David Cameron to give his provisional support to estuary airport
Cameron is expected to offer his provisional support to Boris’s estuary airport scheme. He is now thought to back the project, though he was initially against it. The Thames airport proposal will be in the government’s aviation policy consultation that starts in March, though Downing Street says the government will make a final decision on the basis of the consultation process. This announcement may have been intended for earlier in the month, and may have been delayed by doubts by Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems used to have a policy to oppose airport expansion. Since we have committed to spend £32 billion on HST, there isn’t a lot of spare money for other projects.
Cameron paves the way for new London airport
David Cameron is to announce a formal consultation on plans for a new airport in the Thames Estuary within weeks, The Telegraph can disclose.
By Robert Winnett, Political Editor
The Prime Minister is expected to offer his provisional support for a scheme originally proposed by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.
The Government had planned to announce preliminary backing for the scheme on Jan 3, with feasibility studies beginning in the Spring. The announcement was expected to be linked to plans for a second high-speed rail line as part of the Government’s long-term vision for Britain’s transport infrastructure.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, blocked the announcement amid concerns that it was being rushed out and had not been thought through.
No 10 sources said a decision on aviation strategy was now due to be announced in March and that “discussions are ongoing”.
The Daily Telegraph understands that Mr Cameron will be supportive of the proposed airport but will make a final decision on the basis of the consultation process. Mr Clegg is said to have an “open mind” over the proposal but is keen to consider the views of environmental campaigners and residents. The Liberal Democrat position is currently to oppose airport expansion.
One senior Conservative source said: “No 10 was all ready to announce the new airport and then at the last minute Nick Clegg stepped in to block it.”
Another Tory source claimed: “It was a purely political act that had nothing to do with the national interest.”
However, a senior Liberal Democrat source said: “Aviation policy is very sensitive and we didn’t support rushing out an announcement over the New Year.
“The consultation will almost certainly be launched in March and Nick Clegg does not have a fixed view on the outcome.”
Mr Johnson has advocated building an airport on a man-made island in the Thames Estuary to cope with the growing pressure on other London facilities. He claims that without providing more airport capacity, the capital will lose jobs as businesses relocate elsewhere in Europe.
Environmental campaigners claim it will boost global warming emissions and endanger wildlife.
Mr Johnson has ordered his own detailed review of the plan. He recently said: “The capital’s airports are full, our runways are rammed and we risk losing jobs to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Madrid or other European cities should we fail to act.
“No other city even approaches the volume of passengers handled at London’s airports but we need to start planning for a brand new airport that can help meet the ever-increasing demand for aviation and act as a hub, particularly to the rest of the UK.”
The Prime Minister has refused to allow the expansion of Heathrow on environmental grounds and was previously thought to be lukewarm about the prospect of a new airport. However, both he and George Osborne, the Chancellor, are thought to have become more interested
One of the comments:
So let’s look at this decision. Instead of building a third runway at Heathrow at a cost of a few billion pounds, Cameron wants to build a £20 billion airport on the estuary. The total cost of the project is £50 billion when you add in an orbital railway and other infrastructure. And this is somehow better for the environment. In what way? Not in engine emissions.
What this decision is about is that Cameron wanted to keep seats around Heathrow at the last election. Philip Hammond’s constituency is nearby and Justine Greening’s is under the flight path.
So the government has decided to spend tens of billions more than is required to save seats around Heathrow. The level of stupidity is beyond limits for this government.
And who will be funding this airport? Since we have committed to spend £32 billion on HST, there isn’t a lot of spare money for other projects.
So much for an Oxford education when you study PPE.
John Stewart on Cameron’s change of heart about Boris and his airport
Date added: January 18, 2012
John – Chair of AirportWatch – writes that the high-profile way David Cameron chose to make the announcement that the government will look at the merits of a new airport in the Thames Estuary suggests that it has as much to do with political calculation as aviation policy. He will be hoping that the London mayor’s persistent championing of the proposal will garner him votes from West London in the forthcoming mayoral elections. His announcement also serves the political purpose of reassuring business, which for years has been calling for new infrastructure. The prime minister is aware he is creating a mirage of economic activity. He also knows that the estuary airport may never happen and has staged a drama for political effect.
see also comment from AEF (Aviation Environment Federation):
Estuary airport would be an environmental disaster
Jan 18 2012
The Government’s draft policy for UK aviation in March will include a proposal for a Thames Estuary airport, according to press reports today. But for the Government to refuse a third runway at Heathrow for environmental reasons and then to support the building of a new airport in the Thames Estuary would defy all logic. It would increase CO2, generate new noise problems, and have significant impacts on the local ecology, not least as a result of providing surface access by road and rail.
In relation to CO2 in particular, the Committee on Climate Change has made clear that for the UK to be able to meet our climate objectives, aviation emissions need at least to stabilise (if not to reduce). Some growth would be possible under this scenario – possibly as much as a 60% increase in passenger numbers by 2050 – but research conducted by AEF for WWF concludes that current airport infrastructure is sufficient to accommodate all of this growth. In other words, new airports in the UK are not needed.
Aside from environmental considerations, many in the industry doubt that a new airport could attract sufficient traffic to be economically viable. As noted in the DfT’s conclusions last time it looked at the possibility of an estuary airport ten years ago, although offshore airports have been built in other parts of the world, none of them have been part of a multi-airport system as would be the case in the South East. The financial viability of a new estuary airport would therefore be likely to depend on Government intervention to try to ensure early take up of new capacity by passengers and airlines which would almost certainly entail costs to the public purse. As Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA which owns Heathrow told the BBCtoday: ‘London “can’t have two hubs”.
For a historical review of failed proposals for airports in the Thames Estuary over recent decades, see AEF’s position paper from 2009.
see also comment from Friends of the Earth (UK)
Government to consult on Thames Estuary airport
18th January 2012
Commenting on reports that the Government is to hold a formal consultation on controversial plans for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
“A new airport in the Thames estuary would have a devastating impact on local communities and the environment – and all for pie-in-the sky economics that simply don’t add up.
“London doesn’t need another hub airport – the capital already has more flights to the world’s main business destinations than our European neighbours.
“David Cameron’s pledge to lead the greenest Government ever will ring hollow if he gives the green light to a huge expansion in air travel.”
1. A Friends of the Earth http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/heathrow_expansion.pdf , Heathrow Expansion – Its True Costs, exposes many of the misleading arguments about the financial benefits of aviation growth.
see also comment from WWF (UK)
WWF REACTION TO MEDIA REPORTS ON A NEW LONDON AIRPORT
For further information please call the WWF-UK press office on 01483 412 383
WWF is deeply concerned by reports today that the coalition Government could be putting Southeast airport expansion back on the agenda. WWF believes this is neither necessary economically nor sustainable in climate terms.
As pointed out in our response to the CAA’s call for Southeast airport expansion (1) (http://www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/press_centre/?unewsid=5586), there is already sufficient available capacity across London’s six airports and seven runways to meet demand to 2050 without having to build a further airport, especially given the trend towards larger planes and higher passenger loading. Add to this a decline in domestic flights, growth in train travel, greater use of videoconferencing and reduced business flying and it is impossible to justify further expansion, especially as it would be likely to destroy the UK’s chance of meeting legally binding climate targets.
Jean Leston, Senior Transport Policy Adviser, WWF-UK said:
“The government long ago moved from an unsustainable “predict and provide” model for the UK’s road network, when it became obvious that we could not simply build more roads for yet more cars. We need a similar shift in thinking for future aviation policy. Air travel is the UK’s fastest growing source of carbon emissions. If we build a new runway or airport in the Southeast, we will be building the single biggest source of carbon in the country, at a time when we should be rapidly reducing our emissions.”
“Heathrow already offers far more flights to 20 of the world’s 27 top business destinations and more business routes than Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt combined (2). The aviation industry is trying to create national hysteria about a need for expansion when they should be looking at the facts: Heathrow’s doing just fine in terms of competitiveness and it won’t take a £50b new airport completed in the distant future to improve our connectivity.”
(1) The WWF/AEF report, Available UK airport capacity under a 2050 CO2 target for the aviation sector, shows that there is already sufficient available runway and terminal capacity in the Southeast and other regions to meet demand to 2050, and in line with CCC limits to aviation growth, without the need for further expansion: http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/airport_capacity_report_july_2011.pdf
(2) According to AirportWatch international connectivity research funded by WWF, Heathrow is in a class of its own as far as its connectivity to key business centres is concerned, offering more flights to these destinations than any other airport in Europe. London as a whole also offers a greater number of total flights to the world’s main business destinations than other Continental cities. UK connectivity to business destinations, key to economic growth, is still unrivalled. For more information see http://www.aef.org.uk/downloads/Business_Connectivity_Report_August2011.pdf
How not to make a decision on Boris Island
Quoting the Telegraph article above, Andrew continues:
There is a right way and a wrong way to make decisions on airports and Cameron’s approach would have been destroyed in the courts. The 2008 Act, The EU SEA directive and the Greenpeace caselaw all set out a proper process for making such decisions:
- Set out the need for the development and options in a draft aviation NPS;
- Carry out an SEA and consultation;
- Choose an option and put the NPS to parliament;
- Minister makes final decision.
Of course a minister can be minded to change a policy but they cant show predetermination.
Announcing support for ‘Boris Island’ before the need had been established, before that site had been shown to be practical or even if there were not much better sites (which they are) would have been a recipe for successful JR. Yet again Cameron has shown that he is is own worst enemy when it comes to major policy decisions when he ignores the advice of DCLG and DT civil servents. The rules arnt that complicated, as here they can be written on the back of an envelope.
see Estuary Airport for much more information, and recent news, about the prospects of a Thames Estuary airport.