause of the dementia cases, but the link between higher pollution and higher levels of dementia diagnosis could not be explained by other factors known to raise risks of the disease.  Air pollution has already been linked with cardiovascular and respiratory disease, but this is one of the first studies to examine links with neurodegenerative illness.  It is possible that perhaps 60,000 of the total 850,000 dementia cases in the UK may be made worse by air pollution.  This adds to the body of research on the wide-ranging effects of air pollution, including evidence that particles of pollutants can cross the placenta – an evidence from  China of a “huge” reduction in intelligence associated with breathing dirty air, equivalent to losing a year’s education.

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Heathrow pays towards peat bog restoration – but its contribution to offsetting Heathrow’s carbon is infinitesimal

Heathrow has invested in the restoration of UK peatlands, not just because it is a good thing to do, but to give the airport good PR, with an infinitesimal contribution to offsetting their CO2  emissions. Working with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and DEFRA, Heathrow’s first restoration priority will be Little Woolden Moss, west of Manchester, which has been subject to commercial peat extraction for more than 15 years. Heathrow says [sic]: “The restoration of the UK’s peatland bogs forms part of Heathrow’s plans to be a carbon neutral airport by 2020. ” ….and, worryingly “Heathrow hopes to show that projects like this will make a good option for airlines’ CORSIA commitments.” Heathrow has (paid already probably?) about £94,000 towards the project. They omit to mention that Defra has already paid £334,000 for the project. Heathrow claims “the restoration of this project area could lead to savings of 22,427 tonnes of CO₂ over 30 years …” As Heathrow departing flights emit over 18 million tonnes CO2 per year, that comes to 540 tonnes of CO2 over 30 years (ignoring a possible 3rd runway, with emissions perhaps 50% higher). The 22,427 tonnes comes to all of 0.004% of that carbon. So in reality, irrelevant. But greenwash.

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Monbiot: “It doesn’t matter how many good things we do: preventing climate breakdown means ceasing to do bad things” (eg. expanding aviation)

An excellent article by George Monbiot, includes these comments in relation to aviation: “There may be more electric vehicles on the world’s roads, but there are also more internal combustion engines. There be more bicycles, but there are also more planes. It doesn’t matter how many good things we do: preventing climate breakdown means ceasing to do bad things.“… “When a low-carbon industry expands within a growing economy, the money it generates stimulates high-carbon industry. Anyone who works in this field knows environmental entrepreneurs, eco-consultants and green business managers who use their earnings to pay for holidays in distant parts of the world and the flights required to get there.” …”Labour guarantees that any airport expansion must adhere to its tests on climate change. But airport expansion is incompatible with its climate commitments. Even if aircraft emissions are capped at 2005 levels, by 2050 they will account for half the nation’s carbon budget if the UK is not to contribute to more than 1.5C of global warming. If airports grow, they will swallow even more of the budget’ …Airport expansion is highly regressive, offending the principles of justice and equity that Labour exists to uphold. Regardless of the availability and cost of flights, they are used disproportionately by the rich…”

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Date set for Stansted Airport expansion planning decision by Uttlesford – 17th October

The passenger limit at Stansted could be lifted from 35 million a year to 43 million. Now the date of the special planning committee hearing at Uttlesford District Council, (UDC) to decide a planning application that would mean potentially millions more people going through Stansted, has been announced. UDC said the special planning committee is will be on October 17th, following 3 public speaking sessions the week before the decision will be made.  The decision on whether to allow the airport to increase its annual passenger numbers was due to be decided in July, but because of the lack of information on sections of the application the meeting was delayed.  There has been staunch opposition from residents fighting to stop any increase in passenger numbers. In August, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) filed legal papers to try and force the government to make the decision on the application, saying that UDC didn’t have the experience or expertise to handle such a complicated application.  Currently the airport is operating with around 27 million passengers per year, eight million fewer than its current passenger limit. SSE will continue  with legal action to make central government decide the plans, irrespective of the decision taken by UDC’s planning committee.

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Trade Unions sceptical about extravagant jobs claims for a Heathrow 3rd runway

The Trade Union movement appears split on the issue of Heathrow expansion, following a fringe meeting (organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition and the PCS) held at the Trade Union Congress in Manchester. Unions such as Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) spoke at a fringe meeting on the issue of transport, climate and jobs, highlighting their continued opposition to a 3rd Heathrow runway, despite other trade unions supporting the hugely environmentally damaging project. Chris Baugh (Assistant General Secretary, PCS), said though workers would not support the agenda to transition away from fossil fuels if their jobs were put in jeopardy, claims of large numbers of high quality jobs were hard to believe.  Manuel Cortes (General Secretary, TSSA), raised concerns that the transport sector was heading backwards in addressing the challenge posed by climate change, while the UK urgently needs to address the crisis of CO2 emissions. Paul Beckford of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said the role played by trade unions in helping the transition to a low carbon economy will be crucial.  Unions have to be clear about the reality of future jobs, generated by the runway.

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Heathrow airport is battling debt pile of £13bn – enough to build the third runway

Heathrow has blown more than £6bn in interest on its debts over the past 12 years, a Mail investigation has found.  It spends more than £500m a year on interest payments alone, accounts for Heathrow Airport Holdings show.  Meanwhile its debt pile has risen to £13.4 billion – about the cost of aa possible 3rd runway. Heathrow is planning to spend around £14 billion on the project, but its mammoth debts reveal just how stretched the airport has become. Airline bosses fear Heathrow may not be able deliver the runway on budget, and want Heathrow to guarantee not to increase these to pay for the runway.  While it has paid more than £6 billion in debt interest over 12 years, shareholders have extracted £3.6 billion in dividends.  Heathrow makes money by charging landing fees to airlines, which are passed on to passengers – around £22 for each fare.  The airport is planning to spend £33 billion on infrastructure in coming decades – including the runway and terminals to serve an extra 52m passengers a year. Most of the work is due to be completed by 2035, and there is growing concern that the airport will have to raise charges significantly to pay the bills.

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Data shows the NOx produced by Heathrow planes is over double that produced by road vehicles

There is a widely held belief that Heathrow’s NO2 air pollution is largely due to road vehicles, and as long as measures can be taken to reduce these a bit, then a 3rd runway could be allowed. However, research indicates that the aircraft are producing even more NOx than the road vehicles, and there is far less that can be done to cut these emissions. Indeed, if there were to be almost 50% more Heathrow flights, the amount of NOx generated by the aircraft alone would mean a massive increase locally. That is not taking into account all the extra road traffic that would inevitably be generated by a larger Heathrow, including businesses etc that locate near the airport and all their traffic. The 2013 figures from a study for Heathrow, by Ricardo-AEA Ltd show the amount of NOx emitted from planes up to 1000 metres altitude was 2761 tonnes NOx/ year, and 1524 tonnes from aircraft on the ground (ie a total of 4285 tonnes/ year). Also 274 tonnes/year from other airport sources. Then 350 tonnes/year from Heathrow associated trips on main roads in a 11km x 11km area, and 1661 tonnes/ year from non-Heathrow associated traffic in that 11x11km area. (ie. a total of 2011 for all road traffic). So the amount of NOx from planes is way over twice the amount from road vehicles. And that ignores the NOx from planes in the wider area, over 1000 metres altitude.

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Friends of the Earth launches High Court legal challenge against Government decision on Heathrow runway NPS – on climate change

Friends of the Earth (FoE) believes the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement, (NPS) which backs building a Heathrow 3rd runway, fails to address the UK’s climate change obligations. So they have started formal legal action at the High Court. The legal action challenges the legal basis of the government’s decision to designate the NPS, which gives the go-ahead to a 3rd runway.  Lawyers Leigh Day, on behalf of FoE, have filed papers with the High Court – asking for the Airports NPS published in June to be quashed. They argue the NPS  is illegal because  • it does not explain how it takes account of domestic targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction under the Climate Change Act 2008; • it does not factor in the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C; • it fails to factor in the non-CO2 climate impacts of a 3rd runway, such as the emission of nitrogen oxides, which generate warming effects of a similar magnitude to CO2 emissions; and • it does not lawfully and fully consider the likely impact on future generations. A decision on whether there will be a full hearing about these issues is expected to be made this autumn.

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Climate Change charity Plan B begins legal action against Grayling over Government’s Heathrow expansion plans

Climate change campaign Plan B, has started legal action against Transport Secretary Chris Grayling over his plans for Heathrow expansion.  Plan B say the proposal breaches legal obligations in the Planning Act to alleviate the impact of climate change. Plan B join 4 other legal challenges against the runway plans (5 councils and Greenpeace UK, Heathrow Hub, a resident Neil Spurrier, and Friends of the Earth UK). Tim Crosland, Director of Plan B, said: ‘The Government has an express obligation under the Planning Act to promote sustainable development, with specific reference to the impacts of climate change. That means safeguarding the interests of current and future generations of UK citizens. Plan B says the NPS does not even consider the Government’s obligations under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change or that in April this year, the Government committed to a review of its climate targets in light of the Paris Agreement. Plan B’s legal action focuses exclusively on climate change impact.

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Lawyers acting for a consortium of local authorities and others have issued JR proceedings in the High Court re. Heathrow runway

Lawyers acting for a consortium of local authorities and others have now issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the Secretary of State for Transport, on the basis that he has unlawfully designated the Airports National Policy Statement [NPS] under the Planning Act 2008. The proceedings challenging the expansion of Heathrow airport have been brought by the London Boroughs of Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith and Fulham, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Greenpeace and the Mayor of London.  The grounds of challenge are on air quality, inadequate environmental assessment, climate change, surface access, breach of the habitats directive and a flawed consultation process. Councillor Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said: “Once again we have a government that is trying to avoid applying both the correct legal process and common sense to the question of airport expansion. The abject failure to address the far reaching consequences for both the environment and the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of residents across London is simply not acceptable.” The many flaws in the scheme need to be subjected to the rigorous scrutiny of the legal process, and its serious failings exposed.

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Lillian Greenwood, Chair of the Transport Committee, accuses Grayling of ignoring its Heathrow recommendations

The UK government has largely ignored recommendations from the Transport Select Committee, a key parliamentary body, about Heathrow’s 3rd runway scheme. The committee’s Chair, Lilian Greenwood, said this makes it more likely the courts will strike down the project. She said Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, “gave the impression that 24 of our 25 recommendations had been accepted”, but said his comments were just “rhetoric”. … “The reality was that only two or three of our recommendations were actually accepted. …“I suppose at best you could say that the government said they agreed with the spirit of our recommendations and would ensure those matters were dealt with in the [planning] process.” The committee’s recommendations, if the runway went ahead, included adopting stricter air-quality standards, setting a binding target to prevent more airport-related traffic and defining noise-pollution limits.  Now a Judicial Review of the government’s Airports NPS (ie. the Heathrow runway) by 5 local councils and Greenpeace, with the backing of the Mayor of London, is starting. If the courts overturn the government’s decision, it will “make the economic case on which Heathrow expansion is predicated less favourable”.  ie. not good for investors.

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Stop Stansted Expansion wants Uttlesford District Council to allow more time (not 31st August deadline) for consultation on airport expansion plans

Campaigners against plans to expand passenger numbers and flights at Stansted  are calling for more time for the public to consider new information about the plans.  Airport owner MAG is seeking permission to raise the upper threshold for passenger numbers and flights.  Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) argues Uttlesford District Council’s (UDC) August 31 deadline for comments on an extra 900 pages of information is not enough. SSE says the council and the airport owners were seeking to “rush through” the application, and corners were being cut.  SSE chairman Peter Sanders said: “This is an impossible deadline to achieve, unless Uttlesford only wants to receive superficial responses. Parish and town councils don’t even meet during August, nor does UDC council or cabinet. August is a lost month so far as a public consultation is concerned.  It is especially galling because Uttlesford caused this problem in the first place. The council should not have accepted such a deficient planning application back in February. It is a case of more haste, less speed.” SSE is pursuing a high court challenge aimed at transferring responsibility for determining the planning application from UDC to the Secretary of State.

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Heathrow runway rival – “Heathrow Hub” – launches legal challenge to DfT on its 3rd runway decision

The sponsor of a rival project to build a 3rd runway at Heathrow, Heathrow Hub, has started its challenge against the DfT for its decision to back the airport’s north-west runway scheme. Sky News has obtained a letter sent on Friday 27th July by lawyers acting for Heathrow Hub, ‎which paves the way for it to seek a full judicial review of the Government’s decision. They have engaged Martin Kingston QC, a planning expert at No5 Chambers, and Robert O’Donoghue, a prominent figure in cases of competition law from Brick Court, to fight its case. In the pre-action letter, the law firm DAC Beachcroft accused the DfT of failing to provide information about the Heathrow decision-making process sought under freedom of information (FoI) laws. It requested that the DfT’s Airports National Policy Statement (NPS)  be quashed on 5 principal grounds. These include a flawed understanding by ministers of the capacity for new air traffic movements created by extending the airport’s northern runway, to the west. Heathrow Hub also believes it was unlawful for the DfT to “effectively [give Heathrow] a veto” over their proposal (the airport always favoured their own scheme).  Heathrow Hub is a privately owned company, funded by a hedge fund manager. There is also the challenge by 5 councils and the Mayor London, and one by a private citizen, Neil Spurrier.

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Heathrow 2.5% rise in pax in 1st half of 2018, 5% rise in retail, 7% more on car parking cf. 2017

Though Heathrow always says it is almost full, in reality it has terminal capacity for many more. Its latest half year results, to the end of June, show the number of passengers increased by 2.5% to 38.1 million (half year). There are more larger planes, and the load factors are higher, now up 1% to 76.9% on average. Revenues for the 6 months were up 2.3% to £1.4 billion. Retail profits were up 5% to £206 million, far outstripping many high streets. Income from bars, restaurants and cafés was up by 11.5%. While trying to persuade politicians etc that it is not going to worsen already very bad air pollution with a new runway, Heathrow made 7% more from car parking in this first half, at £62 million. Car parking is very lucrative to the airport, while passengers arriving by public transport are not. Income from the Heathrow Express (owned by Heathrow) rail link (very expensive) from Paddington, fell by £2 million to £61 million. Spending more on security and the “passenger experience” cut pre-tax profits from £102 million to £95 million now. The payroll bill rose by nearly 2% to £183 million; operational & maintenance costs rose by nearly 9% to £223 million.

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Heathrow increases its debt by almost £1 billion (total net debt £13.7 bn) to protect it from a worst-case scenario Brexit

Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye has raised nearly £1bn in debt to keep it going through a “worst-case scenario” following a hard Brexit. He said this was equivalent to 2 full years’ funding, to give the airport the level of financial resilience for a worst-case scenario. He said he expected “something close to continuity” through a Brexit agreement, but “our funding levels . . . mean we are protected. Even if we have no income for two months, we would be financially safe.”  The debt deals, primarily refinancing, total £981m and take Heathrow’s total net debt to £13.7bn. A financial commented that this was an attitude of “let’s raise it while we can”, and a hard Brexit might raise fears over access to financial markets. Heathrow’s first half financial results showed a 2.3% increase in total revenue to £1.4bn compared with the 2017, but a 7% fall in pre-tax profit to £289m. Heathrow had spent money on more  operational investment, such as in facilities for disabled passengers and in keeping the airport going during snows this winter. Passenger numbers rose 2.5% to 38.1m, its busiest ever first half, by use of higher load factors. Heathrow expects to spend £160m this year on the expansion project.

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Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has served legal papers requiring the Government to take control of deciding the airport’s expansion plans

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has served legal papers requiring the Government to take control of deciding the latest Stansted Airport expansion proposals, or face proceedings in the High Court. This puts the Secretary of State for Transport on formal notice of a Judicial Review application if he fails to designate the airport’s planning application as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) within 14 days. Such a designation would mean the application would be considered nationally (a longer, more detailed, more thorough process) rather than by the local planning authority, Uttlesford District Council (UDC). The application for expansion at Stansted was submitted by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) on behalf of the airport last February. If approved it would mean a 44% increase in flights and a 66% increase in passengers compared to 2017 levels. From the outset, SSE fiercely opposed the attempt to rush through the application and has argued that the scale of the application – the threshold is 10 million more annual passengers – meant that it had to be determined nationally rather than by the local Council. Stansted is trying to put the increase at 8 million (35m to 43m) to avoid the NSIP process.

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Hillingdon Council Leader writes to residents to ensure they know the 3rd runway is not at all certain – despite HAL propaganda

Heathrow has been telling local residents that the 3rd runway is definitely going ahead, and people should act accordingly. However, now Hillingdon Council’s Leader, Ray Puddifoot, has written to residents to let them know that is not at all true. He says: “I have been informed by a number of residents in the Heathrow Villages that Heathrow Airport Ltd. (HAL) are producing  highly misleading and disingenuous propaganda regarding airport expansion that is causing unnecessary distress and  anxiety.  HAL are unashamedly frightening residents by informing them that Heathrow expansion will definitely be taking place  now that the Secretary of State has taken the decision, on 26th June 2018, to designate the Airports National Policy  Statement (NPS). For the avoidance of doubt Heathrow expansion is very far from certain. The designation of the NPS is not in any way tantamount to the grant of planning permission for Heathrow expansion. Instead, it acts as an umbrella’ for an  application for a Development Consent Order to be made by HAL. I can confirm that no such application has been made. In the circumstances, I would urge you and your fellow residents not to believe anything that HAL is saying and  certainly, no steps should be taken to market any properties in Heathrow Villages.”  And it continues ….

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Councils notify Secretary of State that they will seek Judicial Review of Government’s decision to approve Heathrow 3rd runway NPS

A group of local authorities has formally notified the Secretary of State for Transport that it intends to seek judicial review of the Government’s decision to give policy support in the Airports National Policy Statement (‘NPS’) for a 3rd Heathrow runway. The councils are challenging the Government on the grounds of air quality, climate change, and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) including failing properly to deal with the noise consequences and surface access impacts. On air quality they say, amongst other things, that the Government has misunderstood and misapplied the law on air quality. On surface access the councils say, amongst other things, that the NPS fails to recognise the scale of the challenge to accommodate additional trips without unacceptable effects on the transport network and unacceptable effects from traffic pollution. The Government must now respond to the councils’ formal letter before action. If the Transport Secretary does not agree to quash the NPS, the local authorities will bring judicial review proceedings.The Boroughs taking the legal action are Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Windsor & Maidenhead Council, and Hammersmith & Fulham.The group has also been joined by the Mayor of London and Greenpeace.

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Legal challenges against Heathrow runway plans – first chance for proper assessment of the NPS details – plans delay inevitable

Although MPs voted to back the Heathrow 3rd runway, lawyers say legal challenges are likely to substantially delay – by at least a year – the start of construction, even if they cannot prevent it.  As well as the legal challenge by 5 London councils, and the Mayor of London, that has now started, there will be one by “Heathrow Hub”, the rival runway scheme. The challenges will go to the High Court and could take up to 6 months. The losing party could then appeal to the Court of Appeal, and even if they lose there, they could then appeal to the Supreme Court. The legal process is the first opportunity for Heathrow expansion opponents to take the proposal for a 3rd runway to the High Court, and have all the issues properly assessed – not merely depending on information provided by and for the Department for Transport. There will also be a second opportunity to challenge the plans after the development consent order (DCO) is completed. Under the current plans, Heathrow intends to lodge its development consent order with the secretary of state in 2021, ahead of a 2025 completion date – but that could be delayed due to the legal challenges. Then there must be a General Election by 2022, which Labour might win – with no guarantee they would not oppose the runway plans.

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Windsor & Maidenhead Council sets aside further £100,000 (adding to £50,000 already) for Heathrow legal battle

A further £100,000 will be set aside to fund the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead’s [the Prime Minister’s own constituency] legal challenge against a 3rd Heathrow runway.  Council Leader Cllr Simon Dudley said on Friday, following a meeting with legal counsel and a vote within the ruling Conservative Group, that councillors had overwhelmingly agreed to take a stand against the proposed expansion. The Royal Borough is taking part in the legal challenge, alongside Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, and Hammersmith & Fulham local authorities and the Mayor of London to challenge the Government’s decision. Cllr Dudley said: “We’re putting another £100,000 in which is right at the top end of what we’ll need. We don’t put spending taxpayer’s money lightly and I have been clear that we won’t be caught up in frivolous legal action.” The additional money will be taken from the council’s cash reserves and will be added on to the £50,000 that has already been set aside for a potential legal challenge. The Government has left itself ‘wide open’ over its air quality obligations, and there is no clarity how adding the runway would comply with air quality limits. The DCO to build the runway would be derailed if the pending judicial review succeeds.

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5 issues surrounding the expansion of Heathrow the Staines area still doesn’t have answers to

A local newspaper in the Staines area has set out 5 key areas on which there are no assurances that Heathrow expansion will not be bad for their area. Areas like Stanwell Moor and Stanwell would be seriously affected by the addition of a 3rd runway, and they are angry and frustrated at the lack of clarity on exactly what expansion will mean for them. One issue is the WPOZ (Wider Property Offer Zone) where people have the opportunity to sell their homes to Heathrow for 125% their market value. Heathrow has remained tight lipped about the possible inclusion of the villages in the WPOZ, but has insisted all options remain on the table. On air and noise pollution, there is no clarity at all, and Heathrow continues (unsuccessfully) to try to give the impression there would be no increase to current amounts. On the Immigration Centre, the existing one in Harmondsworth would have to be demolished, but there is no indication where it might be relocated. Spelthorne Borough Council has insisted it is not built in the borough. There are also huge problems with the M25 and protection of the valuable Staines Moor SSSI area, which is home to endangered species of birds, and the possible diversion of the River Colne, which runs through the moor. Local MP Kwasi Kwateng, and Spelthorne Council still, despite all the negative impacts, back the runway …

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Heathrow trying to persuade doubters that it will not need public money to funds its plans and will not struggle to fund £14bn 3rd runway

Heathrow airport is denying it will struggle to fund its possible new £14bn runway, as there are concerns that taxpayers will have to help pay for one of Britain’s biggest infrastructure projects in decades. Paul Deighton, Heathrow’s chairman, has written to the CAA to “set the record straight” after noting “a continuing debate regarding the financials” of expansion. “We have an investment grade credit rating, and existing shareholders will invest equity to maintain this through the higher risk expansion period,” he said. “This is a very strong position from which to finance the expansion of Heathrow. There will be no cost to the taxpayer.”  [Don’t forget this comment!] However, it is likely to need higher landing charges and that taxpayers have to foot much of the bill. Heathrow is already £13.4bn in debt — not far shy of the £15bn value of its regulatory asset base. Equity was just £703m.  Much of the £14bn price of the runway would be borrowed money, and financing costs of that could be £2bn-£3bn over a 6-year construction period — might stretch the balance sheet to breaking point. These sums don’t include likely of cost overruns and legal claims. See here for Heathrow broken promise to never build a 3rd runway, made in 1999, and Heathrow saying (16.9.2014)  “The people who made those promises weren’t in a position to make these promises.”

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London City Airport may seek permission for more flights – up from its current cap of 111,000 per year

London City Airport is considering an application to raise limits on flights and passenger numbers, its boss has revealed. Chief executive Robert Sinclair believes the airport will approach existing caps on its operations in the next 3 – 4 years. London City Airport is trying to make out it is vital, in the years before Heathrow gets a 3rd runway (if it ever does, which is still fairly unlikely …) Sinclair said: “In the fullness of the next year or two we will be reflecting on the future and life beyond our current planning caps… We will be considering the potential options, which could include raising the caps.” The current limit is 6.5 million passengers and 111,000 flights per year. Annual passenger numbers have grown by 50% since 2012 and might be over 5 million next year. Annual air traffic movements currently stand at around 80,000.  Any bid to increase operational caps would be made to Newham Council. John Stewart, chairman of campaign group Hacan East, said: “Local residents would fight tooth and nail any attempt by London City to raise its limits on flights and passengers.  Many of them feel their lives are already blighted by planes from the airport.” The airport had no passenger increases in 2017 over 2016, and only 5% growth in 2016.

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Opinion: We need a responsible attitude to flying, not another Heathrow runway

Responsible Travel customer director Tim Williamson asks:  “Do we really need another runway at Heathrow? At Responsible Travel we don’t think so.”… “At some point we have to face the fact that the IATA predictions for the growth of air travel are not sustainable and will be very detrimental to the planet. The ability to jump on a plane at a very affordable price for most of the developed world and get to nearly all places on earth in less than a day is a wonderful privilege but it’s not a right and each flight has a consequence and that’s the increasing damage to our environment from aviation.” …”What we can start doing now is thinking about each flight we take and ask is it really necessary? We should all be thinking now about that short city break by air and looking at alternatives, especially if our choice is also fuelling the new concept of over-tourism where tourists and locals suffer as result of too many tourists. If we are travelling to a conference – is it really necessary that we are there in person?” …”If we are travelling for work do we need to be there in person? I’m sure most meetings that include air travel would be far less attractive if the company that paid for the ticket collected the air miles and points rather than the individual.”

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Committee on Climate Change says DfT must publish a plan, by summer 2019, to limit aviation CO2

The CCC’s report says a key action needed from the UK government by the first half of 2019 is to: “Publish a plan to limit UK aviation emissions to the level assumed when the fifth carbon budget was set (i.e. around 2005 levels in 2050, implying around a 60% potential increase in demand), supported by strong international policies.”. They say the UK’s 2050 target requires an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions including the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping (IAS) emissions. But if IAS is not included, all other sectors would have to cut their CO2 emissions by around 85% (cf. 1990)by 2050 – which the CCC do not believe is possible. The CCC say: “The Government have committed to publish a new Aviation Strategy in 2019. This will need to include a plan to limit UK aviation emissions to the level assumed when the 5th carbon budget was set (i.e. around 2005 levels by 2050, likely to imply around a 60% potential increase in demand), supported by strong international policies.”  UK aviation CO2 emissions were already at 35.5 Mt CO2 in 2016, having risen by 1.2% in that year over 2015. Aviation emissions will continue to rise, and rapidly exceed the 37.5MtCO2 cap. Around spring 2019 the CCC will set out its thinking on whether the CORSIA is an appropriate mechanism for formally including international aviation CO2 in carbon budgets.

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Explanation by Prof Alice Larkin of why UK aviation must fit within UK climate commitments – and Heathrow runway makes that hard

Alice Larkin, Professor of Climate Science and Energy Policy at The University of Manchester, and Dr John Broderick say the proposed 3rd Heathrow runway jeopardises the UK’s long term legal carbon commitments, including the 2015 Paris Agreement, given the absence of a policy framework for establishing long-term decarbonisation of the sector. They say rising aviation CO2 would need to be off-set by fuel-efficiency gains, the use of alternative carbon-neutral fuels or additional reductions in other sectors. But there are no mechanisms in place to guarantee this within the UK’s climate policy framework. For the UK to try to meet Paris targets, UK aviation emissions need to be greatly reduced, along with all other sectors. Even if there were effective carbon credits available for aviation, they would become scarce in coming decades as further CO2 cuts are ever more challenging for all sectors to achieve. There are substantial concerns about the wider effects of biofuel production  including their carbon balance; synthetic fuels are necessarily energetically costly to produce and requiring additional zero-carbon energy generation capacity – so neither can effectively cut aviation’s CO2 emissions. And there are no “negative emissions” technologies that work.

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IAG boss Willie Walsh says there is “zero” chance of Heathrow being able to build a 3rd runway by 2026 (or for £14bn)

Heathrow expects to have a 3rd runway built and operating by 2026 but the boss of IAG, Willie Walsh, believes there is “zero” chance of that happening.  He thinks there might be a 60% of it being built by 2028 – 2030.  He says the £14bn cost to build the runway is “perverse” and cast doubt on the airport’s ability to deliver the project. “I don’t believe that Heathrow Airport can build this in an efficient manner and a cost-effective manner. When you talk about an expected bill of £14bn sterling, it’s a perverse amount of money. It’s ridiculous. It’s outrageous. It has always been incentivised to spend money. The airport has a bizarre, perverse incentive to spend more money than it needs to because it gets remunerated based on the money they spend. …The airport hasn’t figured out how it will build over the top of the M25 and that is a challenge.” Mr Walsh, whose company holds the most coveted landing slots at Heathrow, wants a runway, but at a price that does not negatively impact his business. And he is not keen on a lot of new competition coming into Heathrow, to weaken his monopoly position.

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Heathrow runway after being voted for in Parliament. NEXT STOP: COURT, for the legal challenges …

Campaigners vow to stop plans to expand Heathrow airport once and for all in court, following a parliamentary vote in favour of a 3rd runway. The vote was 415 in favour, 119 against, with a majority of 296. Despite claims that over 75% of MPs support the plans, the actual number was much lower, at 63%, with 3 out of the 4 main political parties adopted a position against expansion. Labour, whilst offering a free vote, adopted a recommendation to vote against expansion, saying the plans failed to meet the party’s 4 tests. The SNP decided to abstain in the vote, stating they were ‘unconvinced’ by the government’s case for Heathrow expansion, whilst the Liberal Democrats remained strongly opposed to the plans. From the Government benches, Greg Hands, Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers voted against their party whip for the first time in 13 years. The No 3rd Runway Coalition believe that large infrastructure projects, which stretch well beyond the lifetime of one parliament, require strong cross-party unity in order to actually be delivered. The runway does not have that, and Heathrow’s shareholders will have noticed. There’s a long way to go before Heathrow can start knocking down villages or putting spades in the ground – the legal challenges can now begin …

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The government has won the Heathrow vote (Airports National Policy Statement) by 415 votes to 119.      Majority of 296.

See how each MP voted here

Justine Greening MP asked the Speaker whether for such an important matter, a debate of just 4 hours was enough. Speaker said he expected there would be many more debates on the Heathrow issue…


No 10 ‘fixes’ Heathrow runway vote to deliberately get it before MPs can read damning report on CO2 by the CCC

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, has scheduled the vote on a 3rd Heathrow runway just days before publication of a government report warning that surging aviation emissions would destroy Britain’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. It means MPs will have had no chance to read the report, from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on Thursday, before voting. The report will warn that aviation and other emissions are growing so fast that homeowners and businesses may have to sacrifice gas cookers, central heating boilers and petrol cars for Britain to meet its climate change targets. Andy McDonald, the Labour transport shadow secretary said this deliberately duplicitous timing was disgraceful.  Last year UK aviation emissions hit 37m tonnes, close to the pre-recession peak of 37.5m tonnes in 2005. The CCC says this must not be exceeded if the UK is to meet its 80% carbon reduction target. However, a report published on Grayling’s department website last week says aviation emissions will hit 43m tonnes of CO2 by 2030 if Heathrow expands. Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, has written to Grayling, saying CO2 levels higher than 37.5MtCO2 must not be planned for, since this would place an unreasonably large burden on other sectors.”

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Jonathan Ford (FT) on the serious financing doubts: “Who will pay for Heathrow airport’s £14bn 3rd runway?”

With the vote on a possible 3rd Heathrow runway expected on 25th June, Jonathan Ford and Gill Plimmer write, in the Financial Times, of the very serious doubts over how the runway could be funded. They say: “Most agree that this leveraged structure is wholly inappropriate to support a project as large as the 3rd runway. It offers no leeway for construction risk on what will be a highly complex engineering challenge. There is also the question of how Heathrow might meet the financing costs, which could run to £2bn-£3bn over the six-year construction period, assuming an interest rate of between 4 -7%.” And …”investors have been pulling out more in dividends than Heathrow has been earning. Last year they received a payout of £847m even though post tax profits were just £516m, implying that the corporate debt was used, in part, to fund these returns.” … And “A key question is how much debt the markets will lend against the £2bn of operating cash flow Heathrow expects to have by the time construction begins in 2019.” … The Airports Commission said it could saddle Heathrow with up to £27 billion of debt.  Ford also questions the opaque structure of Heathrow, with at least 10 corporate layers between Heathrow Airport Limited ….and shareholders.”

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Greg Hands (Chelsea & Fulham MP) quits government – on principle over May’s 3-line whip voting on Heathrow expansion

Junior trade minister Greg Hands (MP for Chelsea & Fulham)has resigned from the Conservative government to oppose expansion of Heathrow. The vote in Parliament on whether to build the runway  will be on Monday. Greg said he had pledged to his electorate to oppose a 3rd runway, at the 2017 election, and he would keep his word and honour his pledges.  The borough would be badly over-flown if Heathrow was allowed to expand.  It had been thought that ministers with constituencies directly affected could have been allowed to miss the vote. However, the Government will be whipping the vote. The highest profile opponent of Heathrow expansion in the cabinet is Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, who once pledged to lie down in front of bulldozers to stop it happening. However, in a cowardly and discreditable manner, he is shirking his responsibilities to stand up to his claims, by engineering an overseas appointment on Monday, to be out of the country. [Snout too firmly in trough, and enjoying his important high kudos job ….] Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson suggested on Twitter that Mr Hands’ resignation should prompt the prime minister to allow her MPs a free vote. Greg has, in the past, held a range of other responsible ministerial roles.

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Mayor, Sadiq Khan, ready to join legal action by Councils against 3rd runway at Heathrow

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will join the legal action brought by local councils (Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor & Maidenhead)against Heathrow expansion if Parliament votes in favour of a 3rd runway on 25th June. (Hammersmith and Fulham Council has also recently indicated they would join.)  Sadiq has reiterated his opposition to the Government’s decision to back Heathrow expansion and emphasised the significant environmental and noise impacts that a third runway would have on Londoners’ lives, as well as concerns about funding necessary transport improvements. To date, TfL have provided valuable technical support to the local councils. The Government has failed to show any plans for how it will fund the billions of pounds needed to improve road and rail connections to the airport and prevent huge congestion across the transport network. TfL estimates approximately £15bn more investment will be needed when necessary new rail and road links are taken into account, and TfL (Londoners) would have to find the money. The comprehensive recommendations on the NPS by the Transport Select Committee have also not been accepted by Government.

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Labour says Heathrow runway does NOT meet the 4 vital tests – calls on all parties to have a free vote on the NPS

The Labour Party has announced that the Government’s final proposal for an Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), laid before Parliament earlier this month, fails to meet Labour’s Four Tests for Heathrow expansion.  Their support for a 3rd Heathrow runway has always been conditional on 4 well-established tests being met. The 4 tests are (1). That increased capacity will be delivered. (2) That we can meet our CO2 reduction commitments. (3) Minimise noise and local environmental impact. (4). Benefits of expansion felt across the regions of the UK, not just the South East and London.  Labour’s analysis of the NPS finds that none of these tests have been met. Labour is therefore calling for a free vote for all parties on the issue (likely on 25th June).  Andy McDonald MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said: “Heathrow expansion is incompatible with our environmental and climate change obligations and cannot be achieved without unacceptable impacts on local residents. The improved connectivity to the regions of the UK cannot be guaranteed and there are unanswered questions on the costs to the public purse and the deliverability of the project.” Some Labour MPs back the runway, as do unions like Unite, that are always in hope of any prospect of jobs.

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The DfT’s own figures show a Heathrow 3rd runway plan has no effective benefit to the UK. The benefit predicted has decreased each time it is re-calculated

This is taking the “Net Present Value” which is the correct measure to use, taking into account all benefits, and subtracting all costs (figures bandied about like £74 billion etc are benefits only – no costs deducted, so highly misleading).

The NPV was allegedly £+11.8 billion (for ALL the UK, over 60 years), in the Airports Commission’s Final Report assessment (Page 147) in July 2015.

It was down to £+0.2 to £+6.1 billion, in the Further Review and Sensitivities Report by the DfT (Page 39  Table 7.1) in October 2016.

It was then down again to between £-2.2 to £+3.3 billion in the DfT document of October 2017, the Updated Appraisal Report on the NPS (P.44 Table 9.2). 

And now in the final version of the NPS, that the government wants MPs to vote on shortly, the benefit (NPV) is just between £-2.5 to £+2.9 billion, in the DfT’s Addendum to the Updated Appraisal Report (Page 10  Table 3.1).


Justine Greening: Government must rethink Heathrow expansion plans, with a proper national aviation policy

Justine Greening, writing in the Yorkshire Post, says it is unacceptable for the government to be pressing ahead with the Heathrow runway, despite logic – and without a UK aviation policy. She says: “…there’s nothing national about the Airports “National Policy Statement” proposed by the DfT. The third runway proposal at Heathrow is a 20-year-old hub proposal that’s entirely unrelated to the world of direct, point to point flights we live in today.” … It’s bad for northerners. “Pay more to get to Heathrow, then pay more to get on a plane at an expensive expanded Heathrow. … It’s a triple whammy for the Northern Powerhouse and Yorkshire region, because a bigger Heathrow means smaller regional airports. …The DfT’s own analysis … shows that regional airports – Leeds Bradford, Doncaster and Manchester – will lose over 26,100 international flights every year by 2030 because of Heathrow expansion….And there’s a 4th whammy. Heathrow Airport will consume £10-15bn of transport spend” for surface transport for Heathrow.  She concludes: “MPs need to look at the detail locally and nationally, ask questions to Ministers as to why this proposal so badly undermines our crucial regional airports, vote against it and then demand a proper UK-wide airports strategy that works for all of us, wherever we live.”

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CCC writes to Grayling to remind him of UK’s climate commitments, expressing concern about NPS silence on allowing rising aviation CO2 emissions

The Committee on Climate Change have written to Chris Grayling to reiterate that the UK has a legally binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Change Act, and the Paris Agreement. They say: “We were surprised that your statement to the House of Commons on the NPS on 5 June 2018 made no mention of either of these commitments. It is essential that aviation’s place in the overall strategy for UK emissions reduction is considered and planned fully by your Department.”  Under the CCC’s advice, the aviation sector would be allowed to keep its CO2 emissions at no more than their level in 2005, by 2050. That means aviation’s share of total UK CO2 emissions would already increase from about 2% to around 25%. Even that means “all other sectors must reduce emissions by more than 80%, and in many cases will likely need to reach zero….Higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 must not be planned for, since this would place an unreasonably large burden on other sectors”. The CCC say: “We look forward to the Department’s new Aviation Strategy in 2019, which we expect will set out a plan for keeping UK aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels by 2050. To inform your work we are planning to provide further advice in spring 2019.”

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DfT’s own figures, (suitably hidden in an addendum, hard to find, not in the main NPS) shows effectively ZERO Net Present Value to the UK of a 3rd Heathrow runway

From this DfT document.  June 2018. Page 10.

The figure takes into account all the costs of the runway, in the proper government methodology, rather than just considering the benefits – ignoring costs (which is what the DfT does in its Heathrow promotional material, eg. the main NPS document).

DfT gives a figure of £74 billion benefit, knowing the NPV value is actually around ZERO

This kind of information is concealed, deliberately, by the DfT – as they know most politicians, business people, MPs etc will NOT have the time to read through all NPS associated documents. The figures the DfT want MPs to see are in the main June 2018 NPS document. That says (Page 23) …”total benefits (not including wider trade benefits) of up to £74 billion over 60 years for the Northwest Runway scheme.”

The details are always in subsidiary documents, that are very hard to locate, off the DfT website. Shocking.

The (June 2018)  -£2.5 bn up to a maximum +£2.9 bn is even lower than the figures of -£2.2bn up to +£3.3 bn from the equivalent  DfT document of October 2017. (P 44)


Government accused by Councils of ignoring Transport Select Committee recommendations in final Heathrow NPS

Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Windsor &Maidenhead, and Richmond Councils have accused the government of misleading MPs on the Heathrow runway plans (the Airports NPS). They say the government has only incorporated 3 out of 25 of the recommendations by the Transport Select Committee (TSC) recommendations into the final NPS, while trying to give the impression it has taken far more account of them. Chris Grayling told the Commons (5th June) that 24 of the 25 recommendations had been “acted upon” and that expansion at Heathrow had been agreed by the Cabinet. The 4 councils are calling on Mr Grayling to return to Parliament and explain to MPs why the TSC advice has been brushed aside. The Councils need to see a definition of an acceptable maximum number of people newly exposed to plane noise, by a 3rd runway. Among their demands, they want assurance that planning approval would only be granted if the target for no more airport-related traffic can be met.  Also a more stringent interpretation of air quality compliance including ‘headroom’ to manage future increases in pollution – and clarity on how the requirement for 15% of new slots will be secured for domestic connections, rather than just warm, woolly wording.

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Hammersmith & Fulham Council will join the 4 councils’ legal challenge against Heathrow 3rd runway

Hammersmith & Fulham Council has vowed to keep fighting plans for a third runway at Heathrow, even if Parliament votes in favour of it. The council has said it will seek to join any legal challenge against a decision in favour of expanding the west London airport – a move the council says would subject residents to a mire of misery and pollution. Council Leader Stephen Cowan said:  “We absolutely refuse to sit back and let such a potentially catastrophic decision be made without a fight, We’ve made our stance very clear; a third runway at Heathrow would mean more noise for residents already suffering noise disturbance, more pressure on our roads and an unacceptable increase in air pollution. If we need to take legal action, we will, as the environmental cost of meekly accepting a decision in favour of expansion, would be far worse.” In 2014, H&F Council set up a resident-led commission to investigate the potential effects of expansion on residents’ lives. It reported back that the overall impact of Heathrow expansion would be negative, with any benefits unlikely to be felt by those in H&F.

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Anti-Heathrow protesters stage hunger strike against Heathrow 3rd runway plans, asking people to lobby their MPs to vote against it

On Saturday 9th, campaigners from the Vote NO Heathrow campaign started a hunger strike, to draw attention to the huge risk that MPs might vote in favour of a 3rd Heathrow runway. The vote is likely in the next two weeks. Over 30 campaigners gathered outside the London HQ of the Labour party in Victoria Street, for the start of the hunger strike by 5 of them. They intend to continue not to eat for as long as their health permits, and if possible until the vote in Parliament.  Earlier in the week, 8 campaigners were arrested outside the building for using chalk spray on the pavement and the glass windows, to highlight their message. The vote of the Labour party is crucial, and it is hoped that MPs will appreciate that the runway fails the 4 tests Labour has set for it, and impose a 3-line whip. The Tories may impose a 3-line whip in favour of the runway. The Vote NO Heathrow campaign wants as many people as possible to write to their MP – of whichever party – to ask them to vote against the runway. There are many important arguments, why the runway should be opposed (more details below) but these could be summarised as economic problems, UK region problems, noise, air pollution and increased carbon emissions.

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FT’s Jonathan Ford on massive doubts over Heathrow’s ability to fund its runway – without huge subsidy from taxpayers

Jonathan Ford, the City Editor of the Financial Times (who knows a thing or two about finance) on the Heathrow runway scheme. It would cost at least £14 billion (probably more with inevitable over-spends), and as Heathrow is already the most expensive airport in Europe, its ability to claw back money is limited – anyway, it cannot get airlines and passengers to pay until the runway is built and operating. Despite sales of some of its airports, totalling more than £4bn, its debt was still £13.4 billion in 2017.  And “Heathrow’s 2017 accounts record a dividend of £847m for shareholders last year on after-tax profits of just £516m, implying that dividends were partially funded by taking on yet more corporate debt.” Shareholders are not going to be happy to receive almost no dividend for several years. “Heathrow might try to ease the burden by discreetly pressing for public subsidy, figuring that once the state is committed to the 3rd runway it will not want to see the project come off the rails. The government should stand firm. Its decision to pick the most expensive of three runway options on the table was always predicated on the idea that all could be financed without state support.”

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London Assembly reaffirms strong opposition to Heathrow 3rd runway

The London Assembly has reaffirmed its opposition to a 3rd Heathrow runway. It has agreed unanimously on a motion asserting its opposition. Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dem) who proposed the motion said: “The case for a 3rd Heathrow runway is based on a number of false claims, … a 3rd runway will create noise disturbance for a further 300,000 people and add to higher levels of air pollution in parts of London where air pollution already exceeds illegal levels. We can ensure we retain international connections without following the foolish option of the incredibly expensive third Heathrow runway.  A third Heathrow runway comes at a huge price that is simply not worth paying for.” Léonie Cooper (Labour) said the runway would “have a far-reaching impact on almost a million London households within the next 30 years….the current plans to mitigate its adverse effects on the surrounding environment and the health and social wellbeing of local communities are inadequate. It is clear that the potential costs and risks to Londoners outweigh the projected economic benefits of the expansion … the Government’s decision should be robustly opposed”. The Assembly “asks the Mayor to join with us to ensure that this threat to the health and environment of Londoners does not materialise.”

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Political fight over Heathrow brewing for the SNP (35 MPs in Parliament) in Scotland

With the final vote on a 3rd Heathrow runway expected within about 2 weeks, the political fight is intensifying, as the SNP have their conference on 8th and 9th June. It is important for the Heathrow vote, as the SNP (with 35 MPs) hold a potentially critical role – if they were to vote against the runway, it might be stopped – or only won by a tiny margin. Heathrow continues to throw money and the weight of its corporate lobbying at the SNP, schmoozing them at the conference, with an invitation-only event – as it has done at the other political conferences, trying to buy support and persuade MPs. By contrast with the hospitality and honey-tongued words by Heathrow in the conference, 3 residents who would lose their homes if the expansion goes ahead, drove for 13 hours overnight from Harmondsworth – to focus on engaging with SNP party members and politicians going into the conference. They spoke to several hundred, putting the case that the SNP should not be led astray by the promises of Heathrow – and many expressed concern at the party’s position of support for the runway,  due to environmental concerns and a preference to see the development of further direct air links from Scottish airports, and a dedicated air freight hub in Scotland.

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Simon Jenkins on Heathrow: Government support for this polluting 3rd runway is macho folly

Characteristically brilliant and incisive article by Simon Jenkins. Well worth reading it all. Just a few snippets here:  “The building of a third runway at Heathrow must be the worst decision taken by a British government in modern times. There is nothing in it but private profit for a Spanish company that appears to have the British cabinet in thrall. That a rich European city should expand rather than contract a major airport in a built-up area defies belief. … The project will further congest and pollute what is already one of the most choking parts of the capital. Its air quality is illegal. The runway will suck economic activity into London, and away from the provinces. It will cost billions in public money. It is so expensive that even Heathrow’s old ally, British Airways, now opposes it. … Air travel is overwhelmingly for leisure. Airports talk of “business use” because they are ashamed being part of the tourism industry, which Grayling never once mentioned. …Grayling promises that the new runway will not go ahead if Heathrow does not “meet the UK’s air quality commitment”. But he knows it won’t. He knows neither his department nor Heathrow has ever kept a promise of this sort. … [runway decision] resting not on its merits, but on whether Theresa May had the guts to push it through.”

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Labour knows the Heathrow 3rd runway plans fail their 4 tests – so may vote against the NPS

Theresa May’s plans for Heathrow expansion are facing an unpredictable Commons vote after Labour indicated that the runway plans do not pass its four key tests. These require (1). noise issues to be addressed, (2). air quality to be protected, (3). the UK’s climate change obligations met and (4). growth across the country supported.  Labour may refuse to vote for the plans when they come before MPs for a vote on the National Policy Statement (NPS) – ie. the runway  – in the next 3-4 weeks. With Boris Johnson expected to be (so convenient …) “out of the country” and several Tory MPs voting against it, the government needs Labour and the SNP to vote in favour. However, Jeremy Corbyn’s office said the issues of air pollution, noise for residents, regional connections and greater capacity were crucial. The revised NPS, published on 5th June, is barely changed from the draft and does not include measures that convincingly pass the 4 tests. This suggests that Labour could either whip a vote against the 3rd runway plans or at least order its MPs not to back the Government. The SNP has not so far indicated if it will vote in favour, though they have become aware that the Heathrow runway is likely to damage Scotland and its airports. Labour and SNP MPs are concerned about yet more money being spent on London, rather than in the regions, and on the possible vast cost to taxpayers.

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Heathrow expansion will mean less direct international flights for Yorkshire, analysis shows

The Government faces considerable uncertainties in trying to push through the plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway, and get enough MPs to vote for it. Labour may oppose the plans, and  analysis showed northern airports will lose out on thousands of international flights if Heathrow got a 3rd runway. The government hopes they can mislead the SNP with pledges of huge benefits from the runway, based on out-of-date figures for possible economic benefit from the runway, and crazily calculated (back of envelope, starting with the wrong number) calculations about possible future jobs. It is likely that Leeds Bradford Airport would see 4,449 fewer international flights a year by 2030 if the 3rd runway went ahead. Doncaster Sheffield Airport would lose 1,413 while the North’s major hub – Manchester – would lose 20,258.  Keighley MP John Grogan, who requested the figures from the Commons Transport Committee, said Heathrow expansion would mean Britain’s regions losing out. The Labour MP also questioned the Government’s pledge to ring-fence 15% per cent of slots on the new runway for domestic connections to the rest of the UK. This can only happen if they are subsidised, and these flights almost always run at a loss.

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SNP “promised” 16,000 new jobs if it backs 3rd runway – but that figure is crazily inflated – as Heathrow & DfT well know

The Conservative government may need the SNP’s support if some of its MPs rebel against the new Heathrow runway – which is likely. The SNP will demand guaranteed extra slots for Scottish flights into London in return for the party’s support for the 3rd runway.  Ian Blackford, the head of the SNP’s parliamentary group in London, said the party had not taken a decision on runway yet – and would only do so if Scotland stood to benefit. Their backing may not be guaranteed, though that had been assumed – particularly after Keith Brown, Scotland’s infrastructure secretary, believed there might be 16,000 Scottish jobs, created by the project. That figure of 16,000 jobs is what Heathrow has, for several years, been peddling. Along with similarly inflated claims for all the regions. The number was derived by a consultancy called Quod, in a flimsy little 4 page paper, with no methodology, no date, no author etc. It is based on the assumption that Heathrow would provide an economic benefit (NPV) to the UK, over 60 years, of £147 billion. That number is now known to actually be about £3.3 billion, at best (if not a negative number). The SNP would be very ill-advised to believe Scotland will benefit; in reality its airports would be damaged by allowing the runway. Tragic if they vote in favour of it, because they have not checked out the facts properly.

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Government deal to bail out Heathrow if runway plan fails – possible massive cost to taxpayers

Back in October 2016, the government did a deal (The Statement of Principles) with Heathrow (HAL), in which there are clauses implying the government would bail out any costs to the airport, if it does not finally get government approval to expand. There is no end date for the agreement. Though the document states it is non-binding, the wording is ambiguous – a gold-mine for lawyers? Justine Greening revealed this massive risk to taxpayers in Parliament, saying Heathrow “have somehow managed to get a poisoned pill agreed by DfT that means the taxpayer has to cover all their costs if things go wrong.  Isn’t this the worst kind of nationalisation? The public sector and taxpayers bearing all the Heathrow downsides and risks but the private sector owning all of the upside and financial returns.” The Statement of Principles says:  “HAL reserves its rights (including but not limited to its rights to pursue any and all legal and equitable remedies (including cost recovery) available to it under law) in the event of: …. The withdrawal of the Government’s support for aviation expansion for Heathrow Airport only after the Secretary of State has stated that HAL’s Scheme is the scheme it prefers in accordance with paragraph 1 of Part 1.”  This was only mentioned in passing in the NPS and Justine is seek urgent clarity of the clause, in order to give an opportunity for the issue to be discussed in the House of Commons before MPs vote on the NPS proposal – within 3 weeks. 

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As expected, Government approves outline plan for a 3rd Heathrow runway – which will then face legal challenge

Cabinet ministers have today given the official go-ahead for Heathrow expansion. This was never in doubt, as it is government policy. The NPS (now no longer a draft) was “laid before” Parliament, so now MPs will have to vote on them within 21 Parliamentary sitting days. ie.  before Monday 9th July. Simon Dudley, leader of Windsor and Maidenhead borough council, said a coalition of four local authorities and Greenpeace would seek a legal review of the plans for a Heathrow 3rd runway, if MPs vote for the plans, as they are. approve unchanged plans. The councils (Windsor & Maidenhead, Wandsworth, Richmond and Hillingdon – some of the boroughs worst affected by Heathrow noise and other impacts) want the government to “satisfactorily address concerns” over noise and air pollution. Mr Dudley said the councils will look at the proposals to see whether their significant concerns on flight paths, “respite”,  night flights and air pollution have been addressed. If they have not, there will be a legal challenge. Greenpeace and the authorities contend new evidence on the severe health impacts of air and noise pollution makes the expansion of Heathrow far less likely to pass a review.

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Do listen to this remarkable bit of video – a caller to LBC Radio, from Windsor.

5.6.2018
There is plane coming in to Heathrow, over her house, about one per minute. The call to the radio station very clearly shows just what level of noise people living there have to put up with.   The UK government is not bothered by the impact of a larger Heathrow on hundreds of thousands of people, who live under its flight path. It is unconcerned about quality of life of those residents whole lives are blighted, and whose health is at risk, from a larger airport.
But in its blind Brexit panic, the government hopes building another Heathrow runway will somehow – not clear how – sort out the post-Brexit problems for the UK.   Bonkers.


Cabinet economic committee set for Heathrow 3rd runway decision, followed by Cabinet decision, followed by vote in Parliament within 21 working days

5.6.2018

Controversial plans (the draft Airports NPS) for a 3rd Heathrow runway are set to be approved by ministers today, with the Cabinet’s economic sub-committee, chaired by Theresa May, signing off the plans. These would then be approved by the full Cabinet. Then the NPS is laid before Parliament, with a vote on it within 21 working day.  The timing is awkward, with Brexit issues dominant and divisions in government already, without adding this extra, deeply contentious, issue. Boris Johnson is the only Cabinet minister who is deeply opposed. But many Tory backbenchers are against it, and it is anticipated they will be complaining loudly in the coming weeks. Labour is divided on the issue, with many blindly accepting the myths of jobs and economic growth the runway (allegedly) might produce. Labour know the runway plans cannot pass the 4 tests they set for it.  The government doesn’t have a majority and remember, and wants to get this plan through the Commons by the end of June. If they can, it will be a demonstration of “look, we are getting on with things, it’s not just Brexit!”

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Call for the Competition & Markets Authority to investigate Heathrow, and its market power

The No 3rd Runway Coalition has written to Lord Andrew Tyrie, the new chair of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), asking why the proposed expansion of Heathrow has not been scrutinised by the competition authorities. Heathrow is, by far, already the largest and busiest airport in the country. And with even proponents of the scheme accepting that Heathrow expansion would impact significantly on the smaller regional airports in the market, the letter suggests that competition authorities have been inactive. This is particularly surprising because the Competition Commission (the antecedent authority of the CMA) had stated that Heathrow already enjoyed such “substantial market power” that it would require further review and regulation, in future – even without a third runway. That situation would be far worse with a 50% larger Heathrow.  Back in 2008, the then BAA had to sell off airports because it was seen to have too much market power – it sold Gatwick in October 2009, Edinburgh April 2012 and Stansted in January 2013 . The current government proposal to expand Heathrow would simply recreate that monopoly position, perhaps in an even worse form.

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Airlines do not want Heathrow to have control of building a 3rd runway – perhaps a “Buildco” instead?

British Airways and other airlines are hoping to take over building the possible 3rd Heathrow runway from the airport’s owner, because they do not want costs to escalate.  They do not think the government or CAA has enough control over Heathrow to ensure it controls the costs of the massive expansion project. Passenger charges and investor returns are based on the total value of Heathrow’s assets, (RAB) and this gives the perverse incentive for the airport not to keep its spending low.  The more it spends, the more its owners can earn. An investigation by The Sunday Times in March highlighted widespread concerns over Heathrow’s bloated spending. Willie Walsh (CEO of IAG) told the Transport Committee’s inquiry in February that he had “zero” confidence that Heathrow’s operating company would deliver the project on time and on budget. He said it would be foolish to sign a “blank cheque”. To try to calm the airlines’ fears, and get them behind the runway plans, the airlines are proposing a special-purpose company, known as a “Buildco”, to deliver the project; Heathrow and the airlines would buy stakes in it. The government is trying to reassure the airlines by slightly increasing the CAA’s remit and powers.

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Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG (the main airlines using Heathrow) giving evidence at the Transport Select Committee, on the draft Airports NPS (National Policy Statement).  He and his airlines have NO confidence in the plans for a 3rd Heathrow, or the costs.  Details here

Heathrow expansion will increase landing charges. See these short video clip extracts from evidence given to the Commons Transport Committee on the draft Airports NPS (ie. Heathrow 3rd runway plans). Heathrow admits it is likely to put up costs.

More details of the evidence session at http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2018/02/airlines-tell-transport-committee-of-their-alarm-over-blank-cheque-for-heathrow-3rd-runway/ 


Conservative MPs including Boris Johnson & Justine Greening are threatening to rebel over Heathrow 3rd runway – with draft NPS laid before Parliament by mid-June

The Times has published a list, by Justine Greening MP, of 8 key reasons why there should NOT be a 3rd Heathrow runway.  Times journalists also comment that it is likely the government will present the revised draft Airports NPS  (ie. Heathrow runway proposal) to Parliament within two weeks.  MPs then have to vote on the NPS within 21 sitting days – so in order to get all this through Parliament before the summer recess (starts 20th July) they have to start soon…  Once the NPS has been approved, and adopted, the legal challenges against it can start. Only if Heathrow wins those can it start on details of planning its expansion. Justine Greening has been a long-term vociferous opponent of the runway. Boris Johnson has also been deeply opposed to it, but has not dared say anything publicly since being elevated to being Foreign Secretary.  When there is a vote, Theresa May might be forced to rely on opposition parties to pass the runway plan, though Labour is also threatening to withhold support. The vote will come soon after a series of bruising debates over the EU Withdrawal Bill, with Downing Street reluctant to expend political capital on anything other than Brexit.

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A 3rd Heathrow runway would benefit the few, not the many: Labour should oppose it

The government has apparently committed itself to backing the Heathrow 3rd runway, which will destroy local communities and make Heathrow far and away the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Labour has prevaricated and not yet taken a position on the runway issue. But it is now high time Labour took a stand against it. A hangover from the New Labour era is that there remain a number of Labour MPs who see backing a third runway as party policy. They support the runway for historic reasons and are reluctant to listen to the increasingly disparaging analysis of the project. Due to the huge rise in UK aviation CO2 emissions the runway would help generate, and its disproportionate social impacts, Labour should be opposing it. The runway cannot satisfy Labour’s four tests which the party has stipulated as the necessary basis for any support – so Labour should be obliged to oppose Heathrow expansion. The party should stick by its values, looking after citizens, rather than being driven by financial profit and more holidays for a privileged few.

People are encouraged to write to their MP and ask them to oppose Heathrow expansion at the vote in June. Everyone is welcome to the Vote No Heathrow open meeting on 12 June in London to learn more.

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Heathrow expansion under more scrutiny as Grayling broadens CAA’s oversight, trying to reassure airlines on runway costs

The Government has put more pressure on Heathrow to limit its expansion costs after broadening powers which enable the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the aviation industry regulator, to more closely scrutinise the airport’s plans. The airlines, and IAG in particular, are deeply sceptical about the cost of the 3rd runway, and how expensive it will be for them. They have no faith in Heathrow to be able to build its runway etc, for a reasonable price. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the CAA would now be able to seek views on the expansion of Heathrow from a wider range of stakeholders, and would also be able to benchmark the price of the project against international comparisons. The CAA’s oversight powers will see the regulator able to get the views of airlines which don’t yet operate from Heathrow, but hope to do so in future. Heathrow has already tried to make £2.5 billion savings in its plans, as the airlines refuse to stomach the £17 billion price. Willie Walsh (CEO of IAG) said: “Heathrow is a monopoly with a history of gold-plating facilities and very high airport charges …. Benchmarking its cost proposals against similar schemes is critical and very welcome. It is imperative that Heathrow provides a full, detailed cost breakdown for expansion before Parliament votes on it this summer.”

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Heathrow and Grayling get business to lobby Theresa May (yet again) for fast decision in favour of 3rd runway

A number of business lobby groups have signed a letter to Theresa May, saying the government needs to “get on with expanding the UK’s airport capacity”. The letter has only been sent, due to Heathrow – and Chris Grayling – lobbying the companies to send it.  The same business groups have lobbied many times before, in favour of the 3rd runway. The claim is that, (despite all the financial uncertainties, the fact Heathrow is in the wrong location, and its immensely damaging environmental impacts) the runway will somehow help Britain cope with the problems Brexit will cause. The groups that put their name to the letter were the Confederation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, the EEF – The Manufacturers’ Organisation, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and airport expansion lobby group London First. The timing of the letter, which has been published by Heathrow, is particularly important, because Heathrow wants the required vote to approve the draft Airports NPS (ie. the Heathrow 3rd runway) to go ahead as planned before September because then MPs will be more pre-occupied with Brexit. .

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The true aircraft noise impacts of an expanded Heathrow means at least 973,000 households, or 2.2million people, would be impacted.

Chris Grayling dodged these facts presented by @RuthCadbury & @AdamAfriyie at transport questions in Parliament on 19th April.  https://www.parliamentlive.tv/…/32239dd3-409c-4e11-a7f2-4e7…… (9.47 mins in till 9.51 )

Grayling merely gave a response, written for him ?? by the DfT, with the usual stuff. He admits there will be more noise “for a few years” after the 3rd runway would open, before a new generation of “quieter” planes come into service. He seems to believe they will all be new “quiet” planes by the early 2030s. (But new planes take years to come into service, and older planes have at least a 30 year lifespan …)_

And these new “quieter” planes are only a few decibels less noisy than older generation ones. To the person hearing them, living below flight paths, it is still a very noisy plane going overhead (even if a fraction less than planes a decade or more earlier). Grayling, Sugg etc really seem not to understand the issues. They badly want NOT to understand the problem!


Spelthorne sets out list of demands for Heathrow to protect its residents – if there was a 3rd runway

Spelthorne Council has been a backer of Heathrow expansion for some time, as has its MP, Kwasi Kwateng. Now the council has set out a list of 10 demands from Heathrow, if there is a 3rd runway, n its response to its recent consultation.  These include a  requirement that residents in Stanwell Moor and Stanwell join the Wider Property Offer Zone (WPOZ) and that no immigration centre is built in the borough. They want to “secure the best possible outcomes for our residents and businesses, in particular those most affected in Stanwell Moor and Stanwell.” Some of the demands are that residents will be able to either stay in the area or sell their homes to Heathrow for 125% their market value. Also that Heathrow will pay for the introduction of a Controlled Parking Zone across Stanwell and Stanwell Moor, so residents would not have to pay for a fee for their annual parking permit. The Council wants community legacy benefits so Heathrow will “fully mitigate and compensate for the disruption, loss of open space, additional traffic, air quality and noise impacts, and removal of community buildings.” They want Heathrow to build an “enhanced multi-purpose community hall” and a new leisure centre for the community. And demands on surface access, noise, air quality, Staines Moor and much else besides.

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AEF comment on the DfT’s Aviation Strategy – environmental impacts must be central to policy, not an add-on

The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) has commented on the Government’s Aviation Strategy, produced on 7th. They say that while the UK aspires “to be a world leader in aviation when it comes to facilities and services, the same cannot be said for environmental protection, at least when it comes to climate change. A world-class package of environmental protection doesn’t currently seem to be on the agenda.” They say “The Aviation Strategy objectives should include an environmental objective that is not wrapped up in a commitment to growth, and the implications of this objective should be considered from the start.” AEF reiterate that aviation’s “unlimited growth is incompatible with achieving environmental commitments” and the DfT is not even questioning whether aviation growth was a positive outcome to aim for. Instead of the 3 separate consultations on aspects of UK aviation policy over the next 18 months, (with environment at the end) there will be a single Green Paper this autumn. The AEF hopes this allows for environmental impacts to be considered throughout the period of policy development and not as an afterthought (as it originally appeared). The DfT policy is focused on airline passengers and improving the service to them, but it should instead be in the interest of the whole population, including those affected by airports and aircraft.

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Aviation now contributes 4.9% of climate change worldwide

Work by the IPCC now estimates that aviation accounted for 4.9% of man-made climate impacts in 2005. This contrasts with the 2% figure that is constantly quoted by aviation lobbyists, and 3% which the same authors quoted two years ago. They have now revised their estimates with 2 important changes: including for the first time estimates of cirrus cloud formation and allowing for aviation growth between 2000 and 2005. The effect of these is to increase aviation’s impacts to 3.5% without cirrus and 4.9% including cirrus. 23.5.2009  More  …


Committee on Climate Change.

4th Carbon Budget UK should commit to a 60% cut in emissions by 2030 as a contribution to global efforts to combat climate change.

Aviation emissions must be no higher in 2050 than in 2005, and to do this, all other sectors must cut by 85% by 2050 to allow aviation to grow by 60%

The Committee on Climate Change today recommended a Carbon Budget for 2023-27 and a target for emissions reductions in 2030 – halfway between now and 2050. The recommended target for 2030, to cut emissions by 60% relative to 1990 levels (46% relative to current levels), would then require a 62% emissions reduction from 2030 to meet the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act. The Carbon Budget says international aviation and shipping should be included, and it is vital that UK aviation emissions in 2050 are no higher than in 2005.  Also that, as technologies to cut aviation emissions are not readily available, other sectors of the economy will need to cut by 85% in 2050 in order to let aviation grow by 60%.  7.12.2010  More ….. . . .