The idea of closing London City Airport and using the huge amount of land it takes up for more intensive, and useful, purposes is not new. A report was produced in April 2014 by NEF, setting out very persuasive reasons why this is not a crazy idea. Now Sian Berry, the Green Party Mayoral Candidate, has again suggested this. The plan she proposes is for the site, which is currently up for sale, into a new quarter for homes, businesses and innovative industries. The Greens propose a consortium with City Hall, councils, business and academia to buy the airport. They are urging potential purchasers to look seriously at the compelling business case for changing the use of the site. The land taken up by the airport, and land around it which is in the Public Safety Zone (for crash risk) and so cannot be used, could create far more economic activity, and far more jobs. This might amount to some 16,000 more jobs than the airport provides and add an additional £400 million to the UK’s economy. The land is in a key geographical location, and would be easy to link to transport networks. It could create thousands of new homes within easy reach of central London, helping to ease the housing crisis. As a writer from Estates Gazette says: “London is crying out for more big sites like this where mixed-use schemes can be built.” The site is wasted as a small airport – especially when Crossrail makes the trip from the Docklands area to Heathrow easy and fast.
Sian Berry, Green Party candidate for Mayor, calls for the potential of east London to be fulfilled by changing London City Airport into a new quarter for homes and businesses.
Local Greens in Newham are proposing to form a consortium with City Hall, councils, business and academia to buy the airport, which is for sale, and replace it with a new city neighbourhood for housing and innovative industries.
They have also launched a petition to one of the potential purchasers, urging them to look at the compelling business case for changing the use of the site.
● City Airport is of negligible importance to Britain’s aviation – it ranks 15th among UK airports and carries just 1.5% of all UK airport passengers.
● But it is holding back London’s economic potential, undermining the designated enterprise zone in the airport’s immediate vicinity, and causing untold health and environmental problems to thousands of local residents.
● If the site were freed for other use it could be used to create at least 16,000 more jobs than the airport provides and add an additional £400 million to the UK’s economy.
● It could also be used to create thousands of new homes within easy reach of central London, easing both the housing crisis and pressure on our groaning transport system.
● So if the land were used sustainably for innovative businesses, residential areas, leisure and cultural facilities and shops – it would go a long way towards solving many of London’s problems at the same time.
Currently, City Airport is for sale by its owners, Global Infrastructure Partners. The price of buying the airport is approximately £2 billion. 5 Local Greens in Newham are making the case for the buyers of the airport to close it.
Investment from City Hall has been pledged by Green Party candidate for Mayor of London, Sian Berry. Local authorities looking for land to build affordable housing are also likely to be interested in becoming part of a consortium, as well as businesses and academic institutions who could locate new jobs in the area, and developers and housing associations who could build new houses.
A stake in the area for Londoners
Sian Berry says that funding through City Hall would include opening up cooperative style investment to local people and Londoners as a whole, enabling people to have their own stake in the area’s development.
An appeal to the current bidders
Campaigners have also started a petition to potential bidder Allianz, a German 6 company which has recently declared it will divest its holdings from the coal. If the 7 company bought the airport and joined forces with the proposed consortium, this would match up with its stated commitment to reduce its investments in fossil fuelbased industries
The airport today
The site is currently taken up with runways and airport buildings, and is ideal for the kind of development the Green Party wants to see on public land across London.
Our vision for this extraordinary site is of the site broken up into smaller plots, with a range of tenures for housing, including non-profit models such as co-operatives, cohousing, community land trusts and self-build, sitting alongside innovative businesses.
Open community space, food growing and green energy generation would be integrated throughout the site.
A new report [April 2014] from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) makes the case for closing London’s City Airport and redeveloping the site to create jobs, boost local business and build new homes:
City Airport creates little value – despite occupying 500,000 square metres at the heart of London, its direct contribution to the UK economy in 2011 was £110m – less than a fifth of the nearby ExCeL Exhibition and Conference Centre.
City Airport costs jobs – the airport has never delivered on initial jobs promises and its safety crash zone limits business development across a 3 mile radius. The extra 1500 jobs from current plans to expand City Airport compare poorly with the 9,000 jobs expected to result from the nearby Silvertown Quays development.
Local residents bear all the costs but reap none of the benefits – the average salary of a London City Airport passenger is over £90,000, while 40% of Newham residents earn less than £20,000. 18,000 local residents suffer high levels of noise pollution and poor air quality.
London transport no longer needs City Airport – City Airport’s passengers account for just 2.4% of London’s total flight demand, and its numbers could be readily absorbed by Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted By 2019 Crossrail will allow City workers to reach Heathrow in just 30 minutes.
I have to say I quite like the idea. London is crying out for more big sites like this where mixed-use schemes can be built. And as far as air capacity is concerned the City airport really is a small contributor to that pie.
Say the site was bought for £2bn by a party wishing to cease its current use and instead build what will essentially be a new town.
The site equals 500,000 sqm, according to the Greens (possibly more if you reclaim some of the land like Canary Wharf). Let’s take the 500,000 sqm though (50 hectares), that’s around £40 million per hectare. Sounds a lot, (which it is), but for comparison King’s Cross Central is 27 hectares and when fully built out will provide 8m sq ft of new space.
Lets assume City Airport was built out to a slightly higher density (no limit on height any more as the airport’s gone!), therefore providing 16m sq ft across its 50 hectares and the price paid was indeed £2bn; that would reflect a price of £125 per sq ft. £2bn doesn’t seem so much now does it.
It’s obviously a huge capital investment and unlikely to attract any serious offers from the private sector, but as shown the sums could add up for a big player from China or the Far East.
we’ve got 2,700 [by 4pm on 19.1.2016] supporters, help us get to 3,000 by February 29, 2016
City Airport is a blight on London – polluting children’s lungs in the local area and speeding up global warming. We desperately need the land it takes up to build housing, schools and space for small business.
German-based insurance company Allianz has expressed an interest in buying the airport. This large financial institution has recently divested from coal. It would be hypocritical of them to run such a polluting facility. We urge Allianz to close the airport and turn it into less risky, more friendly affordable housing and facilities for small businesses.
Caroline Pidgeon is the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor of London. Writing in City Metric, she explains why there is no need for a new runway, and recommends people read the short paper by AEF, “The Great British Runway Myth – Why there is no need for any new runway in the south east” which clearly sets out the arguments. A key fact is that while the number of UK air passengers has grown by 32% since 2000, the number of actual flights has grown by just 0.6% due to use of larger planes, and getting higher load factors. At Gatwick, 12% of runway slots are not being used; Stansted and Luton have over 40% of slots not used, so there is no shortage of London runway capacity. Caroline says: “In the whole aviation debate, it is strange that the views of ordinary passengers in the rest of the UK are rarely given a fair hearing” …. but we “need to improve train links to Stansted, to ensure that this airport is able to make proper use of its spare capacity.” … “Heathrow Airports Holdings quite understandably wants to create a dominant position in the UK, ideally at the expense of other airports. More landing rights means more profits for them. The closer to a monopoly on international flights they have, the happier they are. But the idea that this company speaks up on behalf of “UK Plc”, or the needs of passengers across the UK, is a joke.”
No, London doesn’t need another runway – and the only people who’d benefit own airports
By Caroline Pidgeon
January 12, 2016 (in CityMetric, which is part of the New Statesman)
Caroline Pidgeon is the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor of London. She doesn’t think much of the aviation industry’s enthusiasm for airport expansion…
“Myths which are believed in,” George Orwell once declared, “tend to become true.” We cannot allow that to happen on the issue of aviation.
The report highlights many key facts that are often overlooked – for example that, while the number of UK air passengers has grown by 32 per cent since 2000, the number of actual flights has been almost static, growing by just 0.6 per cent.
This point is hardly rocket science, but it is the number of planes that pass through an airport that define whether there is a lack of capacity, not the number of passengers. And in 2014 the average number of passengers per flight at Heathrow and Gatwick was just under 150 people. This is still a relatively low figure.
In fact, when the London Assembly Transport Committee carried out its own investigation into airport capacity three years ago, we heard evidence that – despite all the claims that Heathrow has no spare capacity – it could easily serve 20m more passengers per year, if bigger aircraft were used. Heathrow needs to be a better, not a bigger airport.
What’s more, London and the South East have a surprising number of underused runways. Even at Gatwick, 12% of runway slots are not being used. And in the summer of 2012, 47% of runway slots at Stansted were not used; at Luton it was a staggering 51%.
There’s another issue: not everyone wants to fly from London and the South East. That region accounts for about a third of the UK’s population, but almost two-thirds of its flights.
In the whole aviation debate, it is strange that the views of ordinary passengers in the rest of the UK are rarely given a fair hearing.
The conclusion is clear: London and the South East do not need a further runway.
However, we do need to improve train links to Stansted, to ensure that this airport is able to make proper use of its spare capacity. High Speed 2 will also have a dramatic impact. In effect, it will enable Birmingham to become a further runway serving London and much of the South East.
And yes, we do also need to address issues about how we reduce certain types of flights altogether. Some internal flights should be made redundant by HS2. Business travel can also be substituted in many cases, by intelligent use of technology, especially video conferencing.
But the ultimate argument against expanding Heathrow or Gatwick is to challenge the aviation industry’s claim that creating an international hub airport is the way forward.
Heathrow is not a UK owned company. It’s owned by Heathrow Airports Holdings. That in turn is owned by FGP Topco Limited, a consortium owned and led by the Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial S.A. (25 per cent); and co-owned by Qatar Holding LLC (20 per cent), Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (13.3 per cent), the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (11.9 per cent), Alinda Capital Partners (11.2 per cent), China Investment Corporation (10 per cent) and Universities Superannuation Scheme (8.7 per cent).
Heathrow Airports Holdings quite understandably wants to create a dominant position in the UK, ideally at the expense of other airports. More landing rights means more profits for them. The closer to a monopoly on international flights they have, the happier they are.
But the idea that this company speaks up on behalf of “UK Plc”, or the needs of passengers across the UK, is a joke. The reality is it speaks solely for its own commercial self-interest.
As revealed in this week’s Sunday Times, Heathrow handed its largely overseas owners £2.1b in dividends over the past four years – but has paid only £24m in corporation tax in almost a decade.
This island can remain connected, especially to new growing markets around the world, without a new airport in London or the South East. The huge number of tourists to London can also be maintained without a further runway. We can achieve all this without having to accept the demands of Heathrow or Gatwick.
There are strong environmental and economic arguments for a whole different approach to managing aviation demand. But we must start listening to the real facts – not the commercial interests of the owners of Heathrow and Gatwick.
Caroline Pidgeon is a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly, and the party’s candidate for mayor.
Plans were announced in October for a huge, 172 acre, business park to be built just south of Horley. Reigate and Banstead Borough Council agreed in principle to use compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) for a business park on the land off Balcombe Road. There is a lively local opposition group. Now a local teacher, Joanna Barnett, has posted a video of herself standing in 2 feet of water, and then in a small rowing boat, on the flooded land. The land regularly floods, being part of a flood plain, helping to protect Horley. The teacher asks where that water would go, if the are is covered in concrete and tarmac. There are serious concerns that building in a necessary flood plain would make flooding in surrounding areas worse. The water can only drain away slowly into the Burstow Stream and the Gatwick stream, ultimately ending up in the river Mole. Mrs Barnett asks: “Why do you think its OK to spend public money, £540,000, preparing this land for the business park? That is our money and it should not be spent trying to pave over a flood plain.” More than 3,200 people have now signed a petition railing against plans to create the huge business park. The local group,”Keep Horley Green” are campaigning against the development, which is on land categorised as a public open space. A consultation is due in 2016.
Horley teacher ROWS across flooded site of proposed business park
Joanna Barnett has branded plans for the 172-acre development on a flood plain ‘outrageous’
A video of a woman rowing across the site of a proposed 172-acre business park in Horleyhas raised questions of “where will the water go?” if the development goes ahead.
Joanna Barnett is seen standing in two feet of water and, at the deeper points, is in a boat as she questions how a development can go ahead on a natural flood plain.
The 33-year-old school teacher has lived in the Horley area for 24 years and believes the development will transfer flooding issues to the surrounding area.
Standing with water almost at the top of her boots and addressing Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, Mrs Barnett said: “I would love to know where this water is going to go, on this known flood plain which floods every year.
“At the moment there are ducks swimming over there on this known pond, this known flood plain.
“Why do you think its OK to spend public money, £540,000, preparing this land for the business park? That is our money and it should not be spent trying to pave over a flood plain.
“This water will need to go somewhere, its not going to disappear, the only places its going to go is in people’s homes.
“This nonsense needs to stop, they need to cancel the plans and move on. This is a flood plain, 172 acres of flood plain.”
The Burstow Stream, into which the water would eventually drain, runs along the eastern edge of the site, along the red line boundary. See link to River Levels UK websitethat shows nearby rivers and streams
Equivalent to 85 football pitches in size, it will be situated north of the M23 – close toGatwick Airport – and would be delivered over a 10-year period.
The petition was launched in October but since the video was uploaded signatures have increased by a few hundred.
Mrs Barnett has become a campaigner with the group “Keep Horley Green” who are against the development on Fishers Farm, featured in the video, which is currently categorised as a public open space.
She said: “I have become one of the campaigners because I live in the area and see this field and the whole area flood every year. The proposals are just so outrageous.
“The council are completely contradicting their own policies they have spent years developing by allowing this to go ahead.
“We have a lack of public open space in Horley and we will lose more if this goes ahead.
“If they go ahead and build my guess is if the water doesnt go to the surrounding area it will just go down stream and have a huge affect somewhere else.”
A spokesman from Reigate and Banstead Borough Council said: We understand that residents are sensitive to flood risks, given record rainfall in recent weeks, but that is not a reason to dismiss the potential for a best-in-class business park in this location.
“We have the chance to deliver thousands of well-paid jobs for local people, opportunity for local businesses and regeneration for the town centre.
“It was only in October that we announced we were starting to consider a business park in this location and we are still at an early stage.
“Once the planning process begins, we will appoint specialists to look beyond what is already visible to us and to residents.
“They will carry out surveys to understand how drainage works across the site and the risk of flooding in specific areas.”
A public consultation into the business park development is due to be launched this year.
It’ll be wet there for ages although possibly not as deep as in the video (which was taken about 10 days ago). The water flows to the Burstow Stream and the Gatwick Stream and eventually to the River Mole at a point NW of the airport. Current levels on all the watercourses are high but normal for this time of the year.
These amazing campaigners have been splashing around in the temporary lake, on the site where there is a planned 172 acre business park, just south of Horley. That is just north of Gatwick airport.
Great video (one and a half minutes) of them splashing round in the water. Making the serious point – where would all this water go, if the land was covered in concrete and tarmac?
Massive 172 acre business park planned outside Horley to produce a Gatwick airport city
October 30, 2015
Residents and businesses are shocked and appalled at news that Reigate and Banstead Borough Council has agreed in principle to use compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) for a business park on 172 acres of land off Balcombe Road, in Horley. That’s equivalent to 85 football pitches. The council says major international businesses want to move to the area. Residents who would be affected say they knew nothing about the plan in advance. Green Party Surrey County Councillor Jonathan Essex said the development would use up green space, which separated homes in Horley, from nearby Gatwick airporta and “Horley should be a separate town, not just part of the urban sprawl of Gatwick.” A local Conservative councillor said information about the plans could not be made public previously because it was “commercially confidential” andt that “Now we have made the decision we will be talking to and consulting with residents, employers and landowners who could potentially be affected.” There is now a campaign called Keep Horley Green, to oppose the plans. They have a Facebook page and a petition to local MP Sam Giymah. People want green countryside preserved, rather then being covered in concrete. One of the properties under threat of compulsory purchase is Bayhorne Farm, 72 acres. 172 acres is a vast area for a business park – far larger than average. It would become an “aerotropolis” project.
Nearly 75 million passengers travelled through Heathrow in 2015, an increase of 2.2% on 2014 and the airport’s highest ever number of annual passengers.The number of flights (air transport movements) was up 0.3% on 2014. The number of seats per aircraft increased by 2.1% to 209, and passengers per aircraft rose to 1.9% to 160. But the average load factor remained constant at 76.5%. (For 2013, Heathrow said its average load factor was 76.4%, and average number of passengers per aircraft was 154.8). At the end of 2015, over 20 daily A380 departures and arrivals were operated by eight airlines “Heathrow continued to play a leading role in helping Britain’s exports reach global markets, with the UK’s largest port by value recording cargo volumes of 1.5 million metric tonnes for the year.” That is Heathrow’s way of saying the cargo tonnage fell by 0.2% in 2015 compared with 2014. Heathrow says “emerging markets continued to be a driver of traffic growth at Heathrow”, with passenger volumes up 8% to Latin America and 6% to the Middle East. They also say passenger volumes during 2015 were up 14% to China. That’s confusing, as the increase in passengers to the “Asia/Pacific” area, which includes China, only rose by 0.3% for the year. Heathrow itself admits it has terminal capacity for 90 million passengers, so at 75 million, it is not “full”. The Airports Commission said that would not happen till 2030.
Heathrow’s press release with its 2015 figures is at
`Full’ Heathrow Adds 1.6 Million Passengers Aided by Bigger Jets
By Kari Lundgren (Bloomberg Business)
January 11, 2016
– Europe’s biggest hub boosts tally 2.2% to almost 75 million – Planes using crowded London airport now average 209 seats
London’s Heathrow Airport, which has operated close to the capacity of its two runways since the start of the decade, boosted passenger numbers to just short of 75 million last year as airlines deployed bigger jets to beat the cap on flights.
Europe’s busiest hub added 1.6 million passengers, a 2.2 percent gain, even as plane movements increased just 0.3 percent, it said in a statement Monday. By the year’s end, more than 20 Airbus Group SE A380 superjumbos were landing every day, helping to lift the average number of seats per flight to 209.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has delayed a decision on whether to allow the construction of a third runway at Heathrow until after London’s mayoral election later this year. The airport says it needs a new strip to lift passenger numbers above 135 million by 2050, while opponents say the 18 billion-pound ($26 billion) plan is too costly and will increase noise in a heavily urban area.
Flights to the Persian Gulf states — home to some of the world’s largest international carriers — as well as emerging markets were among the main drivers of growth in 2015, Heathrow said. Passenger volumes rose 14 percent on routes to China and 8 percent to Latin America. The airport handled 1.5 million metric tons of cargo.
Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said in the statement that Heathrow’s expansion plan will make Britain “the best connected country in the world.”
“The current terminals have capacity for 90 million passengers per annum, which will thus be constrained by 2030, although there are long-term investment plans in place to increase this to provide sufficient capacity to support up to 95 million passengers.”
The opening of Terminal 5 in 2008 has relieved some pressure on terminal facilities, increasing the airport’s terminal capacity to 90 million passengers per year.
Heathrow claims “larger, fuller, quieter” planes – but load factor still just 70 – 76%
February 23, 2015
Heathrow says it had its busiest ever January with 5.45 million passengers travelling through the airport’s terminals. But the figures mask a decline in the number of flight movements and planes are still flying on average one third empty. There were about 37,130 air transport movements (commercial flights) using Heathrow in January, compared to 4 earlier years when there were over 39,000 flights. The reason why Heathrow can increase its number of passengers, with fewer flights is having more passengers per flight. Heathrow’s own figures show a lower number of flights at the airport contrasts with its claims that lack of hub capacity is “a ticking time bomb”. While the central premise of the airport’s drive for expansion has been its claim that it is 98% full, aircraft movements actually fell by 0.8% last month compared to January 2014. Details of Passengers by Market show growth in numbers of passengers to and from emerging economies. However, overall the load factor (the % of the seats in the plane are used) are far lower at Heathrow than many other UK airports, with 70.1% in January. Over recent months, the load factor was 71.3% in November, and about 76% in October and December 2014. It was 76.4% for the full year 2013 and 75% in 2012. Heathrow will say, if there is a fall in numbers, that this means it is losing ground to other hubs, and if they rise, it reinforces their case for new hub capacity.
Murad Qureshi on how Heathrow is expanding passenger numbers, but BAA don’t want Londoners to know it
May 30, 2012
In his blog, Murad Qureshi (Chair of the Environment Committee, of the London Assembly) writes that after a week of BAA propaganda last week in the pages of the Evening Standard you would be forgiven for thinking that Heathrow is not expanding – but it is! It may not be by the number of flights coming in and out of Heathrow but it certainly is by passenger numbers. The A380s have around 500 passengers each. At present Heathrow turns over 69 million passengers annually and once the redevelopment and construction of the five terminals are complete, it will be able to cope with 90 million passengers a year. This capacity is not something we hear about often but the fact is that Heathrow will be able to deal an extra 20 million passengers annually! This point is made well by AirportWatch yesterday in a letter to the Financial Times.
Richmond Heathrow Campaign say Heathrow does not need to be expanded to better service more passengers, and to more destinations
June 11, 2013
The Richmond Heathrow Campaign have made a submission to the Airports Commission on making best short and medium term use of Heathrow. Increasing the seating capacity of the air fleet using Heathrow would facilitate full use of Heathrow’s terminal capacity of 90 million passengers a year (current use is around 70 million). They say Heathrow can be improved, and the amount of aircraft noise caused by Heathrow flights reduced, if there is a (1). More even distribution of aircraft movements across each hour of the day to avoid disruption and delay in peak hours and to end night flights. (2). Increase the seating capacity of the Heathrow air fleet (i.e. more larger aircraft and fewer small aircraft), in order to increase the number of passengers per aircraft movement within the 480,000 movements limit operating in unbroken segregated mode. (3). Reverse the strategy of attracting ever more transfer passengers to Heathrow, in order to free up terminal and aircraft capacity for more terminating passengers within the legal limit of 480,000 movements limit operating in unbroken segregated mode. The Campaign says reducing 20 million transfers a year would free up runway capacity in whole or in part for around 140,000 flights a year from over-subscribed destinations to new destinations. There is a similar improvement as loads are increased from 149 to 187 passengers per flight.
The Sunday Times reports that Heathrow has paid its owners back £2.1 billion in dividends, starting in 2012. But it has only paid a total of £24 million in corporation tax since 2006, with that payment being last year. Heathrow’s owners are rewarded whenever the value of the airport increases. If new airport infrastructure is built, the passengers pay for it through the £20 cost on their ticket (and other spending), and the owners benefit.. The CAA calculates how much is spent on investment, and allows Heathrow’s investors to earn a return on the total. The more Heathrow spends, the more its backers can earn. If Heathrow was to spend £17.6 billion on its expansion, the value of the airport would be considered to have increased that much. Due to the huge debts Heathrow has (£12.5 billion out of the £16 billion Ferrovial paid in 2006) the airport’s banks prevented dividends to owners, until 2012. They got £240 million in 2012, which has risen to £2.1 billion. Some of the proceeds of the sale of Gatwick, Edinburgh etc has been used for dividends. The Sunday Times says: …”with a debt-to-assets ratio of about 85% is one of the most heavily indebted airports in the world.” Heathrow will have to recoup the money by high passenger charges, years before the runway is built and open, as otherwise Heathrow’s massive investors are not prepared to take the financial risk. Heathrow is no longer a company quoted on the stock exchange, but that could happen in future.
There is a useful briefing on the subject of how Heathrow would fund its runway, by the Richmond Heathrow Campaign. “Deliverability” at http://rhcfacts.org/deliverable/
Heathrow’s pot of gold at end of runway
The airport’s owners are happy to spend billions of pounds on a new runway — as long as passengers pay for it up front
…..[ terminals etc are upgraded] … through a complex incentive scheme that rewards Heathrow’s backers the more they inflate its assets.
The airport recovers the cost of new terminals and infrastructure from airline charges — about £20 for every passenger who arrives or departs. The Civil Aviation Authority calculates how much is spent on investment, and allows Heathrow’s investors to earn a return on the total. The more Heathrow spends, the more its backers can earn.
Dividend payouts to the investors were initially stifled by the company’s banks. They insisted on lock-up clauses after Spain’s Ferrovial led the debt-fuelled £16bn takeover of Heathrow parent BAA in 2006. But the lock-ups have now gone and the dividends are flowing. In just four years, shareholders have received £2.1bn.
Burdened by heavy debts and keen to preserve dividends, Heathrow wants the current levy regime to continue. Its case for expansion hinges on passengers helping pay for the new runway, years before it opens, through higher charges.
Heathrow has suggested it would fund the runway by increasing passenger charges from £20 to £24, yet carriers fear it may be far more — British Airways puts the figure closer to £40 a passenger. “£80 per return trip in airport charges will turn Heathrow into a white elephant,” said Willie Walsh, the boss of International Airlines Group (IAG), owner of BA and Heathrow’s biggest customer.
[See below for more on what Willie Walsh has said about the cost of the runway].
A pie chart buried in the 342-page Airports Commission report breaks down the cost of expanding Heathrow: £251m for the runway; £799m for car parks; £4bn for land; and £4.8bn for terminal buildings. [£251m for the runway; £799m for car parks; £4bn for land; and £4.8bn for terminal buildings. Airports Commission final report (P 225) ]
Heathrow’s investors, which include Qatari, Chinese and Singaporean sovereign wealth funds and the Universities Superannuation Scheme, are not prepared to take on the huge risks that would accompany a third runway without guaranteed returns.
“There must be an ability to make returns commensurate with the risk in the context of a stable regulatory environment,” the operator said in its submission to the commission.
Yet there is no precedent for customers paying up front for a facility of this scale that may not be ready for another 15 years…….“If you’re asking customers to pay for quite a lot of the charges before you complete the asset, you’re passing the completion risk over to them.”
Yet Heathrow has few other options. While the Ferrovial consortium funded the 2006 takeover with £4.3bn of shareholder equity, the rest was loans. Between £500m and £1.2bn of notes will expire every year for the next decade.
Few doubt the company’s ability to pay its dues in its current state.
Yet piling on tens of billions of pounds of extra debt without the hefty upfront charges would leave its investors dangerously exposed.
Then there is the sheer scale of how much it would need to borrow. The consultancy firm PwC reckons Heathrow would have to issue £3bn to £6bn of bonds a year for much of the 2020s, putting its balance sheet on a par with that of Network Rail and far exceeding National Grid’s.
Would the debt markets, or Heathrow’s existing investors, have the stomach for it? “Depending on how this all pans out, it’s quite possible Heathrow floats on the stock market and raises the money over time,” said a City source.
London airport is latest big name to be dragged into row over corporation tax after paying huge dividends to backers
By John Collingridge (Sunday Times)
10 January 2016
HEATHROW has handed its owners £2.1bn in dividends over the past four years — but paid only £24m corporation tax in almost a decade.
The airport was saddled with big debts after the Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial led a £16bn takeover of BAA, Heathrow’s owner, in 2006. Interest payments on the £12.5bn of loans can be set against profits, leaving almost no corporation tax to be paid. [Strange anomaly of the UK system that this is not only allowed, but encouraged. The UK does get a “better” Heathrow, with more modern buildings etc, but instead of the Treasury getting corporation tax, the profit is sucked out to investors abroad. And Heathrow will not pay corporation tax for decades ahead, it is builds a runway, while it pays back all those loans and bonds and interest … AW comment]
Strip away interest and the airport is a gold mine, with profits of £839m in 2014 on £2.7bn revenues. [ie. before the interest payments, it made that much profit. ]
Heathrow resumed paying corporation tax only in the second half of last year, with a £24m payment ………… The company began with £240m of dividends in 2012 and by last September had handed over a total of £2.1bn. Sources close to the airport insisted that despite the dividends, investors had barely covered their costs on the 2006 takeover. It has about £1bn of deferred tax on its balance sheet, which it said it plans to pay. [That apparently means theoretical tax that Heathrow may have to pay in future, due to making more money from its improved assets like Terminals – and much of it may in reality never be paid – it is all over many, many years …. AW comment]
Willie Walsh tells AOA conference Heathrow’s runway is too expensive, and at that price, would fail
November 23, 2015
The Airport Operators Association is holding a two day conference on the runway issue, and Willie Walsh (CEO of IAG) was its key speaker. He said Heathrow should not get a 3rd runway, if the Airport Commission’s calculation of the cost of building it is correct. He said: “The Commission got its figures wrong – they are over-inflated. If that is the cost [of a new runway], it won’t be a successful project.” He described the assumption that airlines would pay for the new runway through increases in fares as “outrageous”. British Airways is by far the biggest airline at Heathrow, with 55% of the slots. He said of the Commission’s report: ” … I have concerns about the level of cost associated with the main recommendation and the expectation that the industry can afford to pay for Heathrow’s expansion.” He does not believe the cost is justified, and “If the cost of using an expanded airport significantly exceeds the costs of competitor airports, people won’t use it.” It was not realistic for airlines: “You have to see it in terms of return on capital. ….Either the figures are inflated or you are building inefficient infrastructure. I do not endorse the findings. I definitely don’t support the costs of building a runway. If those costs are real, we should not build it.” On the cost of £8 billion to build a 6th terminal he commented: “How many chandeliers can you have in an airport terminal?
British Airways-owner CEO, Willie Walsh, opposes new Heathrow runway as too expensive to airlines
July 31, 2015
British Airways-owner IAG does not support the building of a 3rd Heathrow runway, its chief executive said, because the costs of the project does not make sense for the airline. Willie Walsh said: “We think the costs associated with the third runway are outrageous and certainly from an IAG point of view we will not be supporting it and we will not be paying for it. …We’re not going to support something that increases our costs.” British Airways is the biggest airline at Heathrow [it has around 50% of the slots]. An expanded Heathrow with a new runway would be partly paid for by higher charges to airlines. In May this year he had said “the cost of all three [runway] options are excessive and would translate into an unacceptable increase in charges at the airports.” Not to mention the problems of politics and unacceptability to the public. The Airports Commission’s final report says, with a new runway at Heathrow, “The resulting impact on passenger aeronautical charges across the Commission’s four demand scenarios for Heathrow is an increase from c. £20 per passenger to a weighted average charge of c. £28-30 per passenger and a potential peak of up to c. £31.”
Gatwick Airport paid no Corporation Tax in three years
June 26, 2013
Gatwick Airport has a £1.2 billion capital investment programme to improve its infrastructure and facilities. But it paid no corporation tax for three consecutive years despite making £638m in profit before tax. Gatwick tried to defend this position, saying: “Whilst year on year we have lessened our financial losses we have yet to make a profit after tax. As a result the airport has not paid corporation tax …Our current £1.2bn capital investment programme and existing asset base, together with the associated debt structure, result in depreciation and interest costs which reduce our operating profits to a loss before tax.” In the 2012/13 year, Gatwick Airport made £227.1m profit before tax, a 2.5% increase, as it benefited from flights to new destinations in China, Russia, Indonesia, and Turkey. Despite this, it reported a net financial loss of £29.1m, citing asset depreciation and £226.7m of capital investment in the year. Corporation tax is only levied on a company’s net profit. In the UK the corporation tax rate is 23%. Under UK tax law, corporations can claim tax allowances on certain purchases or investments made on business assets. Campaign group UK Uncut estimates that clever accounting rules and complex tax avoidance schemes cost Britain £12bn annually.
Margaret Hodge: Gatwick runway appeal ‘is hypocritical when it avoids corporation tax’
October 15, 2014
Gatwick has been accused of “hypocrisy” for avoiding corporation tax while campaigning to build a new runway, allegedly for the benefit of the UK economy. Margaret Hodge, head of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, said the airport should pay its “fair share” if it wants its runway campaign to be credible. She also criticised Heathrow which has not paid corporation tax for several years. But she particularly criticised Gatwick. Its Guernsey-based parent company Ivy Mid Co LP has invested in a £437 million “Eurobond” which charges the airport 12% interest, thus avoiding tax. Gatwick says this sort of bond is often used by other infrastructure companies. Companies in the UK should pay 21% corporation tax on profits, but by spending £1 billion on upgrading the airport, Gatwick has made no profit recently. Despite pre-tax loses in recent years, it has paid dividends to its overseas shareholders of £436 million. Heathrow has also avoided profits by investing in new buildings etc. Mrs Hodge said the companies “made a fortune” from their UK activities, which relied on public services, adding: “For them to pretend they are only in it for the benefit of the UK economy is a touch hypocritical.”
The New Year has barely begun, and Heathrow is off on (…yet another …) 8 months or so of it PR and spin, hoping to persuade those who matter to approve a 3rd runway. So it has put out a woolly statement about various very minor measures it is taking to slightly limit its environmental damage. John Holland-Kaye said: “2015 saw us commit to a series of action plans that will make us a better neighbour, by reducing noise, emissions and traffic.” How? They have installed 135 charging stations for electric vehicles. No matter that most of the UK’s electricity is not produced from renewable sources. And some of their vehicles are (sic) “zero emission” cars – if such a thing was possible. Perhaps realising that is not terribly impressive, John H-K says “But we know that we need to do more, and in the coming months will set out even more ambitious plans that will make an expanded Heathrow the most environmentally responsible hub airport in the world.” Yes? Heathrow have a few suggestions for other improvements, none making a big difference. Such as: measures to encourage staff to car share to work, or even cycle; phasing out noisier “Chapter 3” aircraft; by March its Air Quality Strategy for 2020 and its Action Plan will be published; and there will be a new App providing real-time public transport and traffic information for passengers. And updated “blueprints” on progress….
Heathrow goes electric with £2m EV charging pledge
John Holland-Kaye showing off his nice new car (at top …. slightly changed below …)
Heathrow Airport has announced a £2m plan to ‘go electric’ with the installation of more than 135 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in a bid to become Britain’s most environmentally-responsible transport hub.
A £250,000 investment has seen Heathrow’s fleet of 400 vehicles mixed with zero-emission cars
The new chargers, which will be able to power at least 260 electric vehicles at the airport at any one time, are the latest in a line of new sustainability commitments aimed at reducing emissions at the airport as it continues its bid for a new runway.
Heathrow Airport Limited’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “2015 saw us commit to a series of action plans that will make us a better neighbour, by reducing noise, emissions and traffic. Today, we are providing an update on the very significant progress already being made, thanks to the commitment of the airport community.
“But we know that we need to do more, and in the coming months will set out even more ambitious plans that will make an expanded Heathrow the most environmentally responsible hub airport in the world.”
The new chargers add to the 21 electric vehicle chargers already available to Heathrow passengers staying in short-stay car parks, which can be used free of charge.
Meanwhile, a recent £250,000 investment saw Heathrow’s own fleet of 400 vehicles mix with zero-emission cars and a publically-accessible hydrogen refuelling station.
Heathrow – winner of the Energy Management award at edie’s 2015 Sustainability Leaders Awards – has also announced commitments to double airline landing charges – from £8.57 per kg of NOx emitted to £16.51 per kg – by January 2017, as well as investing more than £16m in upgraded pre-conditioned air units that will help reduce aircraft emissions.
The Airport will also continue to phase-out older aircraft that fail to meet international emissions standards while monitoring of ‘reduced-engine taxiing’ has seen a quarter of aircrafts reduce airfield emissions.
A new cycle hub and car share scheme was also introduced for employees travelling to and from work in an effort to lower transport emissions and congestion. Heathrow has previously announced plans to reduce building emissions by a further 34% by 2020.
All of the environmentally commitments made last year have moved out of the planning stage, with 70% of the promises put into action, while the remaining 30% are being developed and introduced.
[Of course, the tiny quantities of CO2 saved by a small number of electric cars being recharged is infinitesimal compared to the 50% increase in the carbon emissions from planes using Heathrow, if it got its runway. These emissions are already of the order of 18 – 19 Million tonnes of CO2 per year. Link One of the UK’s largest sources of carbon emissions. The electric car thing can really at best be seen as cosmetic, and otherwise – greenwash. AW comment].
The boss of Heathrow yesterday signalled “even more ambitious plans” for the airport to be environmentally responsible.
The west London hub set out a series of action plans for how noise, emissions and traffic will be reduced.
Heathrow provided a reported £2 million in funding for five local schools to install ‘adobe domes’ – special outdoor constructions that protect pupils and teachers from noise outdoors. Seven more will be funded in 2016.
The overall aim is to make Heathrow the “most environmentally responsible” airport hub as it battles for approval for a third runway against rival Gatwick. A delayed decision by the government on airport expansion in the southeast is now expected in the summer.
Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: “2015 saw us commit to a series of action plans that will make us a better neighbour, by reducing noise, emissions and traffic.
“Today we are providing an update on the very significant progress already being made, thanks to the commitment of the airport community.
“But we know that we need to do more, and in the coming months will set out even more ambitious plans that will make an expanded Heathrow the most environmentally responsible hub airport in the world.”
The plans include installing more than 135 additional chargers for at least another 260 electric vehicles.
Other measures include greater alternation between runways at night to give residents more respite from noise and penalties for airlines using older, noisier aircraft.
Environmental landing charges for airlines will double from January 2017 in another incentive to use cleaner aircraft.
Heathrow pledged to spend £16.2 million this year to upgrade and extend coverage of pre-conditioned air units and electric power provision at gates to reduce aircraft emissions on parking stands.
A new app providing real-time public transport and traffic information for passengers travelling on from Heathrow is also to be introduced.
Another app for the airport’s 76,000 staff will help to boost car sharing and more employees will be encouraged to cycle to work, while more ticket offers for travellers using Heathrow Express are expected in 2016.
Heathrow Pledges to “Go Electric” with £2 Million Boost for Vehicle Chargers
4.1.2016 (Heathrow Airport’s press release)
– Progress reports against Heathrow’s 2015 ‘blueprint’ commitments to reduce airport noise, emissions and traffic are published today
– CEO signals even more ambitious plans for Heathrow to be environmentally responsible
The go-ahead to install over 135 more chargers for at least another 260 electric vehicles has been given today at Heathrow to help shift greater numbers of vehicles used on and around the airport to electric power and it signals a greater ambition to ‘turn Heathrow electric’.
Today’s commitment is just one of the many made by Heathrow Airport Limited @yourHeathrow as it publishes updates to the three blueprints published in the past year.
These documents set out a series of action plans and milestones for how the airport will reduce noise, emissions and traffic and help to make Heathrow the most environmentally responsible hub airport.
Chief Executive, John Holland-Kaye said:
“2015 saw us commit to a series of action plans that will make us a better neighbour, by reducing noise, emissions and traffic. Today we are providing an update on the very significant progress already being made, thanks to the commitment of the airport community. But we know that we need to do more, and in the coming months will set out even more ambitious plans that will make an expanded Heathrow the most environmentally responsible hub airport in the world.”
The reports provide a traffic-light rating – Red, Amber, Green – against each of the commitments published in the blueprints along with a supporting commentary. They show that 70% of the promises have been put into action and the remaining 30% are in progress with none not started.
Highlights from the three updates published today include…
On reducing noise:
The Airbus A320 family of aircraft currently make up about 50% of all traffic movements at Heathrow. Low-noise technology is currently fitted onto only a small proportion of the Airbus A320 fleet, representing about 5% of air traffic movements. But in the next 18 months, retrofitting will be accelerated considerably by airlines, thus reducing noise significantly
In 2016 we will work with NATS to set a target for meeting first preference runways during night time alternation in order to offer more predictable respite to local people – currently first preference runways are utilised 50% of the time, but this could be increased greatly to make respite more predictable, especially between 4.30 and 6am.
Penalties on airlines using older, noisier aircraft are working – Heathrow is on track to become the first large European airport to be free of the oldest and noisiest classification of aircraft – known as ‘Chapter 3’.
The latest Fly Quiet Programme League – which ranks airlines according to their noise performance shows a clear upward trend over the last two years in airlines’ use of the quiet flight procedure Continuous Descent Approach (CDA). This arrival procedure requires less engine thrust and keeps the aircraft higher for longer, helping to reduce noise. Since the launch of the Fly Quiet League, Polish operator LOT has almost doubled its use of CDA to 98 per cent. From July to September this year, 258 out of 263 LOT arrivals used this quieter approach into Heathrow. This dramatic improvement is due in large part to Heathrow’s collaborative approach to working with its airlines to encourage them to reduce their impacts on local communities.
Disrupted schedule flights that take-off late – after 11.30pm at night – have almost halved in number (267 flights left late in the eight summer months from March to 31 October 2015, compared to 414 over the same period in 2014) and the trend is set to continue
Heathrow provided funding for five local schools to install ‘adobe domes’ – special outdoor constructions that protect pupils and teachers from noise outdoors – seven more will be funded in 2016On reducing emissions: (presumably meaning in relation to NO2 here)
Environmental landing charges for airlines will double from January 2017 – from £8.57 per kg of NOx emitted to £16.51 per kg – providing another incentive to use cleaner aircraft
Heathrow will invest £16.2m in 2016 to upgrade and extend coverage of pre-conditioned air units and electric power provision at gates to reduce aircraft emissions on parking stands
High level talks between Heathrow and major airlines that will see an early phase-out of older aircraft that don’t meet the international emissions standard (ICAO CAEP) will continue in 2016, complementing existing financial incentives for the best international emissions standard aircraft
Monitoring of reduced-engine taxiing by departing aircraft was introduced, with 25% of eligible departures reporting reduced-engine using in taxiing, so reducing on-airfield emissions.
21 electric vehicle chargers are available now to passengers in short-stay car parks free of charge, a publically-accessible hydrogen refuelling station is also based at Heathrow and zero-emission vehicles are already being added to its fleet of 400 vehicles, supported by a £250,000 investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure during 2015.
On reducing traffic:
Road traffic to the airport has remained static whilst overall passenger numbers have increased. In 1991 40.5 million passengers created a total of 45.4 million car trips but in 2014, passenger numbers totalled 73.4 million creating 46.7 million car trips that year
A new dedicated App providing real-time public transport and traffic information for passengers travelling on from Heathrow will be launched in 2016
Heathrow Express introduced a range of new products in 2015 to make it more competitive and to attract families, for example cheaper advance tickets from £6.99 are now available online and under-16 year olds travel free. More ticket offers can be expected in 2016.
A new £1 million local transport fund was created by Heathrow to develop and deliver local authority transport projects to reduce congestion – such as supporting bus routes
76,000 people work at the airport – it is the UK’s largest single site employer – and it already has the UK’s largest car-share network but Heathrow will launch a new app for employees to make it even easier to car share in 2016
Heathrow colleagues will see new initiatives to encourage them to move to more sustainable transport modes of travel to work rolled-out in 2016
New 24-hour bus services for Heathrow from the west began in 2015 providing alternatives to local car travel for employees in addition to the UK’s first free public transport zone (free buses) for an airport
A new cycle plan developed with Sustrans to transform the experience for cyclists at the airport will be launched in the New Year. 16,500 people who work at Heathrow live within 5km of the airport. A new ‘cycle hub’ at Heathrow providing bikes and equipment for hire and sale was opened earlier in 2015.
During 2016, Heathrow’s blueprints will be reviewed, revised and republished.
HEATHROW’S BLUEPRINTS TO REDUCE NOISE, EMISSIONS AND TRAFFIC – JANUARY 2016
Quarter by quarter, an overview of existing commitments due to be delivered in 2016.
Quarter 1 (January-March)
Heathrow’s Air Quality Strategy for 2020 and supporting Action Plan will be updated and published
Results of a study into the proportion of aircraft at Heathrow meeting the best international emissions standard (ICAO CAEP) [for CO2 emissions] will be published to inform talks with airlines on the early phase-out of older aircraft
Onward Travel Zones providing real-time public transport and traffic information will be rolled out in Terminals 3 & 4 and the Central Bus Station
A new plan for improving the cycling experience around Heathrow will be published
A new Drivers’ Charter for minicabs and their operators to help better serve passengers and the local community will be finalised
A new car-share app for Heathrow employees will be launched
Employee ‘commuter plans’ tailored to individuals will be piloted and rolled-out
Steeper approaches trial (3.2 degrees instead of 3 degrees) started in September 2015 involving 20 airlines is due to complete
Fly Quiet League Table for Quarter 4 2015 will be published
Automatic monitoring for reduced-engine taxiing (RET) for arrivals will be introduced (automatic monitoring was introduced for departures in 2015)
Quarter 2 (April-June)
New and updated blueprints to reduce noise, emissions and traffic will be published
A new real-time onward travel information app and website for passengers will be developed
Fly Quiet League Table for Quarter 1 will be published
Quarter 3 (July-September)
£16.2m upgrade programme starts to pre-conditioned air and energy supply units for aircraft at gates in Terminals 2,3 and 5
Steeper approaches trial report is due to be published
Fly Quiet League Table for Quarter 2 will be published
Sustainable transport incentives for Heathrow employees will be launched
Quarter 4 (October-December)
Fly Quiet League Table for Quarter 3 will be published
A new 2.5 megawatt ‘Solar Photovoltaic Array’ has been built by Stobart Developments on 3.2 hectares of unused grassland at the north of the Southend airport site. The airport hopes around 20% of its annual electricity requirement will now be generated by the panels. There will be over 9,500 panels, “mounted on 3 metre high steel frames supported on approximately 2600 piles across 37 rows. The layout of the panels has been specially designed to prevent reflective glare affecting approaching aircraft and the air traffic control tower.” There had previously been concerns about glare from the panels affecting pilots. There is now also to be a solar farm under Bournemouth Airport’s flight path, about 720 metres to the west of the airport. It has been approved by planners at East Dorset District Council. Questions were initially raised over air passengers’ safety when the proposals were revealed, due to the glare and reflection on sunny days. The airport had objected to it, due to solar glare, saying “the effect on operations is pronounced and severe throughout the year, making aircraft operations unsafe if the development was to go ahead.” However, their complaints were then conditionally withdrawn after a “glint and glare” study was done.
Southend Airport opens solar farm
8 January 2016 (Advance)
Around 20% of London Southend Airport’s annual electricity requirement will now be generated by a brand new solar farm on the airport site.
The 2.5 megawatt ‘Solar Photovoltaic Array’ was built by Stobart Developments and is located on 3.2 hectares of unused grassland at the north of the airport site.
The array consists of over 9,500 individual solar panels, which are mounted on 3 metre high steel frames supported on approximately 2600 piles across 37 rows. The layout of the panels has been specially designed to prevent reflective glare affecting approaching aircraft and the air traffic control tower.
Installation of the £2 million solar farm involving one hundred workers got underway in November 2015. It was registered with OfGEM on 31 December 2015 – however contractors are continuing on site during January for the final commissioning and hand-over.
The solar farm will now start supplying electricity to London Southend Airport, with additional capability for limited power also being exported to the national grid.
Glyn Jones, Chief Executive Officer of Stobart Aviation that owns London Southend Airport says “Our new solar farm is actually the largest at a UK airport and supports one of our key objectives, which is reducing our carbon footprint and the electricity we require from the national grid network. We are delighted as London’s newest airport to have opportunities to introduce the latest ‘green’ initiatives as part of our development.”
In 2014, Britain’s largest airport solar installation to date was completed at London Southend Airport as part of the £10m terminal expansion. 496 solar panels now supply the terminal’s shops, cafes and restaurants with clean solar electricity via the airport’s private electricity network, avoiding around 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years.
Southend airport wants to build an 8 acre solar farm on part of its land
May 19, 2015
Southend Airport is planning to build a solar farm on part of its land, which cannot be used for much else as it is in a flood plain area. This is land to the north of the main terminal. The plan is for 12,000 solar panels in 41 rows, spread over almost 8 acres of grassland. – and providing up to 20% of the airport’s electricity on some days. Council planners are recommending approval for the plans, even though councillors rejected an almost identical plan a few months ago. As the panels are on frames, they can be above the flood level, and the transformer building would be sited outside the flood plain. The EA objected to the previous application because it would lay on a flood plain, and has submitted a provisional objection this time on the same grounds. Airport officials say the panels will not interfere with the airport’s operations. The plan is that the panels will not disturb nearby badger setts. Rochford’s planning committee is due to vote on the application – on Thursday 20th May. There are still government subsidies for this sort of solar farm, as it is not taking up valuable agricultural land. Some other airports in sunnier countries have solar farms.
Solar farm plans for Bournemouth Airport given the go-ahead
21 October 2015 (Daily Echo)
Councillors have backed plans for a new solar farm in Bournemouth Airport’s flight path.
Questions were initially raised over air passengers’ safety when the proposals were revealed.
However, it was later deemed that the project would not cause issues for planes.
The site at Woodtown Farm, which is to the south of Christchurch Road in West Parley, were discussed by councillors sitting on East Dorset District Council’s planning committee.
The plans have now been given the green light, meaning that the solar farm, proposed by developers Woodtown Solar Ltd, will soon be under construction.
The solar farm will cover a 7.46 hectare site for a temporary duration of 35 years, after which the land could be returned to its existing use of turf cultivation or agriculture.
Safety bosses at Bournemouth Airport initially strongly objected to the proposals, claiming such panels would cause “unacceptable levels of solar glare to aircraft”.
However, their complaints were then conditionally withdrawn.
A safeguarding officer from the airport wrote in a reply to the council during consultation: “The development has been examined against the aerodrome safeguarding criteria and due to the location of the array calculations show that the development would cause unacceptable levels of solar glare to aircraft operating in and out of Bournemouth Airport.
“The effect on operations is pronounced and severe throughout the year, making aircraft operations unsafe if the development was to go ahead.
“As a result Bournemouth Airport objects to the proposal on the grounds of air safety.”
But during the summer, a spokesperson from the airport confirmed that the objection would be withdrawn if a series of conditions could be met.
A ‘glint and glare’ study was undertaken that showed there would be no risk to planes from the solar farm.
Councillors from West Parley Parish Council had strongly objected to the plans.
The airport is based 720 metres to the east of the planned solar farm site.
The ‘low impact’ farm will be built in green belt land.
“Standard photovoltaic panels are around 1.6m high and 1m wide which are mounted on frames. Their height above ground is usually up to 2.75m. They are designed to absorb rather than reflect light for efficiency – reflected light or heat is wasted energy – and although the amount of reflection varies with the component materials and the angle, the incidence of glare is usually much less than from glass windows or car windscreens. Any glare is most likely when the sun is low in the sky as reflection increases the further the sun’s rays are from perpendicular to the panel. It is possible, and is likely to be required as part of the planning application, for computer modelling of the glare and sightlines. Analysis of these patterns for potential impact on equestrian businesses should be considered.”
From the British Horse Society
From the USA:
Due to the close proximity of the solar project to the airfield, which is also in the flight path of arriving aircrafts, the applicant prepared a reflectivity analysis of the potential impacts of glare on aircrafts on final approach to the airfield. The analysis showed that while there is a potential for an after-image, that effect occurs when aircrafts are perpendicular to the glare source and would be a brief occurrence in the pilots’ peripheral view. The FAA issued a “determination of no hazard to air navigation” for the project in March.
With over 30 solar projects operating at airports in 15 different states, the success of the airport-solar partnerships has been well established.
Heathrow has been trying to persuade politicians, business leaders, and the world at large that it needs a new runway in order to boost the UK economy, because of all the business flights and vital business “connectivity” connections. Quietly, in the Airports Commission’s Final Report, released on 1st July 2015, the importance of the business and economic benefits were down-played, and more emphasis was put on the desirability of more – and cheaper – leisure flights, how more holidays improved people’s sense of well-being etc. Page 70 said: “Leisure flights have a high social value. Empirical analysis focused on passengers travelling on holiday or to visit friends and family has shown how the access to leisure travel affects mental health and well-being.” And now it emerges that many of the alleged “new” destinations that Heathrow might be able to fly to, with a 3rd runway, are unashamedly purely for exotic holidays. Some of the airports mentioned are Kilimanjaro, making it easier for trekkers and people of safari; Quito, making it easier to get to this UNESCO World Heritage site city; Memphis, where tourists can easily visit Elvis’ former home, Graceland; Salt Lake City, for easy access to the ski areas; and Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), for the best beaches. So all the devastation and the immense environmental and social impact of a new runway is so rich tourists can have slightly easier trips on their holidays.
From Heathrow to the snows of Kilimanjaro: Airport pledges far-flung flights in third runway bid
By NICHOLAS CECIL (Evening Standard)
Heathrow today promised direct links to more exotic and far-flung destinations as it entered a New Year battle to win backing for a third runway.
Its campaign has been largely business-focused as it seeks to beat Gatwick for government consent to expand.
But many of the routes, planned if another runway is built in west London, would also make it easier for Britons to visit more capitals, heritage sites and other tourist attractions.
By 2030, a direct flight would be put on at least once a week to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania.
Trekkers would then have to travel only a short distance to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain at 5,896 metres, or set off on safaris in several national parks.
Over in South America, at about half the height of Kilimanjaro, stands the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, which would also be served by a flight. Its old town, with its architectural treasures, has been designated as a Unesco World Heritage site, while tower blocks rise up in the new parts of the sprawling city.
Elvis fans would be able to jump on a plane from west London to Memphis, Tennessee, where the singer’s former home, Graceland, is located.
More than 600,000 people a year visit the mansion, making it the second most-visited house in America after the White House.
Tennessee-bound travellers could also fly direct to its capital, Nashville, to experience its country music venues, visit Civil War battle sites and try its famous hot chicken dishes.
Another direct route would be to Salt Lake City, the gateway to the powder-snow ski fields of Utah, where the Winter Olympics took place in 2002.
Heathrow spokesman Nathan Fletcher said: “Expansion will mean connecting to the world’s fastest growing cities, which is pivotal to Britain’s economic plan.
“And with direct flights it will open the world up for holidaymakers as well as businesspeople to experience the culture of these flourishing destinations.”
A flight to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala — hailed by Mahatma Gandhi as India’s “evergreen city” — would cut the travel time to its idyllic Kovalam beach and wildlife sanctuaries.
Further east, travellers looking to follow in the footsteps of Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham would be able to travel to Penang on the north-west coast of peninsular Malaysia, by the Strait of Malacca. While the city is thriving economically, with major industrial developments, it is also popular among tourists who flock to taste the cuisine of Malaysia’s food capital — a fusion of many nations — and visit its beaches, hills and culture.
Londoners would also be able to fly direct to the old port city of Fuzhou, the fast-growing capital of China’s Fujian province, which offers a range of tourist attractions including hot springs.
Flights to Central America will boost links with the bustling metropolis of Panama City, at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, with nearby sandy beaches and rainforests, as well as to Guatemala City.
Air travel makes you happy, says the Airports Commission. That’s why we need more runways
July 4, 2015
The Airport Commission (AC) changed its arguments sharply between its 2013 interim report and the final document. Initially the idea was that there was a need for a runway because of a rising need for business air travel, and vital business routes. Interestingly, in its final report, the AC – realising that the demand for business flights is not growing – has switched to saying it is good for leisure travellers. At Heathrow only at most 30% of passengers are on business, the majority are on holiday, and the rest visiting friends and relatives (VFR). The AC says because air travel and holidays make people happy, put them in a better of mind and give a feeling of well-being, a runway is needed so we can fly even more than we already do. This runway if ever built would, unavoidably, be mainly used for ever more leisure trips. Nothing to do with emerging economies or connectivity, unless the business people help make fares cheaper for the tourists, and vice versa. Having an annual holiday is associated with greater happiness. Whether taken by plane or other modes of travel. Nobody will be surprised. People who are able to take holidays tend to be happier than those that do not. (People involuntarily living with the adverse impacts of an airport may have lower well-being and be less happy).
Air travel makes you happy, says the Airports Commission. That’s why we need more runways
1.7.2015 (Carbon Commentary)
The Airports Commission changed its arguments sharply between its 2013 interim report and the final document of today, July 1st. In 2013, the central idea was that Heathrow should be expanded because of a rising need for business air travel. The UK is missing out, the Commission suggested, because Heathrow did not have sufficient capacity to service desirable locations such as the largest Chinese cities.
Everthing changed today. Now the core argument is that without Heathrow expansion the UK’s leisure travellers would suffer. The Commission tells us that air travel makes people happy (I am only slightly simplifying the text). Therefore London needs more runways so that we can all fly more.
The purpose of this post is to point to what I think is a serious flaw in the analysis of the impact of air travel on happiness. I apologise for straying into econometrics but since the Commission’s report is likely to result in public policy decisions, I believe it is vital that poor and misleading analytic work is scrutinised.
In summary, I say that the Commission’s econometric work does not show that air travel makes people happy. Rather it demonstrates the wholly unsurprising conclusion that having holidays away from home is associated with a better state of mind and health. There is no legitimate ground for the Davies Commission to justify Heathrow expansion on the basis of improved happiness as a result of more air travel. (I’ve tried to make the rest of this article as free from econometrics as I can).
Below is a crucial chart that the Commission didn’t include in the interim report but does make an appearance in today’s document. It’s worth a close look. For the first time we see on Airport Commission headed paper an admission that business air travel is falling. It’s lower in terms of millions of passengers than it was in 2000 down from about 31 million trips to around 29 million.
Any growth that is coming is from leisure travel, either for holidays or Visiting Friends and Relations (VFR). This conclusion is as true for Heathrow as it is for other London and large regional airports. Heathrow is a leisure airport, partly for UK residents and partly for non-residents passing through the airport on the way to another destination.
Red line – business travel Pink line – visiting friends and relations (VFR) Blue line – leisure
Simply put, the notion that business needs more airport runways around London is nonsense. If there is any need for more airport capacity, it arises because of leisure travel.
And it is certainly worth pointing out again that many of the leisure travellers that pass through Heathrow are in transit from one non-UK destination to another.
They are of no substantial value to the UK economy. Why the people of Richmond or Hounslow should suffer more noise and traffic disruption to allow more non-UK people to fly on holiday elsewhere is an issue that Howard Davies does not address.
By ceasing to stress the business need for Heathrow expansion, the Davies Commission seems to have finally accepted that the arguments for more runways can only be made by reference to the possibility of rising leisure travel, by UK residents and those from abroad.
That is why we see the following surprising statements early in the Commission’s final report.(There’s nothing remotely like these comments in the interim version).
‘Leisure flights have a high social value. Empirical analysis focused on passengers travelling on holiday or to visit friends and family has shown how the access to leisure travel affects mental health and wellbeing. The findings demonstrate these patterns of travel are associated with higher levels of life satisfactions, general and mental health, and happiness’.
And so it goes on. Heathrow expansion is justified not by the brutal logic of global economics but by an unusual interest in personal happiness. The Commission pulled in consultants PwC [no link to their report is given] to provide the analysis that back up its assertions that air travel makes us feel good. The consultants trawled through published academic research and analysed three large scale statistical studies of personal happiness.
The academic research is limited and not particularly helpful. PwC writes
‘Most of this literature is based on analysis of surveys of small groups of people with specific characteristics or small samples designed to be representative of large populations . None of the studies has conducted empirical analysis using datasets similar to those we have used in our empirical analysis’
So they move on to their three big statistical studies. The first shows reasonably convincingly that having an annual holiday is associated with greater happiness. Nobody will be surprised. If you don’t have a holiday you are likely to have less control over your life and/or be the kind of person who gets little pleasure from leisure. These are clear predictors of unhappiness.
The second PwC study demonstrates, the consultants say, that air travel is associated with a higher level of happiness. This is the conclusion that the Davies Commission leaps upon because it supports the case for more London runway capacity. (Here comes the only bit of econometrics in this article, sorry). However, the statistical work that PwC did for the Commission didn’t split up the respondents into those that travelled on holiday by car, train or bus and those that flew. This second study is therefore picking up nothing more or less than the same phenomenon seen in the first study. If you travel abroad you are likely to be doing so because you are going on holiday. In other words, the second report finds the same conclusion as the first; holidays are associated with happiness, not that people like air travel. There can be no conclusion that air travel causes a higher sense of life satisfaction.
The third statistical study confirms the first. People who are able to take holidays tend to be happier than those that do not.
‘Our empirical analysis of the UK using three large datasets consistently finds that taking holidays and flights is associated with improvements in health and wellbeing as measured through various indicators of health and wellbeing’.
No it does not. PwCs’ empirical analysis shows that people who take holidays are happier. Nothing more and nothing less. For their money PwC should have done better econometrics. And the Davies committee shouldn’t have based their revision to the reason why London needs more airport capacity on such a weak piece of work.
There’s one more comment to make. In addition to the new focus on leisure, the Airport Commission uses its final report to make the case for Heathrow based on the amount of freight coming in to the airport. This argument is almost shockingly lame. The reason Heathrow takes in more freight tonnage than elsewhere is simply that it has far more inbound passenger flights. The freight that arrives in the airport doesn’t come in cargo aircraft but in the holds of long distance passenger flights. And since Heathrow has almost seven times as many long distance passenger flights as Gatwick it is utterly obvious why it brings in more freight.
The truth remains that London doesn’t need more runway capacity and that the pressure for Heathrow expansion is entirely driven by the understandable desire of the owners of the airport to make more money by running more services. Nothing more and nothing less.
If the UK thinks it can meet its carbon budgets for 2050 by expanding the number of airport runways, delusions have set in very deep. Today’s air travel CO2 emissions of around 40 million tonnes a year will use up almost all the UK’s allowance by mid-century. We cannot meet our carbon budgets by continued encouragement of aviation.
Page 70 of the Airports Commission Final Report states:
3.5 Leisure flights have a high social value. Empirical analysis focused on passengers travelling on holiday or to visit friends and family has shown how the access to leisure travel affects mental health and wellbeing. The findings demonstrate these patterns of travel are associated with higher levels of life satisfaction, general and mental health, and happiness. 19 [Footnote 19: The full analysis of this topic can be found in the report Quality of Life: Leisure Impacts Assessment, published alongside the Commission’s consultation and in a further report, Quality of Life: Further Assessment published alongside this report.]
3.6 Leisure travel is also of significant importance for the UK economy. Multi-national businesses operating in the UK recruit from a global pool of talent in IT, creative industries, financial services, advanced engineering and many other sectors. For their personnel the ability to return home easily to visit parents and even children is not a luxury, it is an important part of the package that persuades them to take a job in the UK. The same considerations apply to UK businesses posting staff to important overseas markets. The ability to travel home affordably and conveniently is not just a social benefit, it makes a material contribution to the competiveness of the UK.
3.8 The largest industry associated with leisure flights is tourism. The UK has a significant tourism sector which contributes both employment and gross value added to the economy. In 2013 the Tourism Direct Gross Value Added was £56 billion 20 while the most up to date value of inbound tourism is £21.8 billion in 2014.21 The wider UK tourism industry is forecast to grow significantly over the coming decades but of particular relevance to Commission’s analysis is the growing propensity to travel of a rapidly expanding middle class in many developing economies, particularly in Asia. This is a significant opportunity for the UK’s tourism as well as London as a global city with a strong history and an established tourist infrastructure which has great potential to be the starting point for European travel.
[This is a classic case of the Commission – in the same way the aviation industry does – looking at benefits of inbound tourism, and conveniently neglecting the inconvenient flipside. The money taken out of the UK by British people holidaying abroad].
10.17 There is also a benefit to people nationally (as well as locally) through the leisure impacts of the resulting increased connectivity, which could increase access to leisure holidays or visits to see family and friends by increasing the availability of flights to different places, reducing the cost of travel and improving the passenger experience. The Commission’s analysis showed statistically significant positive effects of leisure abroad improving mental and physical health, as well as boosting productivity. The general results of the statistical analysis across all of the datasets is that taking holidays and flights is associated with improvements in health and wellbeing. The only differential impact between socio-demographic groups (e.g. age, income) is that the positive association between having holidays and self-reported general health and depression is stronger for unemployed people than for employed people.
The Commission also says, by contrast – on the subject of those whose quality of life and well-being is reduced by living with aircraft noise, that:
• Living in a daytime aircraft noise contour (over 55 decibels) is negatively associated with all subjective wellbeing measures: life satisfaction, sense of “worthwhile”, happiness, levels of anxiety and positive affect balance, with the negative effect of daytime aircraft noise being greater for people living in social housing.76 To provide a sense of scale, the negative effect of aircraft noise on peoples’ sense of “worthwhile” is around half that associated with being a smoker, and less than a third that of being underemployed.77 The negative effect of aircraft noise on peoples’ happiness is less than half that of being divorced and less than the negative effect associated with living in social housing.78 • Living in a nighttime aircraft noise contour was not associated with any aggregate statistical effect on subjective wellbeing. • Being in a high level aircraft noise contour was negatively associated with happiness and feeling relaxed at that time.
[76 PwC’s analysis also confirmed this result is not driven by the possibility that more social housing is located near to airports
77 Being underemployed can include those who are unemployed, involuntarily in part-time work (i.e. those who work part-time but wish to or could work full-time) and those who are overqualified or underutilised in their current positions
78 Airports Commission, Quality of Life: Assessment ]
The growing obsession with travel is apparently induced by very cheap air fares, growing affluence, ever rising expectations, an increasing sense that hypermobility across the globe is an entitlement – on top of an emptiness and dissatisfaction with what everyday life has to offer. In a series of essays, an anthropologist looks at some of the reasons for our globe-trotting, why we do it, and what we get out of it. He considers travel as epic adventure, and how we seek challenges, in our rather mundane lives, over-influenced by health & safety; how we want to substitute novelty for normality; to reverse our daily routines, and abandon the comfort of familiarity. And the quest for ourselves. In looking at travel as a religious experience, he considers the rite of passage of much gap year travel…” some 25,000 visit Thailand, Australia and New Zealand …there is ritual talk: “where are you going?”; “where have you been?”; “did you ‘do’ this monument/trek/natural wonder?” etc. Drink, drugs and digital photos, sun, sea and social networks … Upon their return from the wilderness, our young vagrants are transformed (or reformed) into worldly-wise Westerners, new sovereign citizens of a global era. (Theirs is the Earth and everything that’s in it!) … Indeed, for many in the West today, overseas travel has come to fill the void vacated by ‘real’ religions, providing meaning, purpose, awe and wonder, as well as a sense of belonging.”
…. it is a long article, well worth reading. But these are a few extracts below …..
In the last article, I set out the idea that travel can serve a quasi-religious function akin to a ritual or pilgrimage. This week, I want to look at our motivation in a different light. Rather than viewing travel as a kind of religious experience, it is, I contend, an epic adventure, a journey of discovery whose destination, as Henry Miller once suggested, ‘is never a place but a new way of looking at things’. Above all else, it affords us a new way of looking at each other, and at ourselves. More tellingly perhaps, it offers the chance to change what we see, to ‘find’ oneself and fashion it anew.
Whatever one says about travel, whatever truths one tries to mine from its representative depths, it is most certainly, literally, an adventure. Be it two weeks in Malta or two years in Tibet (visa permitting), the act of travel presupposes the same encounter with the unknown that is at the heart of every adventurous undertaking.
And as travel is more or less a matter of letting things befall one, of submitting to the new and unfamiliar in the pursuit of pleasure, it is, by definition, an adventure.
So what are these things we allow to befall us? Which novel events comprise the adventure? To name but a few of this endless assortment, there are different climates, different foods, different modes of dress. Often, the language too is unfamiliar, while elsewhere we may encounter disparate laws, singular customs, foreign fauna and strange currencies.
More generally, travel rests on a series of oppositions or inversions in the fabric of everyday life. Thus, we swap cold weather for warmth, city living for country, fast living for slow, stress for calm and so on, perhaps vice versa. While the extent of these inversions may vary – not everyone swaps the rat race for an ashram or the Arctic for Arabia – they have in common the essence of adventure, namely, the substitution of novelty for normality.
Why, then, do we take pleasure in reversing our daily routines? For creatures of habit, as humans are, what is to be gained from abandoning the comfort of familiarity?
Well, the first and most obvious explanation is that the highs justify the lows, which is to say that the unforeseeable pleasures equal or exceed the unforeseeable pains. So it is, then, that the sunrise trumps the blizzard, the food trumps the filth and so on.
In fact, the epic adventure is less a quest for paradise than a quest for ourselves. Now this might sound like a clumsy cliché, and granted, it can be unwieldy. But there is truth to this truism, for in the course of the adventure, in the process of displacing our persons from their usual surrounds, we cannot help but arrive at a fuller conception of our characters.
For the vast majority of people, this is arguably the ultimate appeal of travel: it is a means and a medium to know one another, an adventure to be shared. But what of those who prefer to go solo? Why the desire to ‘find’ oneself? And what does this actually mean?
Viewed this way, the desire to travel is inseparable from the desire to appear (i.e. look and feel) like a traveller, just as the need for adventure is synonymous with the need to appear adventurous. Travel, then, is a brand that helps to define one’s identity. Like the food we eat, the car we drive and the clothes we wear, it works to confer on us sense of our own individuality. Nevertheless, like any other product, it is subject to the market and the whims of consumerism.
…. it is a long article, well worth reading. But these are a few extracts below – relating to young people and the semi-ritual travel rites of passage of the gap year …..
Let’s think again about the gaggle of gap years sketched out above. Every year, approximately 100,000 school-leavers head overseas prior to embarking on work or further education. Many more young people take similar breaks during or after their studies, or in-between jobs. Among this growing demographic, which is worth an estimated £2.2 billion in the UK alone, there are two major gap year options: project-based trips with organisations such as Global Vision International (GVI) and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO); or budget backpacking through Asia, Australasia and the Americas.
Of those who opt for the latter, some 25,000 visit Thailand, Australia and New Zealand in the same outing, making this the pre-eminent gap year circuit. Already, then, we have the first elements of ritual: time and place.
But what else? Well, for a start you need the costume. (Rituals, you will recall, work best in garish garb.) Ponchos, sarongs, fisherman’s pants: practical, yes, but also symbolic. Like braids, dreadlocks, tattoos and piercings, this decorative dress denotes a departure from everyday life and heightens the sense of occasion. There are other adornments too: the journal; the guidebook; the low-slung knapsack.
And then there is ritual talk: “where are you going?”; “where have you been?”; “did you ‘do’ this monument/trek/natural wonder?”; etc. Drink, drugs and digital photos, sun, sea and social networks – these too are ubiquitous features.
Travel, then, becomes ritual; there is an order of action, a template to be followed. Upon their return from the wilderness, our young vagrants are transformed (or reformed) into worldly-wise Westerners, new sovereign citizens of a global era. (Theirs is the Earth and everything that’s in it!) Through their reintegration, initiates renew a vow to society. In return, society bestows on them the mantle of maturity, endorsing their experience as life-changing and morally valid.
So there we have it. What appears a humble waterfront guesthouse is in fact a stage upon which various reverent rites are enacted, be it a kind of coming of age ritual akin to an aboriginal walkabout or the righteous restraint of the shoestring ascetic. Viewing travel in this light is in no way meant to devalue it – quite the opposite in fact. While at one level these foreign forays are decidedly frivolous, at another they can be seen to fulfil basic social functions. Indeed, for many in the West today, overseas travel has come to fill the void vacated by ‘real’ religions, providing meaning, purpose, awe and wonder, as well as a sense of belonging. As we shall see in the following article, it may also serve to satisfy an ancient appetite for adventure and the itching innate in our figurative feet.
David Jobanputra is an anthropologist and film maker, who has given much thought to why we travel so much. He has looked at travel largely as something rich westerners do, in more exotic lands. But he also asks about travel in the way it has now become a serious consumer product, and one through which we try to define ourselves – sophisticated, trendy, caring, bold, discerning etc. “We choose a personal brand identity to which we aspire and the travel industry supplies us with the right product to match.” …”Consumption is our lifejacket. It is also our straitjacket.” …”We buy status, power, a sense of inclusion. We even buy our adventures. In the age of consumerism, everything is commoditised … including tourism….Transnational travel makes culture a commodity. When the ethic of consumption is extended to new people and places, everything comes with a price. Visit to the palace – $12; mountain trek – $35; traditional dance performance – $8; sense of self-worth – priceless. Today’s holiday brochures boast bargains like an Argos catalogue; instead of homeware and cheap electronics, we find tigers, temples and tribal villages. All are commodities, just the same. We buy these things for the same reason we buy any other non-essential product: to look better, feel better or else appear better.”
TRAVEL: THE ULTIMATE MUST-HAVE POSSESSION?
In the third of a series of articles exploring why we travel, David Jobanputra asks if our travels are anything more than an act of consumption through which we can define ourselves as we wish. Sophisticated, trendy, caring; we choose a personal brand identity to which we aspire and the travel industry supplies us with the right product to match.
The Apple iPad, Reebok Classics, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Aegean tomato and yak cheese focaccia – ours is an age of consumerism. From our first forays to the sweet shop, through birthdays, toy ads and Christmas lists, we are subtly schooled in the art of desire; by the time we reach early adulthood, we are all grandmasters of the craft.
We know what we want, we know how to get it, we know how much it costs. We know why it’s better than its rivals, why Fad magazine gave it 8/10 neighbour’s asses, why Stephen Fry is tweeting about it.
We know what we want. And we know we don’t need it.
Consumption has been called the pre-eminent postmodern act. It’s the means through which we in the West, adrift in a world without meaning, cut loose from nature and history, traverse these troubling times. It is our lifejacket. It is also our straitjacket.
For the first time in history, entire societies are engaged in acts of holistic consumption. We buy not merely what we need to survive, but also what we need (or so it may seem) to ensure a happy existence. And so we buy safety, comfort, beauty and health, learning, leisure and love. We buy status, power, a sense of inclusion. We even buy our adventures.
In the age of consumerism, everything is commoditised. To buy or not to buy, that is the question. Rainforests, footballers, hospital beds – the infectious logic of the market makes products of them all.
And tourism shows no immunity.
Transnational travel makes culture a commodity. When the ethic of consumption is extended to new people and places, everything comes with a price. Visit to the palace – $12; mountain trek – $35; traditional dance performance – $8; sense of self-worth – priceless.
Today’s holiday brochures boast bargains like an Argos catalogue; instead of homeware and cheap electronics, we find tigers, temples and tribal villages. All are commodities, just the same.
We buy these things for the same reason we buy any other nonessential product: to look better, feel better or else appear better.
We are, in effect, cultural cannibals, consuming culture so as to assimilate some aspect of it. Thus, New York confers cosmopolitanism, India spirituality, the Caribbean coolness and so on. And then there are optional extras, side dishes if you like. A five-star hotel suggests status, a wine tour imparts taste, the prefix ‘eco-’ implies ethical acumen. In the realm of the tourist-cannibal, you are what you eat.
And thus, we travel to consume; it’s all that we know how to do. Consumption is our (shop) window on the world, framing our every experience.
Just as once we defined ourselves by what we produced, now it is what we consume.
Consumption, then, is mandatory, involuntary even. And travel is yet another market place. It is the new mall in a small town, with new stores, new brands and new possibilities. And so we buy flights and daytrips and waterproof clothing and rugs and postcards and carved wooden statues and tea and timeshares and tailor-made suits. We buy everything and anything. New malls are opened, new cultures consumed. Supply follows demand.
Supply follows demand, but with a marked dislocation: demand from the West; supply from the Rest. So travel is a form of imperialism, an expansionist project in which vast armies of pleasure-seekers are deployed daily to ‘colonise’ new lands, safe in the knowledge that their motives are sound (the customer is always right). It is to this issue, together with other inadvertent effects of travel, that I dedicate the following articles.
David Jobanputra is a writer and anthropologist specialising in development, cultural change and environmental ethics. He recently completed a PhD in Social Anthropology at University College London, which looked at grassroots advocacy and eco-development in the Aravalli mountains of Rajasthan, India. In addition to living and working in the subcontinent, David has travelled extensively throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, including overland trips from Tibet to Scotland and Beijing to Java. David recently returned from 18 months living with a tribe in the Rajasthani desert.