Justine Greening confirms a 3rd Heathrow runway will not be in aviation capacity consultation
Talking to the BBC, Justine Greening has confirmed that she rules out a third runway at Heathrow which is “not the right answer”. She also says “We are getting to the stage where there is a question mark over whether we’ve got the capacity to meet the country’s needs. In the short term we’ve always been clear that we need to make the most of the capacity we do have. We need to use what we’ve got better and more effectively and we’re looking at how we do that, but we also need to look ahead.” And she says it’s time to have a proper “fact based debate” about the future of airport capacity in Britain and in particular, the South East. Sadly Southend is going to be expected to bear more of the burden.
Transport secretary reveals details of airport review
The transport secretary has told us it’s time to have a proper “fact based debate” about the future of airport capacity in Britain and in particular, the South East.
“There aren’t any easy answers,” says Justine Greening.
“It’s a very complex question but we need to get on with a process which helps resolve these issues.”
Later this month she will launch a discussion paper which will try to tackle this political hot potato once and for all.
During a visit to Southend Airport to open its new terminal she gave us an insight into her thinking. The transport secretary was opening the new £100 million terminal at Southend Airport.
“We’ve got to make sure there is the level of capacity at our airports that we need, not just in the next 10 to 15 years but the next 20 to 30 years.” Justine Greening, Conservative, transport secretary
“We are getting to the stage where there is a question mark over whether we’ve got the capacity to meet the country’s needs. In the short term we’ve always been clear that we need to make the most of the capacity we do have. We need to use what we’ve got better and more effectively and we’re looking at how we do that, but we also need to look ahead.”
And it’s that concern that has prompted the consultation.
Ms Greening does not want to prejudice proceedings but says the debate must be based on “real facts and figures and details around logistics, operations and airspace – then we’ll have some of the information we need to make the right decision”.
She will not be drawn on whether the ultimate conclusion of this consultation will be a call for more runways or a new airport but she does rule out a third runway at Heathrow which is “not the right answer”.
Proposals to build a new airport in the Thames are met with a more sanguine response.
“This is the time for people to bring forward proposals on this issue,” she says.
Coping with capacity
The aviation industry has been pushing for some time for the government to tackle this issue.
“There is a capacity issue in the South East – it’s probably a bit late but now is the time to do it,” says Carolyn McCall, chief executive of Easyjet. “There is a real opportunity to have an aviation policy which is long term and which addresses the need for a hub airport but also looks at needs elsewhere.”
Next month Easyjet will launch services to nine European destinations, and other airlines are expected to move in as well.
“This is a real vote of confidence in Southend,” said Ms Greening, who pointed out that this bit of airport expansion has created 500 extra jobs. [What? Alistair Welsh said he hoped it might create this number over the year, though the number given last year was 150….]
It’s also the first piece of airport expansion in the South East for more than 20 years. Southend hopes to handle two million passengers a year. [Eventually. Not yet]. That will help ease capacity in the South East but it won’t solve the problem.
That’s for Ms Greening to work out.
Government stands firm on Heathrow runway
The government has moved to crush any hopes that it may reopen the debate for a third runway at Heathrow, despite renewed pressure from the aviation industry and UK business leaders.
Heathrow owner BAA last month urged the government to re-examine its policy against the new runway and Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary last week said new runways should be built at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, [yes, he actually did say that – see the link] instead of looking at a possible new airport in the Thames estuary.
More than 100 business and political figures have also signed two letters published over the weekend calling for the government to change its stance on Heathrow.
But the Department for Transport insisted that the coalition government would not reconsider its policy on blocking expansion at Heathrow.
“The government does not support the development of a third runway at Heathrow because of the unacceptable environmental consequences it would bring,” said the DfT in a statement. “This a view shared by the three largest Westminster political parties.
“The government will consult on an overarching sustainable framework for UK aviation this spring and alongside this we will publish a call for evidence on maintaining effective UK hub airport connectivity.
“As the chancellor made clear in his autumn statement, we will explore all the options for maintaining the UK’s aviation hub status with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow.”
AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) comment:
With just weeks to go before draft aviation policy is published, BAA makes a final bid to reopen Heathrow debate
Mar 6 2012 (AEF)
BAA has today called , once again, for expansion at Heathrow Airport, claiming that this would bring significant economic benefits. Having taken account of all the evidence on the economic, climate and noise impacts of a third runway, the Coalition clearly ruled out expansion of the airport – already the busiest in the EU – from the moment it took office, and has recently stated that its review of UK aviation strategy will explore all options with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow.
BAA’s research, commissioned from Oxford Economics (a consultancy regularly used by the aviation industry, which has no connection to Oxford University) claims that the UK will lose out on both jobs and income from visitor spending if the airport is not expanded. But research in 2010 by the New Economics Foundation found that if community and environmental impacts were taken into account, the costs of building a third runway at Heathrow would outweigh the benefits by around £5 billion. [Report at Grounded report by NEF April 2010 ].
There has been some media speculation about BAA bringing a judicial review against the Government if the option of a third runway at Heathrow is not included in the draft aviation policy to be published at the end of this month. But there is also the looming possibility of the UK facing legal action and hefty fines from the European Commission for our continued failure to comply with air pollutions laws covering emissions of nitrogen dioxide, NO2. As a third runway would inevitably result in even higher NO2 levels, were the Government to backtrack on its election promise to oppose expansion, its defence – that it is doing everything it can to meet the targets – would surely crumble. The Environmental Audit Committee, which assesses the environmental impacts of Government policies, stated in a review of air pollution last month:
In the event of a third runway being developed at Heathrow, compliance with NO2 limits would be impossible. ….. [For] the Government to make the case that compliance with EU air quality limits throughout Greater London will be maintained beyond 2015, their application for an extension to meet EU limit values, the forthcoming Sustainable Framework for UK Aviation and the forthcoming Aviation National Policy Statement must contain an explicit prohibition of a third runway at Heathrow.
It is not difficult to conjure up impressive-sounding numbers in terms of jobs and other economic benefits associated with airport expansion. But these benefits often fail to materialise once the tarmac is laid, while environmental and community costs have in the past been too often sidelined. AEF welcomes the clear stance that this Government has taken in relation to Heathrow expansion and calls on the industry to show that it is ready to work within environmental limits.