Transport Select Committee wants rapid decision on runway location – then sort out the problems later …..
Government urged to set clear timetable for airport expansion
The opportunity to end decades of political dithering on airport expansion has been squandered, says the Transport Committee in its report on airport expansion in the South East.
- Report: Airport expansion in the South East
- Report: Airport expansion in the South East (PDF 358 KB)
- Inquiry: Airport expansion in the South East
- Transport Committee
In the report, the Transport Committee urges the Secretary of Stateto set out a clear timetable for expansion, making clear the measures which have been accepted or rejected and the work which needs to be completed.
The report concludes that arguments for and against expansion have changed little in a quarter of a century. The Committee continues to back Heathrow, with the package of accompanying measures recommended by the Airports Commission.
Chair of the Transport Committee, Louise Ellman MP, [who has been in favour of Heathrow for many years] said:
“The Government must make up its mind. The decision on location is not the end of the process, it is the start of one. Real progress cannot begin until the location is declared. Work on environmental issues can run in parallel with other pre-construction work.Across the world, cities are collectively planning to build more than 50 new runways with capacity to serve one billion additional passenger journeys by 2036. The growth of large hubs in the Middle and Far East and North America threatens our position as a hub of international aviation. The UK’s connectivity with the world’s emerging markets is a major concern.The months ticking by constitute time wasted for the UK’s economic prosperity. UK PLC needs to know that a decision will be taken. Doing nothing means the UK continues to lose out.”
The report documents the progress of the debate on airport expansion from the 1990s to the December 2015 statement in the House. The Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin MP, said the case for expansion was ‘clear’ but further work was needed before a decision could be taken on location. The Government indicated that the work should ‘conclude over the summer’ so that the timetable for delivering additional capacity by 2030 could be met.
Government must resolve air quality before going ahead with airport expansion
4 May 2016 (ClientEarth)
The Transport Select Committee have issued a report on airport expansion calling on the government to set out a clear timetable for expansion, making clear the measures which have been accepted or rejected and the work which needs to be completed. In December the Department for Transport confirmed that new runways at Heathrow or Gatwick, or extension of an existing runway at Heathrow – were “viable”.
More work required before Heathrow expansion
It also announced further work on noise, pollution and compensation would be carried out before it made a decision on which project to support. It expects this will be completed by the summer.
The select committee report states that work on environmental issues can run in parallel with other pre-construction work.
ClientEarth Chief Executive James Thornton said:
“Air pollution is a major and unresolved concern for Heathrow and must be dealt with before any decision is made to go ahead. It would be economic madness to begin any construction before resolving the crucial issue of air quality which is damaging the health of people living and working around Heathrow and further afield.”
“Greater London already has illegal levels of air pollution, which the Supreme Court has ordered the Government to bring within legal limits as soon as possible.”
“For once, we are in agreement with the Department for Transport – that more work on the environmental impacts, including air quality, is required before any work on any new runways can begin.”
Heathrow expansion opportunity squandered, MPs say
Transport secretary urged to commit to timetable in light of Airports Commission report backing third runway
By Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent
Wednesday 4 May 2016
Delaying a decision on a third runway has “squandered the opportunity” to act on evidence and expand Heathrow, a cross-party committee of MPs said as it called on the government to commit to a clear timetable.
The Commons transport select committee described ministerial claims of progress in the decision-making process as “illusory” and demanded that the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, make clear what the outstanding areas of contention were.
The Airports Commission, established in 2012 by the coalition to recommend if and where a new runway for London should be built, delivered its final report in July last year backing Heathrow expansion. The government did not respond until December, when it announced it would be conducting more work on air quality, and left open the possibility of a second runway at Gatwick instead.
In the transport committee’s report on airport expansion, published on Wednesday, MPs said: “The arguments for and against expansion have changed little in a quarter of a century … The creation of the Airports Commission briefly held out the hope that an evidence-based decision would end years of political dithering, but the government has largely squandered this opportunity by delaying its decision and calling for further work.”
They added: “The secretary of state needs now to have the courage to take a difficult, and for some people unpopular, decision.”
The committee has already established that it backs a third runway at Heathrow, although the government has continued to maintain the candidacy of Gatwick, which was shortlisted by the commission.
MPs demanded that McLoughlin make clear which parts of the commission’s findings he had accepted or rejected, and what further work was being carried out. The committee said: “The government needs to be more open and transparent or the perception that this is yet another attempt to ‘kick
The Department for Transport will make a formal response to the committee’s demands later this month, and a spokesman said it anticipated that additional work on environmental impacts would be concluded by the summer. He said: “The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come.
“As well as progressing the package of further work announced in December, the government will continue to consider the commission’s evidence before reaching a view on its preferred scheme.
“We are undertaking more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon so we can develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people.”
Louise Ellman MP, chair of the transport committee, said: “The government must make up its mind. The decision on location is not the end of the process, it is the start of one. Real progress cannot begin until the location is declared. Work on environmental issues can run in parallel with other pre-construction work.”
She said the continued growth of large hubs in the Middle East, east Asia and North America threatened Britain’s position in international aviation, while the number of flights to the world’s emerging markets was also a major concern. “The months ticking by constitute time wasted for the UK’s economic prosperity. Doing nothing means the UK continues to lose out,” Ellman said.
Business groups backed the committee’s call for a clear timetable. David Leam, infrastructure director at lobby group London First, said the government needed “to show backbone”, adding: “We need a clear timetable for airport expansion as soon as possible, because the decision to greenlight a new runway won’t get any easier.”
However, Gatwick airport said the committee’s statement that the arguments over airport expansion had changed little in a quarter of a century was “astonishing”, saying that it ignored “significant change within the aviation industry following the breakup of the BAA monopoly in 2009, and the worsening of air quality in the UK which has repeatedly halted Heathrow’s plans in the past”.
Air quality, and the possibility of judicial review in the light of a 2015 supreme court ruling, were the primary ostensible reasons for the delay, with the government now having indicated that its verdict will not come until after the EU referendum on 23 June.
The postponement has also averted a public clash between the Conservatives and their candidate for this Thursday’s London mayoral election, Zac Goldsmith, who has been a staunch opponent of Heathrow expansion.