The current owner of Cardiff Airport, Abertis, which bought the airport from local councils in 2005, has now managed to sell it to the Welsh Government for £52 million. That price is well above market value when compared to recent transactions involving UK airports. The airport was valued at about £34 million in 2010. It has been making large losses and losing passengers for many years. The Government is desperate that it gets more passengers and gets back to making a profit. Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said it would not be operated by the government and would be managed “at arm’s length” and “on a commercial basis”. Cardiff’s passengers have declined from around 2 million in 2007 to just over 1 million in 2012, as many have chosen Bristol airport instead. Bristol airport is now concerned that Cardiff would now unfairly benefit from state support. Cardiff was hit by the loss of bmibaby in 2011. The airport’s board will try and get in a commercial operator and hopes to attract long haul and transatlantic flights. Only recently there was news that Swiss airline Helvetic will pull out of Cardiff, 2 years after the Welsh government spent £500,000 marketing Wales in Switzerland.
Cardiff Airport is sold to the Welsh government for £52m
Troubled Cardiff Airport has been sold to the Welsh government for £52m.
First Minister Carwyn Jones said it would not be operated by the government and would be managed “at arm’s length” and “on a commercial basis”.
Mr Jones has been critical of the airport after a slump in passenger numbers from a peak of two million in 2007 to just over one million in 2012.
Rival airport Bristol raised concerns that Cardiff would unfairly benefit from state support.
Speaking after the government announced the deal, Mr Jones said it was vital for the number of passengers to be increased.
Figures showed just over one million passengers used Cardiff in 2012, down about 200,000 in a year.
Meanwhile, nearby competitor Bristol Airport, which has sought assurances that Cardiff will not get state handouts, had seen almost six million passengers last year.
Cardiff was hit by the withdrawal of flights by budget airline bmibaby in 2011, but has said it expects 5% – 8% growth during 2013.
Last May, Mr Jones called on the then owners TBI to invest in its future or put it up for sale.
“Cardiff Airport is a vital gateway to Wales for business, tourists and general travellers alike,” he said on Wednesday.
“It is essential that its future is secured and that we develop high-quality sustainable services.
“The airport will not be operated by the Welsh government. It will be managed at arm’s length from government on a commercial basis and, over time, I expect to see a return to the public purse on the investment.
“A chief executive of the airport will be announced in due course. In the meantime, I am delighted that Lord Rowe-Beddoe has agreed to serve as chairman of the airport board.”
In the longer term, the board will look at the possibility of bringing in a commercial operator and Mr Jones also opened up the prospect of the airport looking to attract long haul and transatlantic flights.
Mr Jones said the Welsh government had been contacted by a number of interested parties.
After hearing of the sale, Bristol Airport chief executive Robert Sinclair was sceptical that government involvement would be “arm’s length”.
“However, the purchase price of £52m paid by the Welsh government – which is well above market value when compared to recent transactions involving UK airports – gives us concern that ongoing government involvement and support is highly likely,” he said.
“Airports across the world are commercial businesses operating in highly competitive markets and the global trend is towards privatisation of these assets, not nationalisation.
“Bristol Airport has never been concerned about competition from Cardiff or other airports, provided that competition is on a level playing field without any form of state subsidy or government support.”
The airport’s existing staff will remain but only 40 are employed directly.
An average of around 1,000 staff work on the site as sub-contractors but that figure can vary considerably.
In the months leading up to today, Mr Jones said the airport gave a bad impression of Wales as it fell behind its rivals.
The owners said at the time that they had no plans to sell but would listen to offers.
Only this month there was bad news when Swiss carrier Helvetic announced it was pulling out, two years after the Welsh government spent £500,000 marketing Wales in Switzerland.
Helvetic started flying to Zurich from Cardiff in 2011, but had already dropped winter services after low demand and will not fly this summer.
However, Spanish airline Vueling said it was increasing services to Malaga and Alicante from Cardiff after a “positive response from Welsh travellers”.
Asked if the purchase was a gamble, Business Minister Edwina Hart said it was “the right thing to do.”
But opposition politicians were sceptical of the Welsh government’s involvement in trying to turn around the airport’s fortunes.
“I have yet to be convinced that a 1970s-style nationalisation is the answer to the airport’s problems,” said the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies.
“When you consider the recent decision by Helvetic to withdraw, in spite of the Welsh government having invested around half-a-million pounds, it is far from clear that the first minister is the best man for the job of rescuing this airport.”
Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat economy and transport spokesperson, called on the Welsh government to “urgently announce its plans to transform the airport”.
Plaid Cymru also said it wanted to see the detail of the government’s plans.
“There is no reason why a publicly-owned national airport for Wales could not be far more successful than the airport in its present state,” said party leader Leanne Wood.
The airfield at Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan was built in 1941.
Control was transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the former Glamorgan County Council in 1965, and then to its three successor councils of West, Mid and South Glamorgan in the 1970s.
The airport was privatised in 1995, with TBI now owned mainly by the Spanish company Abertis with a minority stake held by the Spanish airports operator AENA.
Just over one million passengers used Cardiff in 2012, down about 200,000 in a year
Passenger numbers peaked at two million in 2007
Nick ServiniBBC Wales business correspondent
The debate will now begin on whether £52m is a good price for the Welsh taxpayer.
The Welsh government says it follows intensive negotiations and was based on independent valuations.
When Abertis bought Cardiff Airport in 2005, it was said then to have a valuation of £150m.
So today’s price is well below that, but back then the airport was in a healthier state. Since then passengers numbers have dropped and latest figures show it made a loss of more than £300,000 in 2011.
Whatever your views on the price, it has always been striking how passionate people feel about Cardiff Airport.
Bringing it back into public ownership, in what is one of the most high profile acquisitions ever undertaken by the Welsh government, will inevitably heighten those passions.
REACTION TO AIRPORT SALE
Reaction has been mixed to the Welsh government’s purchase of Cardiff Airport but almost everyone agrees a thriving airport would be good for the economy.
Business organisation CBI Wales said “strong and effective commercial stewardship” was required.
“To compete on the world stage, Wales needs world class infrastructure and a key part of that is a modern and effective international airport,” said director Emma Watkins.
“Welsh business needs a dynamic and thriving airport that can drive investment and deliver growth.”
The Federation of Small Businesses in Wales said infrastructure around the airport, such as roads and rail, needed to be improved.
“Increasing the number of flights and destinations would no doubt enable businesses to search for new markets and boost their trade internationally,” added Janet Jones, FSB Wales policy unit chair.
South Wales Chamber of Commerce “warmly welcomed” the sale.
“We need to see an effective plan developed that will enable a smooth transition of ownership and ensure that the commercial operator appointed has significant international experience to bring new initiatives to the airport model,” said director Graham Morgan.
The Financial Times says that
The airport brought in £2m in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation last year, compared with £9m in 2007. [ie. 2 : 52 = 26] That suggests the government paid a higher multiple for Cardiff than Manchester Airports Group did for Stansted airport, which it bought for 15.6 times 2012 earnings.[cf. 26].
The 2010 accounts quoted the net worth of Cardiff Airport Ltd to be £34,311,000 (calculated as Shareholders Funds minus Intangible Assets). Accounts filed with Companies House show Cardiff International Airport Limited suffered a £319,000 loss in 2011, compared with a profit of just over £1 million in 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardiff_Airport
In May 2012 the BBC said:
BBC Wales has been told that Abertis valued the airport at about £150m when they bought it in 2005 but the asking price had increased to £200m, despite falling passenger numbers and profits. Abertis would not confirm the figure, although one industry expert has valued the airport at just £30m. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-18068772
Some recent news about Cardiff airport and the sale:
February 21, 2013 The Welsh Government is expected to complete its acquisition of Cardiff Airport by the end of March in a straight cash deal understood to be around £50m with current owner Abertis. A due diligence process is being undertaken on behalf of the Welsh Government. The deal will not see the Welsh Government taking on any debt at the airport – which posted pre-tax losses of just over £300,000 in 2011. In the short to medium term the Welsh Government would need to inject about £6m a year in capital expenditure and airline route development support – including agreeing to underwrite any losses in the first few years accrued by airlines establishing new routes out of Cardiff. ie public subsidy. It is understood that representatives of the Welsh Government have already sounded out a number of low cost airlines over setting up operations, including Ryanair – which was asking too much. Discussions are continuing. It is unlikely that the airport, post deal, would be directly owned by the Welsh Government but by some special purpose vehicle instead. Click here to view full story…
Abertis considers sale of UK airports – Luton, Cardiff and Belfast International
February 25, 2013 Abertis, the Spanish owner of Luton, Cardiff and Belfast International airports, may sell them. According to The Sunday Times, Abertis has decided to sell the 3 airports as part of a review of its €1 billion transport division, and Citi and AZ Capital have been appointed to review the division. Luton airport has been surrounded by controversy over its development plans with the local council opposing Abertis’ plans for its development. The Welsh government is reported to be on the verge of buying Cardiff airport, which has had a large drop in traffic during the past few years. Albertis’ airport assets in Bolivia were nationalised by President Evo Morales last week, and it has lost money in Spain in recent years. Campaigners at Luton said the timing of the sale was unfortunate, with the airport’s current planning application – for which planning permission has not been secured. The sale threatens the investment on which the airport’s hugely expensive expansion plans are based. Click here to view full story…
Bristol Airport flies more Welsh passengers than Cardiff
February 16, 2013 Provisional figures for 2012 indicate that more passengers from Wales use Bristol Airport than Cardiff. Over 1 million passengers used Cardiff in 2012, down about 200,000 in a year, with nearly 6 million at Bristol. The statistics suggest the scale of the task facing the Welsh government in improving Cardiff Airport’s fortunes as ministers finalise a deal to buy it. It is estimated that it amounts to the equivalent of about 1.1m passengers over a year flying from Bristol, having come from or going to places in Wales. The Welsh government is expected to take over Cardiff Airport over the next few months after a slump in passenger numbers from a peak of 2m in 2007. It is negotiating a price with Spanish owners Abertis and carrying out various checks and balances on the airport’s finances. The Mayor of Bristol says both airports have their problems, and it would be better if they could work together. Click here to view full story…
Cardiff Airport: Carwyn Jones tells Assembly Members ‘no concerns’ over deal
January 31, 2013 The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has said the Welsh government is close to signing a deal to buy Cardiff Airport from its current owners, Abertis. He has told Welsh Assembly Members that checks on the airport’s finances had revealed “no concerns” though some experts had told him its commercial future as an airport was limited to a few years. The deal would be subject to a final price being agreed and due diligence being carried out on the finances of the airport. Cardiff had just over one million passengers in 2012, which is a drop of some 16% compared to 2011, which was itself some 14% lower than in 2010. The airport had two million passengers in 2007, and has been in decline ever since. It has hopes of growing its passenger number by 5 – 8% this year, which appears unlikely with a continuing recession. Ministers are considering a range of options on how to run the airport. Assembly Members are concerned the airport does not become a drain on taxpayers. Click here to view full story…
Cardiff Airport buyout by Welsh government: Conservatives’ question if it’s value for money
January 10, 2013 On 18th December the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones announced that the Welsh government wanted to buy Cardiff Airport from its current owners, TBI. He said they would be working towards a purchase over the next few months. and hoped the airport would be run on a commercial basis by an independent commercial operator on behalf of the government. Conservatives are calling on the Welsh government to prove that buying Cardiff Airport would be good value for the taxpayer, and see it as Labour’s attempt to “nationalise” the airport. Cardiff airport has had declining passenger numbers, down 13% in 2011 to a little over 1.2m, while passengers at Bristol increased by 1%. There was a further fall in the first half of 2012 to 440,000 from 558,000 – partly due to the departure of bmibaby. Despite assurances that it will not receive subsidies or burden the taxpayer, there have been questions about whether public ownership will succeed in turning around the airport’s fortunes. Click here to view full story…
Comment from an AirportWatch member:
Another shameful example of private debt being nationalised – this one, it seems, largely aimed at placating the Welsh Nationalists. As an investment proposition it is disastrous – there’s not even a slight chance that the project could in any realistic timescale achieve a positive NPV (Net Present Value) taking into account the sale price.
The London Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) has been lobbying, yet again, for a 3rd Heathrow runway. This time they are lobbying the Airports Commission, and saying that Heathrow should be allowed more night flights, because that makes the airport more efficient and there might be some economic gain for the UK. The Airports Commission is working, this year, on what can be done to improve the capacity and efficiency of UK airports in the short term. The LCCI is saying that for some not entirely clear reason, having more flights at night (and so damaging the quality of life, and the quality of sleep for several hundred thousand Londoners) will help the UK do business with BRIC countries. There is already concerted opposition to night flights, and aims to get them banned, not only in the UK but at other key European airports. The LCCI also want Heathrow to be allowed to end runway alternation, and introduce mixed mode – again hitting the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of Londoners who would lose their half day of respite from the noise.
Heathrow Airport should be allowed to run more night flights, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said today.
The group called on the Airports Commission to consider additional night flights so London could increase its trade links.
It follows a meeting between the chamber and the commission last week which focused on potential short-term measures to maximise efficiency and increase existing airport capacity.
The chamber’s chief executive Colin Standbridge said extra flights would help London’s relation with Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as the BRIC nations, and Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa, the group of emerging markets countries known as CIVETS.
He said: “London is at serious risk of losing out in the race with other EU states to connect with emerging global markets unless we have frequent, daily, direct flights.
“It makes sense to play to London’s existing strengths, and as most foreign airlines and passengers want to fly into Britain’s hub, why not seek to encourage that?
“Adding just a few extra arrivals at night into Heathrow would enable greater connectivity for London with the BRIC and CIVETS markets and give a major boost to the UK economy.
“Extra night-flights and mixed-mode are not long-term solutions but while we await the final Howard Davies’s final report in 2015, practical short-term, temporary measures have to be examined.”
The Airports Commission has been set up to assess the steps needed to maintain the UK’s global hub status and to recommend actions to improve the use of existing runway capacity in the next five years.
“We the undersigned, call on the Prime Minister and Chancellor to publicly reject all expansion at Heathrow Airport – including the building of a third runway, allowing night flights or ending runway alternation.”
On night flights, the LibDems say:
What’s the problem?
Hundreds of thousands of people living under the flight path are woken up at 4.30am by night flights. These flights rid residents of their few hours of respite from aircraft noise.
What are we doing about it?
The Liberal Democrats passed a new resolution at our conference in Brighton in 2012, explicitly committing the party to a policy of no night flights at Heathrow (except, of course, for emergencies).
The Liberal Democrats are representing the views of thousands of local residents with our submissions to the Night Flights consultation which is due to close on April 22nd 2013. You can read about the consultation and make your own submission here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/night-flights-consultation
How you can help
Working and campaigning together,we can get the number of night flights down to ZERO. It can’t be right that planes taking off and landing from Heathrow in the small hours of the morning are waking up thousands upon thousands of people every day.
Earlier the Institute of Directors had yet another push for a 3rd Heathrow runway:
Businesses call for Heathrow Airport expansion
December 18, 2012 (London 24)
A group of business leaders has added its voice to the debate over the future of Heathrow Airport. The Institute of Directors (IoD) believe it should expand by at least one runway.
The Air Passenger Duty (APD) airport departure tax was “much too high” and should be frozen, and visa and immigration systems should be improved, the IoD said.
Entitled Flying into the Future, the report said: “Heathrow should expand by one, or preferably two, runways.”
In a poll, 59% of IoD members said a lack of spare capacity at Heathrow was damaging inward investment.
IoD senior economic adviser Corin Taylor, who wrote the report, said: “British aviation faces several key crunches which require swift, co-ordinated action. Aviation is economically crucial, and the world is only going to become even more interconnected.
“We cannot afford to ignore the reality that demand for air travel in south east England will soon be more than our airports can handle. This means airport capacity must expand, alongside other measures to improve our competitiveness in terms of taxes and immigration processes.”
“The world economy is shifting towards high-growth economies, including the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations. It is absolutely vital that we have an aviation strategy which embraces the enormous opportunities this brings.”
Aviation Minister Simon Burns said: “London is one of the best-connected cities in the world, with direct flights to more destinations and more flights each week to many global cities and emerging markets than any of our European competitors.
“We know that to stay ahead we need to plan for the future and build a strong political consensus, which is why we have asked Sir Howard Davies to conduct a detailed, independent review of all the options for maintaining our connectivity.
“By the end of next year he will have delivered a shortlist of credible proposals as well as identifying ways in which we can make even better use of the capacity which already exists.”
Statements on Heathrow by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in the past:
“Airport Capacity in the South East -Airport expansion in the South East, and in particular at the UK’s only hub airport, Heathrow, is essential for the future competitiveness of London. It is often forgotten that air travel is as important for the movement of freight as it is for the movement of people. The restriction of flights caused by the volcanic ash cloud and the snow in 2010 provide evidence of how many businesses are dependent on the aviation industry.
“With larger, quieter and more fuel efficient planes entering service every year, it is possible to meet commitments on carbon emissions and noise levels while expanding capacity through new runways. This is why the government’s decision to halt airport expansion in the region was a disappointing one for business in London, and one LCCI is keen to see reversed.”
14. LCCI welcomed the Government’s announcement to consult on a new hub airport as recognition of the need for both additional long-term aviation capacity and a national hub airport. The Davies Commission has now been formed and if it can provide political consensus on a long term strategy it will be a worthwhile exercise.
15. However, any decisions on a long-term solution to capacity constraints do not address the urgent issue of London’s short-term aviation capacity constraints. After exhaustive study the only viable solution to these immediate capacity constraints is a third runway at Heathrow Airport.
26. Heathrow: LCCI’s position supporting an additional runway at Heathrow is fixed at present in the light of no new evidence to propose a preferred solution. Our stance on Heathrow is clear. A third runway is the only way to retain the UK’s leading role as an international hub which can be completed in the short-medium term.
Failure to deal with need for airport capacity costing the UK dear
“Commenting today on Heathrow’s response to the Davies Commission, Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said:
“We absolutely agree with Heathrow that the failure to deal with our desperate need for airport capacity is costing the UK economy dear. British businesses need the Government to stop dithering and speed up the Davies Commission report and it is important that all viable options are considered, including a third runway at Heathrow.” ”
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) have repeatedly broken noise limits at Leeds Bradford airport, and it is meant to have changed to less noisy planes. However, the introduction of these planes has been postponed. PIA is meant to have switched to Boeing 777s on its services to Islamabad from earlier in March. There have been 8 breaches of night time rules over the previous 12 months. Two years earlier the council had served a breach of condition notice on the airport. Improvements were made but after a further eight breaches councillors said they wanted a commitment on timescale. Earlier councillors had agreed to support the approach of continued dialogue rather than formal action.
More breaches of night noise limits at Leeds Bradford by Pakistan International Airlines
12th December 2012Pakistan International Airlines has breached night-time flying rules at Leeds-Bradford Airport. It has had 8 breaches of night-time rules in the last year. It is now being asked by Leeds City Council to give a formal commitment to introduce quieter planes, and timescale for doing so. Two years ago the Council served a breach of condition notice on the airport after warning that further contraventions by Pakistan Airlines would not be tolerated. Improvements were made, but there are still breaches. Councillors agreed to support the approach of continued dialogue rather than formal action at this stage. At Leeds Bradford there is a restriction of planes at night that have a noise quota count greater than 1. Leeds Bradford Airport is reviewing the designated night-time quota period of 2300—0700 as it wants to make the night period shorter, from 2330 - 0600.http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=1058
London City Airport is starting a second round of public consultation on proposals to increase the number and size of planes using the airport. The airport already has permission for up to 120,000 flights per year using the airport. It now wants permission for 7 additional aircraft parking stands, with an extended terminal building and a new eastern passenger pier. These will be to accommodate more flights and more passengers. The airport, as usual, says this will create and secure jobs etc etc and says it is important in regenerating East London etc etc. There will be three 4-hour consultation sessions on the plans, for local residents. The plans do not appear to be visible online. The airport wants to be able to handle aircraft the size of the Bombardier C-Series, [110 to 130 seats] so it can have flights to medium haul destinations like the Middle East and the east coast of the US by 2016. It has ambitions of having 10 million passengers per year. The airport is very close to housing (Map ) and causes a great deal of local noise disturbance.
London City Airport is starting a second round of public consultation on proposals allowing it to increase the number and size of aircrafts.(sic)
Plans have already been approved for up to 120,000 flights using the airport in the Royal Docks every year.
Permission is now being sought for seven additional aircraft parking stands, along with an extended terminal building and a new eastern passenger pier to be build to accommodate more flights and passengers.
The airport’s chief executive, Declan Collier, said: “The programme aims to prepare the airport for the future. Of central importance is that the investment will help safeguard the thousands of jobs at the airport, as well as our role as an international gateway to London and catalyst for the on-going regeneration of East London.”
There will be a chance to view the draft proposals at Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre in North Woolwich on April 10 from 4-8pm, at Chrisp Street Ideas Store in Poplar on April 11 from 3-7pm, at Britannia Village Hall, West Silvertown, on April 12 from 2 to 6pm.
London City Airport plans for larger aircraft and increased capacity – to local criticism
December 15, 2012
London City Airport already has consent to increase the number of flights per year to 120,000. The airport is now planning to submit a planning application to Newham Council in spring 2013 to allow “major infrastructure changes” (not including a runway extension) that could allow the airport larger planes. It wants to be able to handle aircraft the size of the Bombardier C-Series, [110 to 130 seats] so it can have flights to medium haul destinations like the Middle East and the east coast of the US by 2016. The plans are apparently “in their early stages, with the airport set to consult with local residents in the coming weeks.” The airport, which currently handles around 3.2 million passengers a year, and some 73,000 flights. It has ambitions to increase capacity to 10 million travellers and 120,00 flights annually. The airport announced separate plans for €19 million investment on buildings, gates etc last month, with work starting in early 2013. Click here to view full story…
London City Airport expansion plans take off in cloud of criticism
A £15 million expansion programme announced by London City Airport to mark its 25th anniversary has been criticised by campaigners over the increasing number of flights—double the restrictions imposed when it first opened. London City Airport is to submit a planning application shortly for more infrastructure to allow for expansion and for medium haul flights. But the expansion year-on-year goes against the original planning when the airport was opened on November 5, 1987. Only 4 airlines operated from the airport in 1987, with flights to just 3 destinations—Plymouth, Paris and Brussels. Today, 25 years on, 10 airlines fly to 42 destinations across the UK and Europe, as well as twice-a-day to New York. Hacan East, which represents families living under the flight paths across east London, has accused airport bosses of broken promises. The government inspector at the original airport public inquiry in the 1980s restricted aircraft to quiet turbo-props rather than the jets that proliferate today, and flights limited to 30,000 a year.
The local community group for residents affected by London City Airport is HACAN East
In 2012 there were around 64,310 flights using the airport (CAA data) which was an increase of about +5.3% compared to 2011. The number of passengers was about 3,016,600 which was an increase of about 0.8% compared to 2011.
Numbers of air passengers at London City Airport in recent years:
Lydd Airport submitted a planning application in December 2006 for a 444 metre extension to its runway and a new terminal to increase its passenger numbers from below 3,000 in 2005 to 500,000 passengers per annum. It ultimately wants the number to rise to 2 million per year. The planning application was taken to public inquiry in 2011, and since then, a decision has been awaited, from Eric Pickles, Minister at DCLG. However, the issue of the proximity of Lydd airport to the Dungeness nuclear power station has always been a serious problem. The Lydd Area Action Group (LAAG) has challenged the manner in which the nuclear issue has been handled by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). Now LAAG say that should the government approve the development of Lydd Airport without holding the ONR to account on a range of matters and satisfactorily answering the questions put to it by the European Commission, it ultimately faces the possibility of the case being referred to the European Court of Justice.
UK government risks infringing nuclear safety legislation over Lydd Airport
March 25th, 2013 (LYDD AIRPORT ACTION GROUP press release)
The European Commission has written to the UK government regarding its concerns about nuclear safety as a result of Lydd Airport’s proposed expansion.
Lydd Airport is located less than 60 seconds flight time from the Dungeness nuclear power complex. The runway extension will transform this small local airport, which operates predominantly light aircraft, into a regional airport capable of supporting Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s – aircraft that the nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) acknowledges have the potential to cause its highest category nuclear accident in the event of a crash.
Responding to a complaint from LAAG over the basis of the ONR’s decision not to oppose this development and its lack of engagement over this case, the European Commission – after examining the evidence – concluded there were sufficient concerns to write to the UK government over a potential infringement of the Nuclear Safety Directive.
The operator of Dungeness B (EDF/British Energy) objected to the development of Lydd Airport in 2007 on the basis that “The large scale increase in air traffic around the site is a risk that should be sensibly avoided in the local and wider public interest ..”.
The ONR on the other hand did not oppose the expansion, arguing that the probability of an aircraft accident at Dungeness resulting from the introduction of large commercial aircraft at Lydd Airport is so small it could be ignored. Evidence provided by a number of leading experts shows that the mathematical model on which the ONR based this regulatory decision is seriously flawed, yet the ONR continues to maintain its regulatory position.
Despite requests over a number of years, the ONR has refused to allow the basis of this decision to be subject to public scrutiny. It has consistently failed to answer specific questions about well substantiated concerns surrounding the efficacy of the model, plus errors in its application and in the advice given to government departments, mostly revealed through technical papers and email exchanges obtained via freedom of information requests.
Although it is the government’s responsibility to ensure the ONR operates in a transparent manner with regard to its regulatory decisions, it has failed to seek accountability from the ONR, despite the depth of evidence demonstrating that the basis of its regulatory decision is flawed.
Should the government approve the development of Lydd Airport without holding the ONR to account on these matters and satisfactorily answering the questions put to it by the European Commission, it ultimately faces the possibility of the case being referred to the European Court of Justice.
Lydd Airport Action Group
Lydd Airport’s planning application was submitted to Shepway District Council in December 2006 (Y06/1647/SH & Y06/1648/SH) for a 444m extension to its runway and a new terminal to increase its passenger numbers from < 3000 in 2005 to 500,000 passengers per annum (ppa).
(Note in 2011 there were ~500 passengers). This planning application represents Phase1 of the airport’s Master Plan objective to increase passenger numbers to 2 million passengers per annum (2 mppa).
Shepway District Council unlawfully determined in favour of the planning application on March 3rd 2010. The controversy surrounding this decision led to a public inquiry. The Public Inquiry took place between February 15th, 2011 and September 16th, 2011.
During the 2011 public inquiry four experts gave evidence on behalf of LAAG on the possible causes and consequences of an aircraft accident at the Dungeness nuclear complex and the adequacy of the Byrne model used by the ONR to justify its regulatory decision not to oppose LyddAirport’s planning application. The experts concluded that this model was not fit for purpose and that it substantially underestimated the probability of an accident at Dungeness caused by the introduction of large commercial aircraft at LyddAirport.
LAAG commissioned an additional critique of the Byrne model in early 2012 by a leading expert following the UK nuclear industry’s failure to address accidental crash damage as part of its European stress test (safety evaluation) exercise. This paper expanded on the evidence given to date and confirmed that the model was not fit for purpose (see details – LAAG press release April 25th, 2012).
The runway extension at Lydd Airport will allow the commercial operation of large aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 which weight over 70 tonnes fully loaded. Currently 99% of activity (movements) at Lydd Airport is dominated by light aircraft (aircraft weighing < 5.7tonnes).
If LyddAirport’s development proceeds, no other regional airport in Europe, and possibly the world, will be as close to a nuclear power complex.
Lydd Airport is located in a complex operating environment – it is situated less than 3 miles from the Dungeness nuclear complex and lies between two army ranges – Lydd Army Range - less than 2 miles away at the southern end of the runway and Hythe Army Range ~ 8 miles to the north. A major RSPB bird reserve is located between LyddAirport and the Dungeness nuclear power complex and the airport is located under one of the main migratory bird routes in the south of England.
Lydd airport is located on the Dungeness Peninsular and is surrounded by natural habitats protected by European and national legislation. Dungeness is believed to be one of the most heavily protected areas in the UK – such is uniqueness of its flora and fauna.
Lydd Airport was acquired by Sheikh Fahad al Athel in 2001.
LAAG is an action group formed in 2004 to oppose the large scale development of Lydd airport. LAAG has ~3000 members.
After several months of study of the various arguments about a new “projet d’aéroport du Grand Ouest”airport plan for Nantes at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, WWF France has now made public its position. They say the project should not go ahead without a lot of further studies being done. They are urging the French government to implement a number of additional studies to quantify the actual project impacts on ecosystems and people. Studies already show the importance of the biodiversity of the site but still contain many gaps (flora, birds, insects, reptiles …). Further studies are also needed on the airport’s wider environmental impacts. WWF also considers that flood risk has been underestimated and more work is needed to investigate this. There are also important issues about hydrological impacts on drainage, water supply, and catchment areas on which work is needed as the airport may have negative impacts. Natural areas provide valuable “ecosystem services” at no cost, and these should not be put at risk, just for an airport.
NOTRE DAME DES LANDES: AN OFFENSE TO NATIONAL BIODIVERSITY
Statement by WWF France on proposed Nantes airport.
After several months of study of the various arguments, WWF makes public its position on the airport project of the Great West. To the risks of damage to local biodiversity, WWF France urges government to implement a number of additional studies to quantify actual project impacts on ecosystems and human activities.
> Conducting inventories fauna / flora complete for all taxonomic groups whose presence is already known on the site or for which habitats are favorable throughout the season, including fall and winter .
These show very clearly the issues relating to the biodiversity of the site of Notre-Dame-des-Landes and objectively assess the impact of the airport project on natural habitats, species and their population and the ecological significance of the site, especially as migratory crossroads.
WWF considers that the studies to date (research firm Biotope 2002, 2006 and 2011) have indeed demonstrated the importance of the biodiversity of the site but still contain many gaps (flora, birds, insects, reptiles …) and can not detect environmental issues overall project. Further studies are needed to better assess the situation.
> A comprehensive flood risk that may cause the project to the surrounding villages.
WWF considers that this risk was underestimated in the current study, which are based on existing knowledge but not considered sufficient for profound changes in the project.Based on the results of the study, a consideration of these risks must be made within the framework of the implementation of plans to prevent flood risk (PPRI);
> A real evaluation of hydrological features of wetlands on the site .
WWF considers that the case law on water can not simply indicate that the detailed assessment of the hydrological functions of wetlands requires the implementation of specific studies with the implementation of measures and analyzes in situ but also the watershed scale involved, and on time scales sufficiently long (multi-tracked). These types of studies are lengthy and complex of research and experimentation.
A detailed assessment, “field”, hydrological features is not feasible for these reasons.
These specific studies must be carried out for a real consideration of the services rendered by wetlands on the site, on the quantitative and qualitative aspects of water resources, mitigation of flood risk and their importance as a biological reservoir;
> A legal study of the consequences of this project on the principle of compensation and its implications at the national level on the doctrine of “avoid, reduce, offset”. The results of this study must then be a national debate .
Without such additional information, it is unthinkable to WWF France to launch a project of airport infrastructure at the site of Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
Heathrow Airport (BAA as was) is now lobbying hard for a 3rd runway, in a new campaign. It is adamant that there is a lot of unmet need, that the UK must retain the largest hub airport, that having a huge hub is vital and so on. Heathrow states that: “More hub capacity is urgently needed and whilst longer term demand forecasts are inherently uncertain, the more immediate demand case for a 3 runway hub is very clear. The longer term forecasts also show that any potential demand case for a 4th runway is highly uncertain and may not materialise.” They are working on a range of plans for a 3rd runway, rather than just the northern option, include putting the M25 in a tunnel under a runway, keeping the existing terminals and filling in reservoirs to build runways to the west of the airport, or almost doubling the length of the current 2 runways to in effect create 4. They are likely to submit plans for these to the Airports Commission. However, DfT forecasts of future passenger demand have fallen continuously over the past decade and are likely to still be over-estimates for the period between now and 2030 as capacity constraints mean passengers are shifting to other European hub airports and the focus shifts further east, to the Middle East.
Heathrow bosses today unleashed a full throttle bid for a third runway.
In a dramatic move, they sought to make the case for expansion at the west London airport by arguing that it would not inevitably lead to a fourth runway.
They are also working on a range of plans for a third runway, rather than just the proposed one north of the airport — which caused such controversy and was opposed by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Options that will be considered include tunnelling the M25, keeping the existing terminals and filling in reservoirs to build three or four runways to the west of the airport, or extending the current two runways to in effect create four.
The airport bosses have also launched a fresh campaign over the need for a bigger Heathrow to maintain Britain’s position as a global trading nation.
Opponents of Heathrow expansion emphasise that if a third runway is built it will lead to more being allowed. But Heathrow today argued that the Department for Transport may have over-estimated demand in future decades as capacity constraints meant passengers had been and were shifting to other European hub airports.
Ross Baker, Heathrow’s director of strategy, said: “Forecasts show a clear and urgent demand for a three-runway hub, although longer-term forecasts are inherently uncertain and the need for a fourth runway may not materialise.”
It also emerged that Heathrow may submit several proposals to expand the airport to the Davies Commission into Britain’s aviation needs.
An aviation source said: “There’s a lot of new thinking going on about how additional runways could be delivered at Heathrow. The options we submit to the Commission could look very different from the old third runway proposal.”
But MPs and anti-expansion campaigners were immediately sceptical that Heathrow would not push to grow even bigger.
John Stewart, chairman of anti-expansion group Hacan, added: “There is no guarantee that if they get a third runway that they would stop at that.”
Below is the press release from Heathrow Airport (which used to be called BAA until a few months ago) on its submission to the Airports Commission, wanting another runway.
Commission submission (by Heathrow)
22 March, 2013
Aviation demand forecasting
Heathrow supports the Government’s vision for ‘dynamic, sustainable transport that drives economic growth and competitiveness’ and welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Airports Commission work to identify how to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub.
The UK has been home to the world’s largest port, then international airport, for the last 350 years. Heathrow is the UK’s only international hub airport, a national asset, providing the connectivity that has supported the UK’s leading position in the world economy. Heathrow handles more international passengers than any other global hub. The Heathrow hub provides the UK with the vast majority of its intercontinental connectivity, with direct connections to 77[i] destinations not available from any other UK airport. Over 90% of the South East’s long-haul passengers travelling for business fly from Heathrow[ii].
However, Heathrow is already operating at its permitted capacity. The Department for Transport (DfT) forecasts indicate that by 2020 there will be 11m of un-served passenger demand at Heathrow and 28m by 2030[iii]. More hub capacity is urgently needed and whilst longer term demand forecasts are inherently uncertain, the more immediate demand case for a three runway hub is very clear. The longer term forecasts also show that any potential demand case for a fourth runway is highly uncertain and may not materialise.
Heathrow believes that the DfT forecasts provide a good high level estimate of future passenger demand. However, there are two important areas in the model’s approach to allocating traffic between UK airports that need strengthening. Firstly, it must take account of network or hub economics and secondly it must properly account for transfer passengers.
The DfT forecasts incorrectly assume that with Heathrow constrained, long haul demand, and to an extent transfer demand, will get picked up at other UK airports. In practice, network economics and the related airline business model, make this highly unlikely. Instead overseas hubs and economies are the beneficiaries. The issue is leading the UK Government to underestimate the very pressing nature of the hub capacity constraint and its damaging impact on UK intercontinental connectivity. With weaker connectivity comes lost trade opportunities. Frontier Economics estimates that the UK may already be forgoing trade worth £14bn p.a., 0.9% of UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP)[iv]. Once lost, these opportunities are much harder to recover as relationships, systems and investments become more entrenched elsewhere.
Similar to the DfT, Heathrow forecasts constrained traffic growth of ~0.5-1% p.a. at the UK’s hub, with growth slowing as the hub capacity constraint tightens. This low level of growth reflects the reality that Heathrow is already operating at over 98% of its 480k Air Traffic Movement (ATM) cap. Heathrow’s unconstrained central case forecast for hub demand growth to 2030 is 2.4% p.a. This is close to the DfT forecast for Heathrow for the same period. Other reputable forecasters also anticipate long run growth of 2% to 3.5%[v], [vi], [vii]. Heathrow regards any forecasts to 2050 to be too uncertain to be a reliable planning tool at this stage.
Whilst the UK is already suffering from hub capacity constraint, the current political and planning landscape means that it will likely be 2024 before significant additional hub capacity could be operational in the UK, with Heathrow being the location where this can be delivered the quickest.
By 2024 the UK’s hub will have been capacity constrained for two decades and a significant proportion of the un-served hub demand will have been lost, either for good, or for the very long term until it can be recaptured. Overseas governments, airlines and hub airports, such as Dubai and Istanbul, are already making major investments that exploit the UK’s hub capacity constraint.
As a result, Heathrow anticipates that adjusted unconstrained hub demand will be somewhat lower than forecasts might suggest. It is important that the Airports Commission’s assessment of need for additional hub capacity does reflect that some hub demand will have been lost by the time new capacity is in place to serve it.
The UK has an urgent need for hub capacity to meet continued growth in hub demand and UK connectivity needs. Heathrow looks forward to supporting the Airports Commission in evaluating how to maintain and improve the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub.
[i] OAG Airline Schedules Database, HAL Analysis, October 2012
[ii] CAA Passenger Survey 2011, HAL Analysis, February 2013
[iii] ‘UK Aviation Forecasts’, Pages 154-158, UK Department for Transport, January 2013
[iv] ‘Connecting for Growth’, Frontier Economics, September 2011
Below are some of the stories that have come out about possible runway options for Heathrow:
Retired pilot Jock Lowe devises £7.5bn plan to double length of Heathrow runways (and lose runway alternation)
March 13, 2013 A retired Concorde pilot called William “Jock” Lowe has been promoting his £7.5bn plan to extend both Heathrow runways from 3,900 and 3,700 metres, up to 7,500 metres – approximately doubling them. He has submitted his scheme to the Airports Commission (all expressions on intend on such projects had to be delivered to the Commission by 28th February). In the Lowe scheme (if it was to be allowed) the number of flights could be doubled, from the current cap of 480,000 per year up to about a million. This scheme is cheaper than the Leunig scheme, proposed in October, for 4 Heathrow runways, a bit further west. The rise in flight numbers could only be done by “mixed mode”, which means having planes both landing, and taking off, all day on both runways. So a plane would be landing on the eastern part of a runway, while another takes off on the west portion of it. This would mean London residents over flown would get twice as many flights as they do now, and they would lose their half a day of peace, which they get from the current runway alternation. It would be deeply and passionately opposed by thousands of Londoners. Click here to view full story…
Policy Exchange produces report hoping to shift Heathrow a few km to the west, with 4 runways over the M25 …
October 5, 2012
The Policy Exchange, which says it is a leading think tank to deliver a stronger society and a more dynamic economy (nothing about care of the environment) have put forward a proposal to expand Heathrow, by building 4 new runways. And moving the existing two a mile or two to the west, on top of the M25. Then there would be a two more runways, one parallel to each of the shifted runways. The Policy Exchange then says that if this cannot be built, 4 runways could be be built at Luton instead. They claim around 700 properties (in Poyle) would need to be demolished compared to the 1,400 that would need to go to make way for the estuary airport, and its purpose would be to send a “much needed signal to people that Britain is open for business.” They dismiss the problem of carbon emissions by presuming that all homes in the UK will be insulated, so leaving fossil fuel for transport – and that travelling is much more appealing so we can “have the money and carbon allocation to see the world.” A very odd report, with some very dubious logic ….. Click here to view full story…
Heathrow telling Davies Commission it only needs a 3rd, not a 4th, extra runway. But won’t pay noise compensation.
November 26, 2012 The Times reports that Heathrow will tell the Davies Commission that it can remain as the world’s premier international passenger hub by building a third, but does not need a fourth, runway. It is also saying that if it is allowed another runway, it will not pay for “noise compensation” for the extra numbers affected by aircraft noise. The Davies Commission has already raised this issue, as one that needs to be addressed if thousands more households are to be affected by noise. The Commission has said that it will look at noise compensation programmes at other airports. Heathrow says job creation and the boost for the neighbouring economy from expanded Heathrow is more important than direct noise compensation for Londoners. Heathrow continues to lobby to persuade opinion formers that Britain will lose tens of billions of pounds in trade if it does not have a massive hub, even larger than Heathrow now. With even more tens of millions of international passengers each year. Click here to view full story…
A decision on whether to allow major expansion of Lydd airport, less than three miles from the Dungeness nuclear power station, may be imminent. It has been delayed for years. The decision will be made by the Sec of State, Eric Pickles. However, there are many issues that make allowing Lydd airport, which is owned by an Arab sheikh, to expand very problematic. First there is the issue of the nuclear power station at Dungeness B, the operators of which (EDF) opposed the application. Many local residents are also opposed to more local wind farms. The battle over the future of Romney Marsh offers a snapshot of the dilemmas facing a government struggling to reconcile job-friendly “grand projects” with commitments to reduce carbon emissions and preserve the integrity of the countryside.
A general view from Camber Sands in East Sussex of the Cheyne Court Wind Farm on Romney Marsh, Kent. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA
In the picturesque town of Lydd, the museum records the fate of two smugglers arrested at the turn of the 17th century. The men were locked in a room at a inn on the edge of Romney Marsh, a few miles from the English Channel, where they were guarded by six armed customs officers.
But the officers were unprepared for the militancy of local residents. Hours after the arrests, more than 100 from the surrounding marshes confronted the guards, freeing the men. More than a century later, residents confirmed their antipathy to authority when they cheered a smugglers’ convoy of contrabrand through the streets of the town.
Today, politicians have replaced the detested customs officers as the bête noire of residents. They fear Westminster politicians and local councillors are set to approve plans that would lead to the skies above swarming with commercial aircraft, while unsightly wind turbines proliferate on their fields.
A decision on whether to develop a major airport in Lydd, less than three miles from the Dungeness nuclear power station, is said to be imminent, while residents are battling to prevent more wind farms being built near the marsh. But this is more than a dispute between the inhabitants of a remote, wild and beautiful region, and the metropolis.
The battle over the future of Romney Marsh offers a snapshot of the dilemmas facing a government struggling to reconcile job-friendly “grand projects” with commitments to reduce carbon emissions and preserve the integrity of the countryside.
These have become perennial themes in austerity Britain; all are present in this exposed corner of England. If Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, approves the airport plan, opponents claim that the decision will speak volumes about both the government’s attitude to nuclear safety after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, and its attitude to international environmental obligations.
It would also undermine the point of the Davies commission, which was set up by the government to consider the arguments for airport expansion, and will not publish its findings until 2015.
Currently Lydd receives the occasional light aircraft. But approval for a runway extension would allow large commercial aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320, which can weigh over 70 tonnes fully loaded. The operators of Dungeness B, the French energy giant EDF, opposed the application, warning that it would increase the risk of a nuclear accident. “The large increase in air traffic around the site is a risk that should be sensibly avoided in the local and wider public interest,” EDF argued in its submission.
If Pickles approves the extension, a crucial step in allowing the airport to take up to two million passengers, opponents say that no other regional runway in Europe, possibly the world, would be as close to a nuclear power complex.
The airport, which is owned by the Saudi billionaire, Sheikh Fahad al Athel, is surrounded by protected habitats including a major RSPB bird reserve. Environmentalists say that it is under one of the main migratory bird routes in the south of England. As a result, the Dungeness Peninsula is the most heavily protected area in the UK, its habitats designated under EU and UK legislation. But some in government appear willing to flout such laws. George Osborne has said that he wants to “make sure that gold plating of European Union rules on things like habitats are not placing ridiculous rules on British business”.
The proximity of large colonies of birds to a large airport and a nuclear power station has also prompted fears of a catastrophic birdstrike. The Office for Nuclear Regulation acknowledges that if a large aircraft were to crash onto the site it would have the potential to cause its most severe “Target 9″ incident, one that would kill more than 100 people. But it concludes that the probability of an accident at Dungeness, resulting from the introduction of commercial flights at Lydd, is so low that it can be ignored.
Experts hired by Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG), which opposes the scheme, disagree, claiming that the risk assessment is flawed. The group complains that repeated requests, made under the Freedom of Information Act, to establish how the ONR reached its decision not to oppose the expansion, have been denied.
The European Commission has joined the dispute, asking the government for answers, a move that could lead to the application being mired in legal battles. “Should the government approve Lydd airport’s development, not only would this leave it open to legal challenge because of infringement of multiple directives but it would demonstrate that the government is willing to sacrifice public safety and the environment for its growth agenda,” said Louise Barton of LAAG.
The RSPB is equally opposed. “We already know that the only real capacity issue is at Heathrow,” said Chris Corrigan, its regional director in the south-east. “If there is a decision to allow expansion at Lydd, it is both unnecessary and extremely damaging, especially in the context of the UK’s legally binding climate change targets and the risk of not meeting them due to spiralling aviation emissions.” One way of countering the increase in emissions generated by airport expansion would be further investment in green energy.
But opposition to onshore wind farms in the region also runs deep. A few miles from Lydd, the energy company Ecotricity is looking to build six 125-metre turbines near the village of Snave. “Snave has been identified as an excellent site for wind energy with enough resource to provide clean green electricity to power the equivalent of 9,800 homes a year,” it says. The scheme is one of many small-scale onshore wind farms being proposed to help Britain meet EU targets for 15% of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2020.
Save Our Marsh, Block Rural Exploitation, or “Sombe”, a local pressure group, says that the marshes already have one of England’s largest onshore windfarms, a 26-turbine scheme at Little Cheyne Court, close to the medieval Cinque Port of Rye. Several other marsh parishes are also being considered for onshore turbines, with plans for four new developments unveiled in the last year alone. As a result, Sombre fears that a plethora of small onshore farms could become one giant network of turbines over time.
“Once so many have been placed strategically around Romney Marsh they will go for the infill,” said Mike Bartlett, a spokesman for the group. “We are fighting against it because we fear it will set a precedent.” Last Thursday evening, about 100 people packed the parish hall to discuss their opposition to the scheme. The mood was angry with many warning that the haunting bleak beauty of the marshes was in jeopardy.
The local Tory MP, Damien Collins, backs Sombre’s campaign, saying the answer to Britain’s energy crisis is to build a new nuclear power station at Dungeness. However he is in favour of expanding the airport, saying it would put “Romney Marsh on the runway to economic growth”, an argument shared by some locals who fear the marshes will die unless the young can be dissuaded from moving away in search of jobs.
Airport expansion, nuclear power, wind farms and conservation: a row that has it all. And what transpires in this remote part of Kent will not stay in Kent. Reflected in the brackish water of its marshes, the shape of Britain’s future can be discerned.
Damage to roofs of homes under flight paths is not uncommon and many incidents happen each year. This time a house in Old Windsor was affected, by a vortex created by a plane using Heathrow, with a number of tiles sucked off the roof leaving holes, open to the elements. The damage is done by a vortex of air, which is churned up by the plane passing overhead, and then descends to ground level. Heathrow Airport said “Only one in 10,000 flights results in a vortex” (well, they mean results in a vortex that causes damage to property). Heathrow sent out a team to fix it promptly – airports are always keen to do this, to limit negative publicity from the incident. This house is the home of a grandmother, who naturally was very alarmed and frightened by the incident, which the first though was a large explosion. Luckily nobody was hurt this time by falling tiles or debris. Some living under flight paths, where there is often vortex damage, fear that in due course there will be injuries.
Heathrow Airport today promised to repair a widow’s house after a passing jet created a rare and powerful ‘vortex’ that blasted tiles off of her roof.
Grandmother-of-four Patricia Hills was left with three large holes – with shattered tiles thrown as far as 20ft away from her home.
Some even smashed the headlights and dented the front of a neighbour’s car.
Damage: Heathrow Airport today promised to repair Patricia Hills’ house after a passing jet created a rare and powerful ‘vortex’ that blasted tiles off her roof
Strewn: Shattered tiles were scattered as far as 20ft away from the house. Mrs Hills, who is in her seventies, said the ‘vortex’ gust left the scene outside looking like a ‘warzone’
Mrs Hills, who is in her seventies, said the ‘vortex’ gust left the scene outside her home looking like a ‘warzone’. She now fears for her safety at the house in Old Windsor, Berkshire – which is under Heathrow’s flightpath.
Describing the incident – which happened at about 6pm – the retired concert pianist said: ‘I heard this huge explosion and thought it was a clap of thunder.
‘Then a neighbour came rushing over and said ‘did you know there is a hole in your roof?”
Mrs Hills, who called the fire brigade, added: ‘They were marvellous and helped clear away the worst of the debris. It looked like a war zone before they arrived. This has left me feeling frightened and alone.’
Fears: She said the incident, in Old Windsor, Berkshire, has left her feeling ‘frightened and alone’
They also put up a cordon around the front of the house to keep people safe.
Neighbour Peter Green said: ‘Our houses are semi-detached so I must have been about 15 yards away from where it happened.
‘I heard it clearly in my study. It sounded like a whoosh, then a loud bang and clattering as tiles scattered everywhere.’
Mr Green – who is himself an airline pilot – initially thought the damage had been caused by ice from an incoming plane.
But an investigation by airport operator BAA concluded the damage had not be caused by a solid object but by a ‘wave of vortex.‘
That is a gust of swirling air that can follow an aircraft and in rare instances cause this sort of damage.
A spokesman for BAA said an assessor had been to Mrs Hills’ house and the company will now send men around to replace her damaged roof.
He said: ‘It is rare, but we have a policy of carrying out repairs where this has happened to people.’
Mrs Hills said: ‘BAA have acted honourably and I’m very pleased at their quick response.’
It is not known which plane was responsible or at what height it was flying.
Conservative Windsor MP Adam Afriyie lives in a nearby road, and the village is home to singer Sir Elton John
In 2003 the operators of Salzburg Airport, Salzburger Flughafen, applied for apermission to build an additional terminal. Its application was granted and that project was completed without any environmental assessment. In 2004, the airport applied to further expand the airport area.This has been referred to the European Court of Justice, which has now ruled that both the construction of a new terminal and the expansion of the airport should have undergone an environmental impact assessment since they were likely to have significant effects on the environment. The ECJ ruled that not having the EIAs contravenes EU rules. In contrast, the Austrian legislation requires EIAs on proposed a modification to airports only if it will increase traffic by at least 20,000 flights per year. The ruling will have major ramifications for projects across the EU. Member states will no longer be able to place a quantitative size threshold to decide which projects need an EIA. Instead, the threshold must be based on the potential effect on the environment.
Court says that Austrian legislation on impact assessments breaks EU rules.
European Union members states must conduct an environmental impact assessment for any project likely to have significant effects on the environment, the European Court of Justice ruled today (21 March). The Court was ruling on Austrian legislation, which requires green impact assessments on proposed modifications to airports only if the modification will increase traffic by at least 20,000 flights per year.
Salzburg Airport had taken the case to an Austrian court after the government had ruled retroactively that a modification made in 2002 should have required an impact assessment. The airport said that under Austrian law no assessment was needed. The ECJ ruled that this law contravenes EU rules.
The ruling will have major ramifications for projects across the EU. Member states will no longer be able to place a quantitative size threshold to decide which projects need an assessment. Instead, the threshold must be based on the potential effect on the environment.
The Court of Justice of the European Union today ruled that “Member States are required to make all projects which could have significant effects on the environment subject to such an assessment.” In addition, it stated that the Austrian legislation is contrary to EU law, since in case of the modification of an airport, it requires an environmental assessment only for projects likely to increase the number of air traffic movements by at least 20.000 per year.
In 2002, the undertaking Salzburger Flughafen, which operates Salzburg airport, applied for a permit to build an additional terminal. Its application was granted and that project was completed without any environmental assessment.
In 2004, the undertaking made new applications to further expand the airport area.
Consequently, the Environmental Tribunal examined those projects and found that both the construction of a new terminal and the expansion of the airport should have undergone an environmental impact assessment since they were likely to have significant effects on the environment. Following the Environmental Tribunal’s decision, the Salzburger Flughafen made an appeal.
As a result, in today’s ruling, the Court of Justice states that Member States have the obligation to carry out an impact assessment on projects likely to have significant effects on the environment, regardless of their size.
In addition, it stresses that the Austrian legislation takes into consideration only the quantitative aspect of the consequences of a project, without taking account of the other selection criteria such as the population density of the area affected by the project.
Finally, the Court ruled that “when a Member State has established a threshold, as in the present case, which is likely to exempt entire classes of projects from an environmental assessment, the national authorities are obliged to ensure that it is determined, in each individual case, whether such an assessment must be undertaken and if so, to undertake that assessment.”
The EIA Directive (85/337/EEC) is in force since 1985 and applies to a wide range of defined public and private projects, which are defined in Annexes I and II:
Mandatory EIA: all projects listed in Annex I are considered as having significant effects on the environment and require an EIA (e.g. long-distance railway lines, motorways and express roads, airports with a basic runway length ≥ 2100 m, installations for the disposal of hazardous waste, installations for the disposal of non-hazardous waste > 100 tonnes/day, waste water treatment plants > 150.000 p.e.).
Discretion of Member States (screening): for projects listed in Annex II, the national authorities have to decide whether an EIA is needed. This is done by the “screening procedure”, which determines the effects of projects on the basis of thresholds/criteria or a case by case examination. However, the national authorities must take into account the criteria laid down in Annex III. The projects listed in Annex II are in general those not included in Annex I (railways, roads waste disposal installations, waste water treatment plants), but also other types such as urban development projects, flood-relief works, changes of Annex I and II existing projects…).
….. and it continues.
[For airports, it states that EIAs are automatically required for:
"Construction of lines for long-distance railway traffic and of airports ( 1 ) with a basic runway length of 2 100 m or more;" ]