Climate activists slam ‘shameful’ backing by Norwich City Council of Norwich Airport growth (and increased CO2) plans
Environmental campaigners have blasted the city council’s endorsement of a plan for the future of Norwich Airport as “shameful” and “a fantasy”. An aspiration to treble annual air passenger numbers at Norwich Airport to more than 1.4m by 2045 was backed by Norwich city council’s cabinet at a meeting on 17th October. [Norwich airport had 538,578 passengers in 2018]. The plans were met with scepticism from Green Party councillors and people aware of the climate emergency, who attended the debate. The committee voted against a full council debate on the issue, which led Extinction Rebellion Norwich (XR) members criticise councillors for a lack of action. One XR member commented: “They won’t allow a democratic debate – it’s shameful.” Another said: “They’re living in a fantasy.” The decision was called in, to the Scrutiny Committee, which which questioned why the environmental impact of the plan was deemed neutral, when it was obvious it would increase the carbon footprint of the airport. Regarding the expansion as providing economic benefit, but no environmental impact, was a “fundamental misunderstanding”. The airport has been asked to provide evidence at the next masterplan review of what steps they will take to reduce the airport’s carbon impact.
Climate activists slam ‘shameful’ backing of Norwich Airport vision
17 October 2019
Environmental campaigners have blasted the city council’s endorsement of a plan for the future of Norwich Airport as “shameful” and “a fantasy”.
A vision to treble yearly passenger numbers at Norwich Airport to more than 1.4m by 2045 was backed by Norwich city council’s cabinet at a meeting last week.
But the masterplan, which was first unveiled in 2017, was met with scepticism from Green Party councillors and climate activists who packed a meeting room for a debate over the decision tonight (Wednesday, October 17).
And after the committee voted against a full council debate on the issue, Extinction Rebellion Norwich (XR) members hit out at councillors for a lack of action.
“They won’t allow a democratic debate – it’s shameful,” said XR member Tim Knight-Hughes.
And campaigner Nicola Harrison added: “They never even mentioned the fact that half of Norfolk might be under the sea.
“They’re living in a fantasy.”
The endorsement came under the spotlight after councillors ‘called it in’ to the scrutiny committee, with a report claiming the decision was “meaningless.”
Councillors questioned why the environmental impact of the plan was deemed neutral, but council regeneration director, Graham Nelson, said the assessment was on the impact of backing the vision, and not of the plan itself.
“I’m not going to suggest that’s likely to do anything other than increase the carbon footprint of the airport,” he said.
Mr Osborn asked how backing the plan provided an economic benefit but no environment impact, which cabinet member for transport Mike Stonard called a “fundamental misunderstanding”.
Mrs Carlo called the airport’s climate assessment “pathetic” and claimed the council was keen to “rubber stamp” the masterplan.
And Mr Stonard hit out at the Green group as “unreasonable”, and claimed they were criticising cabinet for “not doing things we don’t have the power to do”, after disputing the group’s assertion that cabinet could limit flights.
“You would close down the airport which there are thousands of jobs associated with,” he said.
A majority of committee members voted against referring the masterplan back to the cabinet or on to the full council, but airport bosses have been asked to provide evidence at the next masterplan review of what steps they will take to reduce the airport’s carbon impact.
And speaking after the meeting, XR spokesperson Andrew Boswell said: “Norwich city council are shirking their responsibility on the climate emergency.
“They admit that endorsing the airport masterplan, or not, makes very little difference.
“They could have taken a position to not endorse masterplan and send a clear message to the public about the perils of aviation carbon emissions.
“In failing to do they are letting down the next generation.
“Our children and grand children will be left to clear up the mess, and literally suck emissions out of the atmosphere with technologies that don’t even exist.”
Airport scheme to bring in 1.4m passengers gets City Hall backing
10 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:30 10 October 2019
A vision to treble passenger numbers at Norwich Airport has today been endorsed by city councillors, despite questions being asked over the scheme’s environmental impact.
– Increase passenger numbers from 520,000 to 1.4m by 2045 - Boost the range of worldwide destinations offered to travellers - Expand the existing terminal building and increase car parking facilities - Build a 500m extension of the main runway
At a meeting of Norwich City Council cabinet on Wednesday, October 9, councillors agreed to endorse the draft masterplan, despite Green councillor Martin Schmierer querying the council’s assessment of the decision as carbon and pollution neutral.
Labour cabinet member for sustainable growth, Mike Stonard, recommended councillors endorse the plan and said there were no direct financial implications arising from the report.
The draft master plan, which is available for public consultation, states that passenger numbers are hoped to hit 930,000 by 2030, with business aviation services expected to grow via Norwich-based operators such as Saxonair.
Second phase plans could entail a 500m expansion of the main runway to the east into land in the Broadland council area and the relocation of the air traffic control tower south of the runway.
But, commenting on an impact assessment of the endorsement, Mr Schmierer asked the cabinet to justify why the scheme’s environmental impact – in terms of transport, waste, pollution, sustainability, and climate change – had been mooted as neutral.
“I can’t see how that conclusion can be supported,” he said.
“As we know aviation is one of the biggest producers of CO2 emissions; the altitude at which planes fly damages the ozone layer and the impact on the environment cannot be overstated.
“I do have questions as to how the expansion of an airport will be carbon and pollution neutral.
But the council’s regeneration director, Graham Nelson, told the cabinet the assessment was of the impact of the endorsement, and not of the actual master plan.