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Summaries of, and links to, the latest aviation news stories appear below. News is archived into topics

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Due to holiday absence, this website may not be updated until mid-September.


Latest news stories:

Manston airport has another possible chance to take cargo planes in future

Manston, once named as Kent International, was shut down four years ago. Plans to turn it into a cargo airport will be subjected to a public inquiry.  An application to upgrade the airfield and reopen it primarily as a cargo airport was accepted by the government’s Planning Inspectorate.  Its ambitions to be a cargo airport come from the days when it was touted as a viable alternative to Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted when, for a time, it traded under the name Kent International Airport. It was used by old, noisy and often clapped-out planes, that caused serious noise nuisance to residents of Ramsgate, where houses are situated on the approach path, almost up to the airport - and planes flew at night. The plans put forward by Riveroak Strategic Partners, Manston’s proposed operator, must first be subjected to a public inquiry in which local people can express their views. Cargo could perhaps be transferred onto the road system, from the airport. But its location, so far out to the north east of Kent, is far from ideal for any sort of airport.  In 2012, Flybe and KLM launched services from Manston in the mistaken belief that it could be a passenger airport. 

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Edinburgh Airport is set to press on with introducing a new controversial flight path route, despite widespread public objection.

Edinburgh Airport is set to press on with introducing a new controversial flight path route, despite widespread public objection. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) put the airport’s initial submission on pause in September last year and asked bosses to review part of the design. A fresh proposal has now been resubmitted to the CAA, with aircraft to fly towards the west of Cramond and along the Firth of Forth under the plan. The airport carried out a consultation on the changes to its initial proposal between May and June, with 89% of the 1,167 participating against the flight path. Airport chiefs say the route will allow the airport to be more flexible with flights while building increased capacity for future growth. Campaigners argue the airport has failed to consider other viable flight path alternatives, as well as the impact the new route will have on the environment and residents’ wellbeing. Helena Paul, from Edinburgh Airport Watch, has urged the CAA to reject the new proposals, insisting the airport needs to scrap the plans and start again, taking proper account of the responses to the consultation by people who will be seriously negatively affected.

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Data shows the NOx produced by Heathrow planes is over double that produced by road vehicles

There is a widely held belief that Heathrow's NO2 air pollution is largely due to road vehicles, and as long as measures can be taken to reduce these a bit, then a 3rd runway could be allowed. However, research indicates that the aircraft are producing even more NOx than the road vehicles, and there is far less that can be done to cut these emissions. Indeed, if there were to be almost 50% more Heathrow flights, the amount of NOx generated by the aircraft alone would mean a massive increase locally. That is not taking into account all the extra road traffic that would inevitably be generated by a larger Heathrow, including businesses etc that locate near the airport and all their traffic. The 2013 figures from a study for Heathrow, by Ricardo-AEA Ltd show the amount of NOx emitted from planes up to 1000 metres altitude was 2761 tonnes NOx/ year, and 1524 tonnes from aircraft on the ground (ie a total of 4285 tonnes/ year). Also 274 tonnes/year from other airport sources. Then 350 tonnes/year from Heathrow associated trips on main roads in a 11km x 11km area, and 1661 tonnes/ year from non-Heathrow associated traffic in that 11x11km area. (ie. a total of 2011 for all road traffic). So the amount from planes is way over twice the amount from road vehicles. And that ignores the NOx from planes in the wider area, over 1000 metres altitude.

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Farnborough Airport gets go ahead on airspace expansion despite inevitable ‘increase in noise’

Farnborough Airport has been given the green light to go ahead with a planned airspace expansion despite suggestions from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that there could be an increase in noise. The aviation authority also suggested there could be an increase in noise for those who already experience noise pollution, but there would be no new people significantly affected by noise. TAG Farnborough Airport's application has been "largely" approved by the CAA, which provides guidance and regulation on all aspects of civil aviation in the UK. The CAA said that given the increase in business aviation at the site, there was a material safety case for introducing controlled airspace around the airport. However, TAG will have to concede some of the controlled space it applied for to collaborate on reasonable access arrangements for gliders in 3 airspace blocks in the vicinity of RAF Odiham and Lasham Airfield. Though the flight paths do not go directly over Guildford, Aldershot and Farnham, there is a lot of overflight of the southern limit of Farnham, causing noise intrusion. While in theory there are "no new people who will be significantly affected by noise as a result of this proposal" in reality many will experience an increase in noise, even if technically there is no theoretical increase.

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Climate Change charity Plan B begins legal action against Grayling over Government’s Heathrow expansion plans

Climate change campaign Plan B, has started legal action against Transport Secretary Chris Grayling over his plans for Heathrow expansion.  Plan B say the proposal breaches legal obligations in the Planning Act to alleviate the impact of climate change. Plan B join 4 other legal challenges against the runway plans (5 councils and Greenpeace UK, Heathrow Hub, a resident Neil Spurrier, and Friends of the Earth UK). Tim Crosland, Director of Plan B, said: ‘The Government has an express obligation under the Planning Act to promote sustainable development, with specific reference to the impacts of climate change. That means safeguarding the interests of current and future generations of UK citizens. Plan B says the NPS does not even consider the Government’s obligations under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change or that in April this year, the Government committed to a review of its climate targets in light of the Paris Agreement. Plan B’s legal action focuses exclusively on climate change impact.

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Friends of the Earth launches High Court legal challenge against Government decision on Heathrow runway NPS

Friends of the Earth (FoE) believes the Government's Airports National Policy Statement, (NPS) which backs building a Heathrow 3rd runway, fails to address the UK's climate change obligations. So they have started formal legal action at the High Court. The legal action challenges the legal basis of the government’s decision to designate the NPS, which gives the go-ahead to a 3rd runway.  Lawyers Leigh Day, on behalf of FoE, have filed papers with the High Court - asking for the Airports NPS published in June to be quashed. They argue the NPS  is illegal because  • it does not explain how it takes account of domestic targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction under the Climate Change Act 2008; • it does not factor in the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C; • it fails to factor in the non-CO2 climate impacts of a 3rd runway, such as the emission of nitrogen oxides, which generate warming effects of a similar magnitude to CO2 emissions; and • it does not lawfully and fully consider the likely impact on future generations. A decision on whether there will be a full hearing about these issues is expected to be made this autumn.

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Lawyers acting for a consortium of local authorities and others have issued JR proceedings in the High Court re. Heathrow runway

Lawyers acting for a consortium of local authorities and others have now issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the Secretary of State for Transport, on the basis that he has unlawfully designated the Airports National Policy Statement [NPS] under the Planning Act 2008. The proceedings challenging the expansion of Heathrow airport have been brought by the London Boroughs of Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith and Fulham, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Greenpeace and the Mayor of London.  The grounds of challenge are on air quality, inadequate environmental assessment, climate change, surface access, breach of the habitats directive and a flawed consultation process. Councillor Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said: "Once again we have a government that is trying to avoid applying both the correct legal process and common sense to the question of airport expansion. The abject failure to address the far reaching consequences for both the environment and the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of residents across London is simply not acceptable." The many flaws in the scheme need to be subjected to the rigorous scrutiny of the legal process, and its serious failings exposed.

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Lillian Greenwood, Chair of the Transport Committee, accuses Grayling of ignoring its Heathrow recommendations

The UK government has largely ignored recommendations from the Transport Select Committee, a key parliamentary body, about Heathrow's 3rd runway scheme. The committee's Chair, Lilian Greenwood, said this makes it more likely the courts will strike down the project. She said Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, “gave the impression that 24 of our 25 recommendations had been accepted”, but said his comments were just “rhetoric”. ... “The reality was that only two or three of our recommendations were actually accepted. ...“I suppose at best you could say that the government said they agreed with the spirit of our recommendations and would ensure those matters were dealt with in the [planning] process.” The committee’s recommendations, if the runway went ahead, included adopting stricter air-quality standards, setting a binding target to prevent more airport-related traffic and defining noise-pollution limits.  Now a Judicial Review of the government's Airports NPS (ie. the Heathrow runway) by 5 local councils and Greenpeace, with the backing of the Mayor of London, is starting. If the courts overturn the government's decision, it “make the economic case on which Heathrow expansion is predicated less favourable”.  ie. not good for investors.

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Birmingham Airport’s passenger numbers down every month this year so far

Birmingham Airport lost an average of 1,800 passengers per day in the first half of 2018.  The airport has seen a fall in like-for-like passenger numbers of about 5% in each of the past 8 months after its long run of growth reversed. Now budget airline Primera Air has announced it is to pull all 7 of its European routes just 11 weeks after its maiden flight from Birmingham. Primera Air said operations were no longer “commercially viable” from Birmingham, based on the demand it had seen for its winter schedule. In June it suspended its flights from Birmingham to New York and Toronto after less than a month. It had previously cancelled its Birmingham-Boston service before it launched. CAA data show 331,000 fewer passengers using Birmingham in the first half of 2018, continuing a trend that began late last year. June saw a fall of 63,000 passengers, with Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands worst affected. Birmingham-Tenerife had nearly 15,000 fewer passengers, Malaga was down by more than 13,000, Alicante fell 12,000 and Barcelona dropped by 11,000. But there were 15,000 more passengers to Turkey and 11,000 more to Greece.

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Stop Stansted Expansion wants Uttlesford District Council to allow more time (not 31st August deadline) for consultation on airport expansion plans

Campaigners against plans to expand passenger numbers and flights at Stansted  are calling for more time for the public to consider new information about the plans.  Airport owner MAG is seeking permission to raise the upper threshold for passenger numbers and flights.  Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) argues Uttlesford District Council’s (UDC) August 31 deadline for comments on an extra 900 pages of information is not enough. SSE says the council and the airport owners were seeking to “rush through” the application, and corners were being cut.  SSE chairman Peter Sanders said: “This is an impossible deadline to achieve, unless Uttlesford only wants to receive superficial responses. Parish and town councils don’t even meet during August, nor does UDC council or cabinet. August is a lost month so far as a public consultation is concerned.  It is especially galling because Uttlesford caused this problem in the first place. The council should not have accepted such a deficient planning application back in February. It is a case of more haste, less speed.” SSE is pursuing a high court challenge aimed at transferring responsibility for determining the planning application from UDC to the Secretary of State.

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Gatwick may have, on a technicality, reduced the size of its “noise footprint”, but thousands outside this area are badly affected

Gatwick airport reported - according to a new report by the CAA  - that its noise footprint had shrunk "following an initiative to modify noisy aircraft." However, people affected by Gatwick noise are not impressed. Local group CAGNE commented that “Those that sit outside of Gatwick’s shrinking noise footprint are those significantly impacted by Gatwick noise as well as those newly affected by the concentrated flight paths.” ...“The problem with the CAA report is that they worked on an average of noise (16 hour daytime and 8 hour night over 2017 summer).  Residents awoken at night or unable to use the garden during the day due to aircraft noise, do not hear noise in an average way, they hear noise as significant events whilst endeavouring to enjoy their desired tranquility.   Areas of Sussex, Kent and Surrey, outside of the footprint, report they are significantly affected by aircraft noise but are not included in the footprint as they reside outside of the LOAEL (Government noise metric of Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level) and noise contours.... It is true that planes are quieter, but the frequency by which they are flown has dramatically increased ..."

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London City airport – Noise Action Plan Consultation (ends 5th Sept) for next 5 years, 2018 – 2023

London City airport is now updating its 2013 - 2018 Noise Action Plan (NAP). The new plan will cover the next 5 years, 2018 - 2023. The airport has a consultation that runs from 25th July to 5th September. People can comment on the current plan, and say what they think should be changed.  The draft plan is at Noise Action Plan 2018-2023.  "The main purpose of the NAP is to establish the noise impact of the airport in order to consider whether the current noise management measures are sufficient to protect the local community adequately, particularly those worst affected. In order to demonstrate this LCY’s noise impact has been assessed by qualified independent consultants and is documented in Appendix A." ...  The airport has a limit of 120,000 permitted aircraft movements per annum, based upon noise factored aircraft movements.  For 2013, London City Airport had a total of 77,377 noise factored movements (based on 73,642 aircraft movements).

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Heathrow runway rival – “Heathrow Hub” – launches legal challenge to DfT on its 3rd runway decision

The sponsor of a rival project to build a 3rd runway at Heathrow, Heathrow Hub, has started its challenge against the DfT for its decision to back the airport's north-west runway scheme. Sky News has obtained a letter sent on Friday 27th July by lawyers acting for Heathrow Hub, ‎which paves the way for it to seek a full judicial review of the Government's decision. They have engaged Martin Kingston QC, a planning expert at No5 Chambers, and Robert O'Donoghue, a prominent figure in cases of competition law from Brick Court, to fight its case. In the pre-action letter, the law firm DAC Beachcroft accused the DfT of failing to provide information about the Heathrow decision-making process sought under freedom of information (FoI) laws. It requested that the DfT's Airports National Policy Statement (NPS)  be quashed on 5 principal grounds. These include a flawed understanding by ministers of the capacity for new air traffic movements created by extending the airport's northern runway, to the west. Heathrow Hub also believes it was unlawful for the DfT to "effectively [give Heathrow] a veto" over their proposal (the airport always favoured their own scheme).  Heathrow Hub is a privately owned company, funded by a hedge fund manager.

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Bill for even partly effective noise insulation for all households affected by 3rd runway would be huge – far above £700 m?

Many thousands of homes could get up to £3,000 of sound insulation (windows, loft insulation etc) from Heathrow, due to more noise from a 3rd runway. A source has told the Times that the number of households eligible could be 400,000, in line for compensation. That figure is a serious under-estimate. If there are 2.3 people on average per household, that comes to about 920,000 people being affected by noise bad enough that Heathrow can see it is a problem. Many are already blighted by the noise, and the real number of households affected is not yet known, as there are no details of where flight paths will be. In reality the number of households is more like 970,000 homes (meaning 2.2 million residents) being expected to put up with extra aircraft noise. That number is a CAA figure, released recently in response to an FoI request.  By law, Heathrow has to write to any property owner who could be entitled to make a compensation claim after being adversely affected by the plan. Any application for the insulation and funding would be subject to an independent assessment. The cost of £3,000 just for 400,000 homes (let alone 970,000) would be £120 million. Heathrow has said it will spend around £700 million. For 970,000 homes that comes to just £722 per home ... (nowhere near "up to £3,000").

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Couple in Ringmer (NE of Brighton) hit out at ‘nightmare’ caused by noisy planes using Gatwick

A couple have claimed their lives are being made a misery by noisy aircraft flying directly over their home. The couple, in their seventies, in Ringmer say they are living in a “complete nightmare” and blame a change in flight patterns and holding stacks for planes approaching Gatwick. The problem seemed to begin on June 9, when they were woken at 6am by an aircraft flying overhead. They now start at 6am every day, and continue throughout the day until 11pm, often at intervals of one, two and three minutes. They find it hard to relax when they are waiting for the sound of the next aircraft. Their home is close to one of Gatwick’s aircraft holding stacks, and Gatwick has had a growing number of flights since 2014.  Before the current onslaught, the couple said they had little plane noise for 19 years. They could watch the planes flying over the South Downs, but not over them. The wife commented: “It feels like a dreadful injustice ... now they are flying over us, at the side of us and a short distance in front of us ...It is like living in a complete nightmare. ...It’s beginning to affect the health of my husband and myself. I was close to a nervous breakdown.” Neither the CAA nor Gatwick can, or would, do anything to help them.

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Heathrow and other airports want more driverless airport vehicles (ie. fewer jobs)

Aberdeen Standard Investment’s AIPUT fund (Airport Industrial and Property Unit Trust) has published a report detailing progress on autonomous transport and logistics technology. The technology of driverless vehicles is used throughout the UK’s airports, including Heathrow; AIPUT has 2 million sq ft of buildings at Heathrow, for freight and logistics. The report discusses how cargo-handling and logistics operations, as well as passenger transportation both to and within airports is made more "efficient" with the use of automated transport.The first trials of automated air-side vehicles have been completed at Heathrow in collaboration with IAG Cargo and Oxbotica. These vehicles do not need people to drive them. So this is another area in which there will be job cuts. Sadly, Heathrow and the trade union, Unite, were able to persuade a lot of MPs to vote in favour of the 3rd runway, through the Airports NPS, in late June. A letter co-signed by the Back Heathrow campaigner Parmjit Dhanda and Unite's Len McCluskey said the runway would create hundreds of thousands of new unionised jobs at Heathrow, regional airports and on transport networks.

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Heathrow plans for 25,000-space car park near Stanwell ‘wholly disproportionate’, says Spelthorne council leader

Spelthorne Borough Council has expressed concerns at proposals (not yet firm plans) that could see "the world's largest car park," with 25,000 spaces, built on the doorstep of one of its villages. The Council has, however, always backed the 3rd runway plans - but now perhaps they are waking up to its local impacts. The car park could be build just north west of Stanwell village, and would generate alarming levels of traffic impact (rat-running, noise and air pollution) across the borough and specifically for Stanwell's local population. Heathrow currently has no car parking spaces in Spelthorne borough, but if there is ever a 3rd runway, the demand for car parking would require more places. [Strange that, as Heathrow says there will be NO more road journeys with a 3 runway airport than now with two. So why are 25,000 more car parking spaces needed?]...  In a NIMBY manner, Spelthorne wants the carpark to be built at "sustainable transport interchanges" situated near motorways and as far away from built up neighbourhoods as possible. ie. just not near their residents (and remember, the council backs the 3rd runway ....). Plans for the carpark would be part of the Development Consent Order (DCO) that Heathrow has to have passed, rather than a conventional planning application that would be the case for a small development.

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Heathrow 2.5% rise in pax in 1st half of 2018, 5% rise in retail, 7% more on car parking cf. 2017

Though Heathrow always says it is almost full, in reality it has terminal capacity for many more. Its latest half year results, to the end of June, show the number of passengers increased by 2.5% to 38.1 million (half year). There are more larger planes, and the load factors are higher, now up 1% to 76.9% on average. Revenues for the 6 months were up 2.3% to £1.4 billion. Retail profits were up 5% to £206 million, far outstripping many high streets. Income from bars, restaurants and cafés was up by 11.5%. While trying to persuade politicians etc that it is not going to worsen already very bad air pollution with a new runway, Heathrow made 7% more from car parking in this first half, at £62 million. Car parking is very lucrative to the airport, while passengers arriving by public transport are not. Income from the Heathrow Express (owned by Heathrow) rail link (very expensive) from Paddington, fell by £2 million to £61 million. Spending more on security and the “passenger experience” cut pre-tax profits from £102 million to £95 million now. The payroll bill rose by nearly 2% to £183 million; operational & maintenance costs rose by nearly 9% to £223 million.

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Heathrow increases its debt by almost £1 billion (total net debt £13.7 bn) to protect it from a worst-case scenario Brexit

Heathrow's CEO John Holland-Kaye has raised nearly £1bn in debt to keep it going through a “worst-case scenario” following a hard Brexit. He said this was equivalent to 2 full years’ funding, to give the airport the level of financial resilience for a worst-case scenario. He said he expected “something close to continuity” through a Brexit agreement, but “our funding levels . . . mean we are protected. Even if we have no income for two months, we would be financially safe.”  The debt deals, primarily refinancing, total £981m and take Heathrow’s total net debt to £13.7bn. A financial commented that this was an attitude of “let’s raise it while we can”, and a hard Brexit might raise fears over access to financial markets. Heathrow's first half financial results showed a 2.3% increase in total revenue to £1.4bn compared with the 2017, but a 7% fall in pre-tax profit to £289m. Heathrow had spent money on more  operational investment, such as in facilities for disabled passengers and in keeping the airport going during snows this winter. Passenger numbers rose 2.5% to 38.1m, its busiest ever first half, by use of higher load factors. Heathrow expects to spend £160m this year on the expansion project.

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Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has served legal papers requiring the Government to take control of deciding the airport’s expansion plans

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has served legal papers requiring the Government to take control of deciding the latest Stansted Airport expansion proposals, or face proceedings in the High Court. This puts the Secretary of State for Transport on formal notice of a Judicial Review application if he fails to designate the airport's planning application as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) within 14 days. Such a designation would mean the application would be considered nationally (a longer, more detailed, more effective process) rather than by the local planning authority, Uttlesford District Council (UDC). The application for expansion at Stansted was submitted by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) on behalf of the airport last February. If approved it would mean a 44% increase in flights and a 66% increase in passengers compared to 2017 levels. From the outset, SSE fiercely opposed the attempt to rush through the application and has argued that the scale of the application - the threshold is 10 million more annual passengers - meant that it had to be determined nationally rather than by the local Council. Stansted is trying to put the increase at 8million (35m to 43m) to avoid the NSIP process.

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Hillingdon Council writes to residents to ensure they know the 3rd runway is not at all certain – despite HAL propaganda

Heathrow has been telling local residents that the 3rd runway is definitely going ahead, and people should act accordingly. However, now Hillingdon Council's Leader, Ray Puddifoot, has written to residents to let them know that is not at all true. He says: "I have been informed by a number of residents in the Heathrow Villages that Heathrow Airport Ltd. (HAL) are producing  highly misleading and disingenuous propaganda regarding airport expansion that is causing unnecessary distress and  anxiety.  HAL are unashamedly frightening residents by informing them that Heathrow expansion will definitely be taking place  now that the Secretary of State has taken the decision, on 26th June 2018, to designate the Airports National Policy  Statement (NPS). For the avoidance of doubt Heathrow expansion is very far from certain. The designation of the NPS is not in any way tantamount to the grant of planning permission for Heathrow expansion. Instead, it acts as an umbrella’ for an  application for a Development Consent Order to be made by HAL. I can confirm that no such application has been made. In the circumstances, I would urge you and your fellow residents not to believe anything that HAL is saying and  certainly, no steps should be taken to market any properties in Heathrow Villages."  And it continues ....

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DfT considering £10bn “HS4Air” proposal for high-speed rail linking HS1 and HS2 via Gatwick & Heathrow

A new high-speed railway route has been proposed from Folkestone, via HS1, via Gatwick and Heathrow, linking to HS2 and up north. The proposal is by London firm Expedition. It would link the existing HS1 with the planned HS2, via the two airports. Also included would be a connection to the Great Western Main Line railway (GWML). Along this planned route, passengers would be able to travel to either airport from cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Cardiff without the need to change trains; reducing road congestion, air pollution and travel times. It might take some freight.  The HS4Air rail link would bring direct international train services, from the Midlands and the North to Europe via the Channel Tunnel. The high-speed rail service to the city centre of Paris, from both Birmingham and Manchester, would be faster in comparison to flying.  The rail link would also suck potential air passengers from northern airports to Heathrow and Gatwick ... The proposers say 20% of the line would be tunnelled "to avoid impacting the landscape" and would re-use the existing straight railway running between Tonbridge and Ashford. The whole thing might cost £10 billion. It is apparently now being looked at by the DfT.

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Legal challenges against Heathrow runway plans – first chance for proper assessment of the NPS details – plans delay inevitable

Although MPs voted to back the Heathrow 3rd runway, lawyers say legal challenges are likely to substantially delay - by at least a year - the start of construction, even if they cannot prevent it.  As well as the legal challenge by 5 London councils, and the Mayor of London, that has now started, there will be one by "Heathrow Hub", the rival runway scheme. The challenges will go to the High Court and could take up to 6 months. The losing party could then appeal to the Court of Appeal, and even if they lose there, they could then appeal to the Supreme Court. The legal process is the first opportunity for Heathrow expansion opponents to take the proposal for a 3rd runway to the High Court, and have all the issues properly assessed - not merely depending on information provided by and for the Department for Transport. There will also be a second opportunity to challenge the plans after the development consent order (DCO) is completed. Under the current plans, Heathrow intends to lodge its development consent order with the secretary of state in 2021, ahead of a 2025 completion date - but that could be delayed due to the legal challenges. Then there must be a General Election by 2022, which Labour might win - with no guarantee they would not oppose the runway plans.

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Councils notify Secretary of State that they will seek Judicial Review of Government’s decision to approve Heathrow 3rd runway NPS

A group of local authorities has formally notified the Secretary of State for Transport that it intends to seek judicial review of the Government’s decision to give policy support in the Airports National Policy Statement ('NPS') for a 3rd Heathrow runway. The councils are challenging the Government on the grounds of air quality, climate change, and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) including failing properly to deal with the noise consequences and surface access impacts. On air quality they say, amongst other things, that the Government has misunderstood and misapplied the law on air quality. On surface access the councils say, amongst other things, that the NPS fails to recognise the scale of the challenge to accommodate additional trips without unacceptable effects on the transport network and unacceptable effects from traffic pollution. The Government must now respond to the councils’ formal letter before action. If the Transport Secretary does not agree to quash the NPS, the local authorities will bring judicial review proceedings.The Boroughs taking the legal action are Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Windsor & Maidenhead Council, and Hammersmith & Fulham.The group has also been joined by the Mayor of London and Greenpeace.

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Profits and number of passengers using London City Airport fell slightly in 2017 (not the expected growth)

Annual profits at London City Airport have fallen by more than 10% as the number of flights fell last year.  Accounts show a fall in turnover from £113.7m to £112.0m in the year to December 2017. Net profit before tax fell to £35.7m and, following a £2m increased tax charge, profit for the year decreased from £32.0m to £28.5m. The number of passengers fell by 0.3% to 4.5 million, and the number of flights fell by 5.8% to 75,781.  About 56% of its passengers are business travellers (compared with 33% at Heathrow), so almost half are on leisure trips. The airport is developing so it can handle up to 6.5 million passenger per year, with up to 111,000 annual flights - a massive increase on today's number, and inappropriate in such a built up area.  First proposed in 1981, commercial flights started at London City in 1987. It was sold to a consortium including insurance giant AIG and Global Infrastructure Partners in 2006. London City was then bought in 2016 by a quartet of infrastructure investors: OMERS, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Wren House Infrastructure Management and Alberta Investment Management Corporation.

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5 issues surrounding the expansion of Heathrow the Staines area still doesn’t have answers to

A local newspaper in the Staines area has set out 5 key areas on which there are no assurances that Heathrow expansion will not be bad for their area. Areas like Stanwell Moor and Stanwell would be seriously affected by the addition of a 3rd runway, and they are angry and frustrated at the lack of clarity on exactly what expansion will mean for them. One issue is the WPOZ (Wider Property Offer Zone) where people have the opportunity to sell their homes to Heathrow for 125% their market value. Heathrow has remained tight lipped about the possible inclusion of the villages in the WPOZ, but has insisted all options remain on the table. On air and noise pollution, there is no clarity at all, and Heathrow continues (unsuccessfully) to try to give the impression there would be no increase to current amounts. On the Immigration Centre, the existing one in Harmondsworth would have to be demolished, but there is no indication where it might be relocated. Spelthorne Borough Council has insisted it is not built in the borough. There are also huge problems with the M25 and protection of the valuable Staines Moor SSSI area, which is home to endangered species of birds, and the possible diversion of the River Colne, which runs through the moor. Local MP Kwasi Kwateng, and Spelthorne Council still, despite all the negative impacts, back the runway ...

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Windsor & Maidenhead Council sets aside further £100,000 (adding to £50,000 already) for Heathrow legal battle

A further £100,000 will be set aside to fund the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead’s [the Prime Minister's own constituency] legal challenge against a 3rd Heathrow runway.  Council Leader Cllr Simon Dudley said on Friday, following a meeting with legal counsel and a vote within the ruling Conservative Group, that councillors had overwhelmingly agreed to take a stand against the proposed expansion. The Royal Borough is taking part in the legal challenge, alongside Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, and Hammersmith & Fulham local authorities and the Mayor of London to challenge the Government’s decision. Cllr Dudley said: “We’re putting another £100,000 in which is right at the top end of what we’ll need. We don’t put spending taxpayer’s money lightly and I have been clear that we won’t be caught up in frivolous legal action.” The additional money will be taken from the council’s cash reserves and will be added on to the £50,000 that has already been set aside for a potential legal challenge. The Government has left itself ‘wide open’ over its air quality obligations, and there is no clarity how adding the runway would comply with air quality limits. The DCO to build the runway would be derailed if the pending judicial review succeeds.

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Fears Liverpool airport future runway expansion could demolish beautiful beach loved by Paul McCartney

Plans for Liverpool John Lennon Airport to extend its runway for long haul flights have been slammed by residents who fear the expansion will demolish a popular Merseyside beach.  Furious residents from Hale and Speke are holding a protest picnic against the airport's expansion plans at Oglet Shore, the threatened location.  Oglet Shore is an agricultural coastal area between Speke and Hale Villiage and is well known for being one of Paul McCartney's favourite places to visit as a child. The fields that lie between the airport runway and Oglet are often described as the "last truly rural area" in Liverpool - but will lose their designated Green Belt land status as part of the proposed expansion plans. The Oglet lies south of the runway and is classified as Undeveloped Coast Land, which can be used for development if there is no other suitable location for the plans. The airport wants to expand, and have been led to believe they could have more business aviation, cargo and even links to Heathrow in future ...

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Heathrow trying to persuade doubters that it will not need public money to funds its plans and will not struggle to fund £14bn 3rd runway

Heathrow airport is denying it will struggle to fund its possible new £14bn runway, as there are concerns that taxpayers will have to help pay for one of Britain’s biggest infrastructure projects in decades. Paul Deighton, Heathrow’s chairman, has written to the CAA to “set the record straight” after noting “a continuing debate regarding the financials” of expansion. “We have an investment grade credit rating, and existing shareholders will invest equity to maintain this through the higher risk expansion period,” he said. “This is a very strong position from which to finance the expansion of Heathrow. There will be no cost to the taxpayer.” However, it is likely to need higher landing charges and that taxpayers have to foot much of the bill. Heathrow is already £13.4bn in debt — not far shy of the £15bn value of its regulatory asset base. Equity was just £703m.  Much of the £14bn price of the runway would be borrowed money, and financing costs of that could be £2bn-£3bn over a 6-year construction period — might stretch the balance sheet to breaking point. These sums don't include likely of cost overruns and legal claims.

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London City Airport may seek permission for more flights – up from its current cap of 111,000 per year

London City Airport is considering an application to raise limits on flights and passenger numbers, its boss has revealed. Chief executive Robert Sinclair believes the airport will approach existing caps on its operations in the next 3 - 4 years. London City Airport is trying to make out it is vital, in the years before Heathrow gets a 3rd runway (if it ever does, which is still fairly unlikely ...) Sinclair said: “In the fullness of the next year or two we will be reflecting on the future and life beyond our current planning caps... We will be considering the potential options, which could include raising the caps.” The current limit is 6.5 million passengers and 111,000 flights per year. Annual passenger numbers have grown by 50% since 2012 and might be over 5 million next year. Annual air traffic movements currently stand at around 80,000.  Any bid to increase operational caps would be made to Newham Council. John Stewart, chairman of campaign group Hacan East, said: “Local residents would fight tooth and nail any attempt by London City to raise its limits on flights and passengers.  Many of them feel their lives are already blighted by planes from the airport." The airport had no passenger increases in 2017 over 2016, and only 5% growth in 2016. 

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Opinion: We need a responsible attitude to flying, not another Heathrow runway

Responsible Travel customer director Tim Williamson asks:  "Do we really need another runway at Heathrow? At Responsible Travel we don’t think so."... "At some point we have to face the fact that the IATA predictions for the growth of air travel are not sustainable and will be very detrimental to the planet. The ability to jump on a plane at a very affordable price for most of the developed world and get to nearly all places on earth in less than a day is a wonderful privilege but it’s not a right and each flight has a consequence and that’s the increasing damage to our environment from aviation." ..."What we can start doing now is thinking about each flight we take and ask is it really necessary? We should all be thinking now about that short city break by air and looking at alternatives, especially if our choice is also fuelling the new concept of over-tourism where tourists and locals suffer as result of too many tourists. If we are travelling to a conference – is it really necessary that we are there in person?" ..."If we are travelling for work do we need to be there in person? I’m sure most meetings that include air travel would be far less attractive if the company that paid for the ticket collected the air miles and points rather than the individual."

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Committee on Climate Change says DfT must publish a plan, by summer 2019, to limit aviation CO2

The CCC's report says a key action needed from the UK government by the first half of 2019 is to: "Publish a plan to limit UK aviation emissions to the level assumed when the fifth carbon budget was set (i.e. around 2005 levels in 2050, implying around a 60% potential increase in demand), supported by strong international policies.". They say the UK's 2050 target requires an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions including the UK's share of international aviation and shipping (IAS) emissions. But if IAS is not included, all other sectors would have to cut their CO2 emissions by around 85% (cf. 1990)by 2050 - which the CCC do not believe is possible. The CCC say: "The Government have committed to publish a new Aviation Strategy in 2019. This will need to include a plan to limit UK aviation emissions to the level assumed when the 5th carbon budget was set (i.e. around 2005 levels by 2050, likely to imply around a 60% potential increase in demand), supported by strong international policies."  UK aviation CO2 emissions were already at 35.5 Mt CO2 in 2016, having risen by 1.2% in that year over 2015. Aviation emissions will continue to rise, and rapidly exceed the 37.5MtCO2 cap. Around spring 2019 the CCC will set out its thinking on whether the CORSIA is an appropriate mechanism for formally including international aviation CO2 in carbon budgets.

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Explanation by Prof Alice Larkin of why UK aviation must fit within UK climate commitments

Alice Larkin, Professor of Climate Science and Energy Policy at The University of Manchester, and Dr John Broderick say the proposed 3rd Heathrow runway jeopardises the UK's long term legal carbon commitments, including the 2015 Paris Agreement, given the absence of a policy framework for establishing long-term decarbonisation of the sector. They say rising aviation CO2 would need to be off-set by fuel-efficiency gains, the use of alternative carbon-neutral fuels or additional reductions in other sectors. But there are no mechanisms in place to guarantee this within the UK’s climate policy framework. For the UK to try to meet Paris targets, UK aviation emissions need to be greatly reduced, along with all other sectors. Even if there were effective carbon credits available for aviation, they would become scarce in coming decades as further CO2 cuts are ever more challenging for all sectors to achieve. There are substantial concerns about the wider effects of biofuel production  including their carbon balance; synthetic fuels are necessarily energetically costly to produce and requiring additional zero-carbon energy generation capacity - so neither can effectively cut aviation's CO2 emissions.

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Damning report by Transport Committee says North still being short-changed on Government rail spending, compared to London

A critical report by the Transport Select Committee says the Government’s intention to tackle the North-South divide is being undermined by the flawed methods it uses to decide which schemes to fund. The Rail Infrastructure Investment report says current appraisal methods will always favour London over northern regions as they are weighted heavily towards the reduction of congestion and journey time savings, meaning less successful areas will continue to be held back. Chair of the Committee, Lilian Greenwood said: "While we accept that annual snapshots of comparative regional investment can be problematic, and that investment in one area can lead to benefits in another, some regions have faced decades of under-investment in their parts of the rail network."  And of course, meanwhile much more is spent on London and the south, with the likelihood of huge taxpayer spending to pay for surface access improvements if there is a 3rd Heathrow runway.  The Leader of Leeds City Council said: “The Treasury’s own data shows that spending per head in London in 2016/17 was more than ten times that of the East Midlands. Regional economies will never be able to catch up with London while such inequalities exist."

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Heathrow boss says he can’t guarantee prices won’t rise to pay for runway – MPs voted for NPS saying fares would be lower

John Holland-Kaye said, on the BBC’s Today Programme, that he can’t guarantee prices [presumably referring to ticket prices, and not the cost of building the whole project] won’t go up to pay for the airport’s third runway. …”it’d be foolish to guarantee flat charges,” although he added it was “way to early to make commitments”. And he says “…We’re very good at this …it would be completed in budget (£14 billion) and on-time (open in 2026)” (well, he would, wouldn’t he?). He is chirpy about the “strong mandate” from the parliamentary vote of a 296 vote majority. Willie Walsh is not at all convinced that the runway would be built by 2026, or even by 2030. One of the reasons the Airports Commission backed the runway (Final Report July 2015) was so fares would become cheaper. Not more expensive. The government’s final NPS in June 2018 (that MPs have now voted for) says: “. Expansion at Heathrow Airport would increase the availability of services, and increase competition between airlines. This would lower fares that passengers can expect to face relative to no expansion, leading to significant benefits to business and leisure passengers and the wider economy”.

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IAG boss Willie Walsh says there is “zero” chance of Heathrow being able to build a 3rd runway by 2026 (or for £14bn)

Heathrow expects to have a 3rd runway built and operating by 2026 but the boss of IAG, Willie Walsh, believes there is "zero" chance of that happening.  He thinks there might be a 60% of it being built by 2028 - 2030.  He says the £14bn cost to build the runway is "perverse" and cast doubt on the airport's ability to deliver the project. "I don't believe that Heathrow Airport can build this in an efficient manner and a cost-effective manner. When you talk about an expected bill of £14bn sterling, it's a perverse amount of money. It's ridiculous. It's outrageous. It has always been incentivised to spend money. The airport has a bizarre, perverse incentive to spend more money than it needs to because it gets remunerated based on the money they spend. ...The airport hasn't figured out how it will build over the top of the M25 and that is a challenge." Mr Walsh, whose company holds the most coveted landing slots at Heathrow, wants a runway, but at a price that does not negatively impact his business. And he is not keen on a lot of new competition coming into Heathrow, to weaken his monopoly position.

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Heathrow runway after being voted for in Parliament. NEXT STOP: COURT

Campaigners vow to stop plans to expand Heathrow airport once and for all in court, following a parliamentary vote in favour of a 3rd runway. The vote was 415 in favour, 119 against, with a majority of 296. Despite claims that over 75% of MPs support the plans, the actual number was much lower, at 63%, with 3 out of the 4 main political parties adopted a position against expansion. Labour, whilst offering a free vote, adopted a recommendation to vote against expansion, saying the plans failed to meet the party’s 4 tests. The SNP decided to abstain in the vote, stating they were ‘unconvinced’ by the government’s case for Heathrow expansion, whilst the Liberal Democrats remained strongly opposed to the plans. From the Government benches, Greg Hands, Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers voted against their party whip for the first time in 13 years. The No 3rd Runway Coalition believe that large infrastructure projects, which stretch well beyond the lifetime of one parliament, require strong cross-party unity in order to actually be delivered. The runway does not have that, and Heathrow's shareholders will have noticed. There’s a long way to go before Heathrow can start knocking down villages or putting spades in the ground - the legal challenges can now begin ...

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No 10 ‘fixes’ Heathrow runway vote to deliberately get it before MPs can read damning report on CO2 by the CCC

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, has scheduled the vote on a 3rd Heathrow runway just days before publication of a government report warning that surging aviation emissions would destroy Britain’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. It means MPs will have had no chance to read the report, from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on Thursday, before voting. The report will warn that aviation and other emissions are growing so fast that homeowners and businesses may have to sacrifice gas cookers, central heating boilers and petrol cars for Britain to meet its climate change targets. Andy McDonald, the Labour transport shadow secretary said this deliberately duplicitous timing was disgraceful.  Last year UK aviation emissions hit 37m tonnes, close to the pre-recession peak of 37.5m tonnes in 2005. The CCC says this must not be exceeded if the UK is to meet its 80% carbon reduction target. However, a report published on Grayling’s department website last week says aviation emissions will hit 43m tonnes of CO2 by 2030 if Heathrow expands. Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, has written to Grayling, saying CO2 levels higher than 37.5MtCO2 must not be planned for, since this would place an unreasonably large burden on other sectors.”

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Resident affected by Heathrow noise has given notice to seek Judicial Review against DfT re. runway

Neil Spurrier, a resident in Teddington, a member of the Teddington Action Group (TAG) has given notice that he is seeking a Judicial Review, in the event of Parliament voting in favour of the Airports NPS, to give consent to build a 3rd Heathrow runway. Teddington is already very badly affected by noise, when the airport is operating on easterlies. A 3rd runway would make the noise problem far worse. Neil's letter to Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, says:  "I am intending to bring a claim for Judicial Review should the National Policy Statement be put before Parliament and subsequently designated as a National Policy Statement in accordance with the provisions of the Planning Act 2008."  The Matter being challenged is:  "The Designation of the National Policy Statement of new runway capacity and infrastructure at airports in the South East of England and in particular the choice of Heathrow airport for expansion with a third runway. I would intend to ask the Court for an order declaring the National Policy Statement void through breaching existing laws and would ask for a prohibiting order prohibiting the continuation of the National Policy Statement or the granting of a Development Consent following the National Policy Statement." 

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Jonathan Ford (FT) on the serious financing doubts: “Who will pay for Heathrow airport’s £14bn 3rd runway?”

With the vote on a possible 3rd Heathrow runway expected on 25th June, Jonathan Ford and Gill Plimmer write, in the Financial Times, of the very serious doubts over how the runway could be funded. They say: "Most agree that this leveraged structure is wholly inappropriate to support a project as large as the 3rd runway. It offers no leeway for construction risk on what will be a highly complex engineering challenge. There is also the question of how Heathrow might meet the financing costs, which could run to £2bn-£3bn over the six-year construction period, assuming an interest rate of between 4 -7%." And ..."investors have been pulling out more in dividends than Heathrow has been earning. Last year they received a payout of £847m even though post tax profits were just £516m, implying that the corporate debt was used, in part, to fund these returns." ... And "A key question is how much debt the markets will lend against the £2bn of operating cash flow Heathrow expects to have by the time construction begins in 2019." ... The Airports Commission said it could saddle Heathrow with up to £27 billion of debt.  Ford also questions the opaque structure of Heathrow, with at least 10 corporate layers between Heathrow Airport Limited ....and shareholders."

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Calls for SNP to re-think support for Heathrow runway, ahead of crunch vote on 25th

The No 3rd Runway Coalition will be at the Scottish Parliament on 21st June, to urge the SNP to change their position on supporting the Heathrow third runway proposal and to send the UK Government a message to 'think again'. Campaigners will be joined by MSPs from Scottish Greens, Labour and Lib Dems, to highlight the environmental damage to Scotland and the rest of the UK that building a third runway would mean, as well as the fact that Scottish airports would suffer as a result.  Campaigners also believe that the SNP appear to be too trusting of UK Government promises – particularly in relation to the impact on Climate Change commitments - as revealed by Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, in response to a question from Patrick Harvie MSP in the Scottish Parliament last Thursday. A recent report by the New Economics Foundation seriously calls into question the economic case – using the Department for Transport’s own measures; and this is before taking into account the economic impact of Brexit.  Expansion at Heathrow will negatively impact Scottish airports, as any growth will be routed through London and not direct to international markets that could instead be served.

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Greg Hands (Chelsea & Fulham MP) quits government – on principle over May’s 3-line whip voting on Heathrow expansion

Junior trade minister Greg Hands (MP for Chelsea & Fulham)has resigned from the Conservative government to oppose expansion of Heathrow. The vote in Parliament on whether to build the runway  will be on Monday. Greg said he had pledged to his electorate to oppose a 3rd runway, at the 2017 election, and he would keep his word and honour his pledges.  The borough would be badly over-flown if Heathrow was allowed to expand.  It had been thought that ministers with constituencies directly affected could have been allowed to miss the vote. However, the Government will be whipping the vote. The highest profile opponent of Heathrow expansion in the cabinet is Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, who once pledged to lie down in front of bulldozers to stop it happening. However, in a cowardly and discreditable manner, he is shirking his responsibilities to stand up to his claims, by engineering an overseas appointment on Monday, to be out of the country. [Snout too firmly in trough, and enjoying his important high kudos job ....] Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson suggested on Twitter that Mr Hands' resignation should prompt the prime minister to allow her MPs a free vote. Greg has, in the past, held a range of other responsible ministerial roles.

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Mayor, Sadiq Khan, ready to join legal action by Councils against 3rd runway at Heathrow

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will join the legal action brought by local councils (Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor & Maidenhead)against Heathrow expansion if Parliament votes in favour of a 3rd runway on 25th June. (Hammersmith and Fulham Council has also recently indicated they would join.)  Sadiq has reiterated his opposition to the Government’s decision to back Heathrow expansion and emphasised the significant environmental and noise impacts that a third runway would have on Londoners’ lives, as well as concerns about funding necessary transport improvements. To date, TfL have provided valuable technical support to the local councils. The Government has failed to show any plans for how it will fund the billions of pounds needed to improve road and rail connections to the airport and prevent huge congestion across the transport network. TfL estimates approximately £15bn more investment will be needed when necessary new rail and road links are taken into account, and TfL (Londoners) would have to find the money. The comprehensive recommendations on the NPS by the Transport Select Committee have also not been accepted by Government.

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Labour says Heathrow runway does NOT meet the 4 vital tests – calls on all parties to have a free vote on the NPS

The Labour Party has announced that the Government’s final proposal for an Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), laid before Parliament earlier this month, fails to meet Labour’s Four Tests for Heathrow expansion.  Their support for a 3rd Heathrow runway has always been conditional on 4 well-established tests being met. These are (1). That increased capacity will be delivered. (2) That we can meet our CO2 reduction commitments. (3) Minimise noise and local environmental impact. (4). Benefits of expansion felt across the regions of the UK, not just the South East and London.  Labour’s analysis of the NPS finds that none of these tests have been met. Labour is therefore calling for a free vote for all parties on the issue (likely on 25th June).  Andy McDonald MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said: “Heathrow expansion is incompatible with our environmental and climate change obligations and cannot be achieved without unacceptable impacts on local residents. The improved connectivity to the regions of the UK cannot be guaranteed and there are unanswered questions on the costs to the public purse and the deliverability of the project." Some Labour MPs back the runway, as do unions like Unite, that are always in hope of any prospect of jobs.

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Heathrow’s lobby group “Back Heathrow” PR material in local papers criticised – putting some facts straight

"Back Heathrow", the lobby group that is (massively) funded and staffed by Heathrow Airport, while pretending it is a "grassroots" campaign, has again paid for expensive newspaper wraps for papers around Slough, Windsor etc. The wraps claim all the usual benefits of a 3rd runway, ignoring the huge public costs and environmental damage. Local resident Paul Groves has written to his local paper, in an attempt to get some balance - against the huge spending power of "Back Heathrow" - and give readers some more factual information. He explains the fallacy of the numbers of jobs Heathrow persists in claiming (based on the maximum "up to" figure from the Airports Commission) its runway would generate, and warns that despite a promise of 6,000 jobs from Terminal 5, in reality the total number employed at Heathrow has declined from around 79,000 in 2008 to around 76,000 by 2014, a reduction of around 3,000. As for the real economic benefit of the runway to the UK, the Net Present Value is now shown, by DfT data, to be around zero - even over 60 years. The DfT have progressively revised this downwards to now from “+£2.9bn to - £2.5bn” in their latest National Policy Statement. This compares with the UK national GDP of £1,700 billion per annum.

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Scientists identify enzyme responsible for vascular damage caused by aircraft noise during night/sleep

A lot of different studies have shown there are negative health impacts on people exposed to aircraft noise at night, when people sleeping should be experiencing many hours of quiet. Now a study from Germany shows that this may be caused by an enzyme (phagocytic NADPH oxidase) they have identified.  Aircraft noise during the hours people are trying to sleep leads to an increased development of cardiovascular diseases in the long term. Studies have shown that simulated nocturnal noise increases the stress hormone epinephrine, reduces sleep quality, and damages the vascular system, causing endothelial dysfunction. There is increased oxidative stress, and inflammatory processes in the vessels as well as a marked change in the expression of genes in the vessel wall. This damage is not seen in the absence of the enzyme. The scientists now also examined the effects of aircraft noise on the brain, looking at neuronal nitric oxide (NO) synthase, the function of which is impaired when there is aircraft noise during the night period that should be quiet. The study shows it is important to protect the night's sleep from noise, with a period of 8 hours (10pm to 6am) protected from noise. Heathrow's airlines do NOT want a proper ban on night flights even for six and a half hours, let alone more.

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On what we are doing to the environment (eg. planning a Heathrow runway) Caroline Lucas says the apocalypse is happening already

In a recent interview with Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton, she said she was incredulous that in Chris Grayling’s Commons speech - saying the government supported a 3rd Heathrow runway - he did not even mention climate change. This omission attracted negligible attention from most journalists till Caroline tweeted about it.  She said: "We know aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of emissions; we know emissions at altitude are a lot more damaging to the climate than they are at ground level; we know that if Heathrow expands then it’s almost like an arms race between the different airports across Europe, because they’re all in a fight for passengers.” On the prediction that Boris Johnson, who is meant to be forcefully against the runway, conveniently absenting himself on the day of the NPS vote, she said: “I think it would be despicable. He’s promised to stand up for something; he’s gone to the polls and said: ‘This is what I stand for.’' Does she think she can defeat the Heathrow runway? “I think there’s a perfectly good chance we’ll defeat it.”  Would she bet £1,000 on it?  "Bet £1K on it? Because I’m a bit of a risk-taker, I’ll put my thousand pounds on it not happening.”

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DfT, always trying to make aviation growth look “green”, to pay £434,000 to fund waste-to-jetfuel project

A project to turn landfill waste into (quotes) "sustainable" jet fuel has received a major boost by securing almost £5m of funding from the government and industry backers. The DfT has committed £434,000 to fund the next stage of the project, which will involve engineering and site studies to scope potential for a waste-based jet fuel plant in the UK.  This will take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste - otherwise destined for landfill - and convert it into jet fuel. The project is being led by biofuels firm Velocys, which has committed £1.5m to the next phase of development. The scheme has also secured a further £3m from industry partners, including Shell and British Airways. BA hopes to use the fuel, to claim it is cutting its carbon emissions (while continuing to grow, burning ever more fuel). The DfT is keen to give the impression that UK aviation expansion is fine, if some biofuels, or alternative fuels, are used. The funding for the Velocys project is part of £22m alternative fuels fund from the government, to advance development of "sustainable" fuels for aviation and freight transport. As of April 2018 renewable jet fuel also qualifies for credits under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). 

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FT reports apparent DfT claims that Heathrow MIGHT face criminal charges if it fails on environmental targets while building runway

The Financial Times reports that it believes the DfT (Aviation Minister Baroness Liz Sugg) is saying that Heathrow could face criminal charges if it does not meet environmental targets when building its 3rd runway.  [This is NOT any DfT press release]  These might relate to noise, air pollution and compensation to local homeowners. The FT believes Liz Sugg is expected to say:  “Important measures to protect local people and comply with the legal requirements set by the government will be written into the development consent order, and Heathrow would face serious penalties if they do not stand by these commitments.”  She wants MPs to vote in favour of the runway (ie. the Airports NPS) without it containing the proper safeguards and details on these matters. The alleged promise to hit Heathrow hard on these is very flimsy indeed - few would want to place their trust in it. Anti-expansion campaigners are very critical of the announcement, saying penalties for Heathrow were yet to be decided. Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said it seemed to be a panicked attempt by the DfT to shore up parliamentary support for the vote. He added: “If they were so keen to ensure these environmental commitments were met, why were legally binding measures [not] put forward in the National Policy Statement when it was published earlier this month?”

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Uttlesford District Council to delay decision on Stansted’s expansion application – details needed on noise, air pollution & surface access

Plans to increase the number of passengers Stansted Airport handles, along with other infrastructure, have been delayed after Uttlesford District Council (UDC) asked for more information.  Stansted's application to expand the number of passengers allowed per year from 35 million to 43 million was due to be heard by UDC on July 18th.  But it is unlikely to be heard before at least one more consultation and one more public meeting.  A spokesperson from the council said: "The council has been examining the robustness of the evidence supplied within the application, particularly in relation to surface access, noise and air quality.  Ongoing discussions are taking place with relevant stakeholders including Highways England, Essex and Hertfordshire County Councils, Natural England and engaged consultants, and further work is being undertaken."  Additional information is needed from the airport to ensure that the Planning Committee has all it needs in order to make an informed decision on the application.  UDC has also announced that the Planning Performance Agreement (PPA), an agreement that fast tracks the application in return for monetary payments to UDC's planning officers to cover the costs of processing the applications, will be re-negotiated.

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Justine Greening: Government must rethink Heathrow expansion plans, with a proper national aviation policy

Justine Greening, writing in the Yorkshire Post, says it is unacceptable for the government to be pressing ahead with the Heathrow runway, despite logic - and without a UK aviation policy. She says: "...there’s nothing national about the Airports “National Policy Statement” proposed by the DfT. The third runway proposal at Heathrow is a 20-year-old hub proposal that’s entirely unrelated to the world of direct, point to point flights we live in today." ... It's bad for northerners. "Pay more to get to Heathrow, then pay more to get on a plane at an expensive expanded Heathrow. ... It’s a triple whammy for the Northern Powerhouse and Yorkshire region, because a bigger Heathrow means smaller regional airports. ...The DfT’s own analysis ... shows that regional airports – Leeds Bradford, Doncaster and Manchester – will lose over 26,100 international flights every year by 2030 because of Heathrow expansion....And there’s a 4th whammy. Heathrow Airport will consume £10-15bn of transport spend" for surface transport for Heathrow.  She concludes: "MPs need to look at the detail locally and nationally, ask questions to Ministers as to why this proposal so badly undermines our crucial regional airports, vote against it and then demand a proper UK-wide airports strategy that works for all of us, wherever we live."

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Hunger strike against Heathrow runway continues, with die-in in Parliament and trip to lobby SNP

The five hunger strikers from the group "Vote No Heathrow" began their hunger protest on Saturday 9th June. They hope, health permitting, to continue until there is a vote in Parliament on the 3rd runway. As well as staging protests outside the offices of the Labour Party, and the Unite trade union, and a die-in in the Central Lobby in Parliament on 13rh June, they have travelled to Scotland to protest to the SNP.  They want them to vote against the runway, when the vote in Parliament happens some time before 9th July. Heathrow and the DfT have misled Scottish MPs into believing there would be a lot of economic benefit from a 3rd runway, with "promises" of thousands of jobs and more direct flights. The 35 SNP MPs currently plan to vote as a block in favour of the runway. The campaigners care passionately about climate change, and the huge increase in UK aviation carbon emissions that would be generated by a 3rd runway. Each month there is more evidence of the serious impact of climate change. The Committee on Climate Change, the government's official advisors, have written to Chris Grayling to express their concern about how - unacceptably - the issue of carbon emissions has largely be glossed over, and ignored, in government plans for the runway.

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CCC writes to Grayling to remind him of UK’s climate commitments, expressing concern about NPS silence on allowing rising aviation CO2 emissions

The Committee on Climate Change have written to Chris Grayling to reiterate that the UK has a legally binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Change Act, and the Paris Agreement. They say: "We were surprised that your statement to the House of Commons on the NPS on 5 June 2018 made no mention of either of these commitments. It is essential that aviation’s place in the overall strategy for UK emissions reduction is considered and planned fully by your Department."  Under the CCC's advice, the aviation sector would be allowed to keep its CO2 emissions at no more than their level in 2005, by 2050. That means aviation's share of total UK CO2 emissions would already increase from about 2% to around 25%. Even that means "all other sectors must reduce emissions by more than 80%, and in many cases will likely need to reach zero....Higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 must not be planned for, since this would place an unreasonably large burden on other sectors". The CCC say: "We look forward to the Department’s new Aviation Strategy in 2019, which we expect will set out a plan for keeping UK aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels by 2050. To inform your work we are planning to provide further advice in spring 2019."

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Government accused by Councils of ignoring Transport Select Committee recommendations in final Heathrow NPS

Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Windsor &Maidenhead, and Richmond Councils have accused the government of misleading MPs on the Heathrow runway plans (the Airports NPS). They say the government has only incorporated 3 out of 25 of the recommendations by the Transport Select Committee (TSC) recommendations into the final NPS, while trying to give the impression it has taken far more account of them. Chris Grayling told the Commons (5th June) that 24 of the 25 recommendations had been "acted upon" and that expansion at Heathrow had been agreed by the Cabinet. The 4 councils are calling on Mr Grayling to return to Parliament and explain to MPs why the TSC advice has been brushed aside. The Councils need to see a definition of an acceptable maximum number of people newly exposed to plane noise, by a 3rd runway. Among their demands, they want assurance that planning approval would only be granted if the target for no more airport-related traffic can be met.  Also a more stringent interpretation of air quality compliance including 'headroom' to manage future increases in pollution - and clarity on how the requirement for 15% of new slots will be secured for domestic connections, rather than just warm, woolly wording.

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Gatwick have a £1.11 billion investment programme up to 2023, when they want 53 million annual passengers

After losing to Heathrow, in all probability, for the chance to build a new runway, Gatwick airport says it is planning to spend £1.11bn in a plan to “make best use of all its existing infrastructure.” It is believed that Gatwick never really wanted all the hassle of building a 2nd runway, and was only bumped into contending for the permission by the fear they would lose a lot of business, to a 3 runway Heathrow. It is widely believed that all Gatwick's owners, GIP, want is to increase the price of the airport and sell it, when they can. Gatwick hope they can handle even more passengers than now, and they can "improve resilience and harness technology”. They are hoping to have 53 million annual passengers by 2023 - compared to 45.6 million in 2017.  Their 5 year spending plan is from 2018 to 2023. They intend to spend £266m in the year 2018/19 alone. [Back in August 2017 their plan was for £1.2 billion up to 2022 ...] If they spend the £1.1 billion it would mean the airport has spent £3.14bn since the airport changed ownership in December 2009, when GIP bought it for £1.5 billion. One of the projects planned, showing how keen Gatwick is to get passengers to use public transport, is adding an extra 1,200 car parking spaces by summer 2018.

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Hammersmith & Fulham Council will join the 4 councils’ legal challenge against Heathrow 3rd runway

Hammersmith & Fulham Council has vowed to keep fighting plans for a third runway at Heathrow, even if Parliament votes in favour of it. The council has said it will seek to join any legal challenge against a decision in favour of expanding the west London airport – a move the council says would subject residents to a mire of misery and pollution. Council Leader Stephen Cowan said:  “We absolutely refuse to sit back and let such a potentially catastrophic decision be made without a fight, We’ve made our stance very clear; a third runway at Heathrow would mean more noise for residents already suffering noise disturbance, more pressure on our roads and an unacceptable increase in air pollution. If we need to take legal action, we will, as the environmental cost of meekly accepting a decision in favour of expansion, would be far worse.” In 2014, H&F Council set up a resident-led commission to investigate the potential effects of expansion on residents’ lives. It reported back that the overall impact of Heathrow expansion would be negative, with any benefits unlikely to be felt by those in H&F.

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Richmond Borough Council shows Heathrow 3rd runway could cost UK economy another £25 billion over 60 years

Government claims for the economic benefit of expanding Heathrow do not include the costs of the improved public transport links needed to keep road traffic at current levels.  A 3rd runway is expected to add around 100,000 trips per day. Heathrow has pledged (though how they could achieve that is not clear) that road traffic levels will not increase with a 3rd runway. This would mean 70% of journeys to and from the airport being made by public transport. Today’s figure is 40%. A 3-runway Heathrow might have 26 million more passengers per year when full, than a 2-runway airport. That means the current cost projections for new public transport links (to cater for a 2-runway airport) are insufficient. That would mean more delays for passengers arriving at the airport whether by road or rail. Using the Government’s own approach these delays could cost the economy around £25bn over a 60-year period. This would reduce the DfT's claimed benefit from a 3rd runway from its current £74bn (which already excludes most costs) to £49bn. The DfT's own assessment shows the actual economic benefit of the runway not to be £74bn to be more like zero (£-2.5 to +£2.9 bn over 60 years for whole UK).

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FT’s Jonathan Ford on massive doubts over Heathrow’s ability to fund its runway – without huge subsidy from taxpayers

Jonathan Ford, the City Editor of the Financial Times (who knows a thing or two about finance) on the Heathrow runway scheme. It would cost at least £14 billion (probably more with inevitable over-spends), and as Heathrow is already the most expensive airport in Europe, its ability to claw back money is limited - anyway, it cannot get airlines and passengers to pay until the runway is built and operating. Despite sales of some of its airports, totalling more than £4bn, its debt was still £13.4 billion in 2017.  And "Heathrow’s 2017 accounts record a dividend of £847m for shareholders last year on after-tax profits of just £516m, implying that dividends were partially funded by taking on yet more corporate debt." Shareholders are not going to be happy to receive almost no dividend for several years. "Heathrow might try to ease the burden by discreetly pressing for public subsidy, figuring that once the state is committed to the 3rd runway it will not want to see the project come off the rails. The government should stand firm. Its decision to pick the most expensive of three runway options on the table was always predicated on the idea that all could be financed without state support."

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UN plans for aviation biofuels (ie. much from palm oil) & carbon offsets condemned by 89 organisations worldwide

89 organisations from 34 countries have called on the UN’s International Civil Aviation Agency (ICAO) to ditch plans for aviation biofuels and carbon offsets, as the Agency’s governing body convenes in Montreal to finalise proposals for a controversial “Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme”.  An Open Letter by the groups warns that ICAO’s proposal could incentivise airlines to use large quantities of biofuels made from palm oil in order to meet greenhouse gas targets – even though member states rejected biofuel targets last autumn amidst concerns about palm oil. Proposed biofuel targets for aircraft were rejected by member states in October 2017, but groups fear that the proposed new rules will introduce large-scale biofuel use ‘by the backdoor’.  On sustainability certification for palm oil, “none of the schemes has been effective at slowing down deforestation, peatland draining or the loss of biodiversity”. On carbon offsets, the organisations say “There is no way of reaching the goal to limit global warming to 1.5oC unless all states and sectors rapidly phase out their carbon emissions. This means that there can be no role for offsets”. Instead the growth of the aviation sector needs to be limited - rather than depending on greenwash.

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London Assembly reaffirms strong opposition to Heathrow 3rd runway

The London Assembly has reaffirmed its opposition to a 3rd Heathrow runway. It has agreed unanimously on a motion asserting its opposition. Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dem) who proposed the motion said: “The case for a 3rd Heathrow runway is based on a number of false claims, ... a 3rd runway will create noise disturbance for a further 300,000 people and add to higher levels of air pollution in parts of London where air pollution already exceeds illegal levels. We can ensure we retain international connections without following the foolish option of the incredibly expensive third Heathrow runway.  A third Heathrow runway comes at a huge price that is simply not worth paying for.” Léonie Cooper (Labour) said the runway would "have a far-reaching impact on almost a million London households within the next 30 years....the current plans to mitigate its adverse effects on the surrounding environment and the health and social wellbeing of local communities are inadequate. It is clear that the potential costs and risks to Londoners outweigh the projected economic benefits of the expansion ... the Government’s decision should be robustly opposed”. The Assembly "asks the Mayor to join with us to ensure that this threat to the health and environment of Londoners does not materialise.”

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Anti-Heathrow protesters stage hunger strike against Heathrow 3rd runway plans, asking people to lobby their MPs to vote against it

On Saturday 9th, campaigners from the Vote NO Heathrow campaign started a hunger strike, to draw attention to the huge risk that MPs might vote in favour of a 3rd Heathrow runway. The vote is likely in the next two weeks. Over 30 campaigners gathered outside the London HQ of the Labour Party in Victoria Street, for the start of the hunger strike by 5 of them. They intend to continue not to eat for as long as their health permits, and if possible until the vote in Parliament.  Earlier in the week, 8 campaigners were arrested outside the building for using chalk spray on the pavement and the glass windows, to highlight their message. The vote of the Labour party is crucial, and it is hoped that MPs will appreciate that the runway fails the 4 tests Labour has set for it, and impose a 3-line whip. The Tories may impose a 3-line whip in favour of the runway. The Vote NO Heathrow campaign wants as many people as possible to write to their MP - of whichever party - to ask them to vote against the runway. There are many important arguments, why the runway should be opposed (more details below) but these could be summarised as economic problems, UK region problems, noise, air pollution and increased carbon emissions. 

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Political fight over Heathrow brewing for the SNP in Scotland

With the final vote on a 3rd Heathrow runway expected within about 2 weeks, the political fight is intensifying, as the SNP have their conference on 8th and 9th June. It is important for the Heathrow vote, as the SNP (with 35 MPs) hold a potentially critical role - if they were to vote against the runway, it might be stopped - or only won by a tiny margin. Heathrow continues to throw money and the weight of its corporate lobbying at the SNP, schmoozing them at the conference, with an invitation-only event - as it has done at the other political conferences, trying to buy support and persuade MPs. By contrast with the hospitality and honey-tongued words by Heathrow in the conference, 3 residents who would lose their homes if the expansion goes ahead, drove for 13 hours overnight from Harmondsworth - to focus on engaging with SNP party members and politicians going into the conference. They spoke to several hundred, putting the case that the SNP should not be led astray by the promises of Heathrow - and many expressed concern at the party’s position of support for the runway,  due to environmental concerns and a preference to see the development of further direct air links from Scottish airports, and a dedicated air freight hub in Scotland.

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Simon Jenkins on Heathrow: Government support for this polluting 3rd runway is macho folly

Characteristically brilliant and incisive article by Simon Jenkins. Well worth reading it all. Just a few snippets here:  "The building of a third runway at Heathrow must be the worst decision taken by a British government in modern times. There is nothing in it but private profit for a Spanish company that appears to have the British cabinet in thrall. That a rich European city should expand rather than contract a major airport in a built-up area defies belief. ... The project will further congest and pollute what is already one of the most choking parts of the capital. Its air quality is illegal. The runway will suck economic activity into London, and away from the provinces. It will cost billions in public money. It is so expensive that even Heathrow’s old ally, British Airways, now opposes it. ... Air travel is overwhelmingly for leisure. Airports talk of “business use” because they are ashamed being part of the tourism industry, which Grayling never once mentioned. ...Grayling promises that the new runway will not go ahead if Heathrow does not “meet the UK’s air quality commitment”. But he knows it won’t. He knows neither his department nor Heathrow has ever kept a promise of this sort. ... [runway decision] resting not on its merits, but on whether Theresa May had the guts to push it through."

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Comment by the AEF on the government’s attempt to ignore CO2 emissions due to Heathrow 3rd runway

In the final version of the NPS, together with updated versions of the draft of papers and analysis that accompany it, the DfT claims to have implemented 24 out of the 25 recommendations of the Transport Committee, which provided official parliamentary scrutiny of the proposals. But it is hard to spot much change in the final NPS than the earlier version - especially on the key environmental challenges to expansion. The AEF comments that the climate change impact of Heathrow expansion was not even mentioned in Grayling’s statement to the House of Commons. Yet the project is in fact no easier to reconcile with climate change targets now than it was in 2010, when a court ruled that it would be “untenable in law and common sense” for the Government to continue to uphold its policy to build a third runway without showing how this would be compatible with the climate change legislation passed in 2008. While current plans to achieve the Climate Change Act are built around an assumption that aviation emissions will be no higher than 37.5 Mt by 2050, with a 3rd Heathrow runway CO2 emissions nationally would be  over 40 Mt,  under the DfT's policy of support for growth at other airports. The Government has just ignored the advice of the Committee on Climate Change.

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Heathrow expansion will mean less direct international flights for Yorkshire, analysis shows

The Government faces considerable uncertainties in trying to push through the plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway, and get enough MPs to vote for it. Labour may oppose the plans, and  analysis showed northern airports will lose out on thousands of international flights if Heathrow got a 3rd runway. The government hopes they can mislead the SNP with pledges of huge benefits from the runway, based on out-of-date figures for possible economic benefit from the runway, and crazily calculated (back of envelope, starting with the wrong number) calculations about possible future jobs. It is likely that Leeds Bradford Airport would see 4,449 fewer international flights a year by 2030 if the 3rd runway went ahead. Doncaster Sheffield Airport would lose 1,413 while the North’s major hub - Manchester - would lose 20,258.  Keighley MP John Grogan, who requested the figures from the Commons Transport Committee, said Heathrow expansion would mean Britain’s regions losing out. The Labour MP also questioned the Government’s pledge to ring-fence 15% per cent of slots on the new runway for domestic connections to the rest of the UK. This can only happen if they are subsidised, and these flights almost always run at a loss.

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Surprise ! Former Airports Commission chair and Sir John Armitt urge MPs to back Heathrow 3rd runway in vote

The former Chairman of the Airports Commission, Sir Howard Davies, and a Commissioner on the Airports Commission, Sir John Armitt, have written to MPs urging them to vote in favour of a 3rd runway at Heathrow after the Cabinet approved the government's plans earlier this week.  Neither of them has been working on aviation issues recently and, frankly, their letter illustrates that they probably have not kept up with the details. But MPs will probably be persuaded, by this further lobbying on behalf of the government and Heathrow. They gloss over, as of course, does the DfT, the difficult issues of noise, air pollution, impact on the regions, cost to the taxpayer, carbon emissions etc. Their only focus is that the runway might prevent the UK being "inward-facing" after Brexit, and that it "meets the test of the national interest" (glossing over local impacts). To show just how ill-informed their letter is, that "In respect of aviation noise, our analysis indicated that the number of people affected by an expanded airport would be fewer than at Heathrow today."  A letter with a good chance of being put straight into hundreds of MPs' waste (recycling) bins?

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SNP “promised” 16,000 new jobs if it backs 3rd runway – but that figure is crazily inflated – as Heathrow & DfT well know

The Conservative government may need the SNP’s support if some of its MPs rebel against the new Heathrow runway - which is likely. The SNP will demand guaranteed extra slots for Scottish flights into London in return for the party’s support for the 3rd runway.  Ian Blackford, the head of the SNP’s parliamentary group in London, said the party had not taken a decision on runway yet - and would only do so if Scotland stood to benefit. Their backing may not be guaranteed, though that had been assumed - particularly after Keith Brown, Scotland’s infrastructure secretary, believed there might be 16,000 Scottish jobs, created by the project. That figure of 16,000 jobs is what Heathrow has, for several years, been peddling. Along with similarly inflated claims for all the regions. The number was derived by a consultancy called Quod, in a flimsy little 4 page paper, with no methodology, no date, no author etc. It is based on the assumption that Heathrow would provide an economic benefit (NPV) to the UK, over 60 years, of £147 billion. That number is now known to actually be about £3.3 billion, at best (if not a negative number). The SNP would be very ill-advised to believe Scotland will benefit; in reality its airports would be damaged by allowing the runway. Tragic if they vote in favour of it, because they have not checked out the facts properly.

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Labour knows the Heathrow 3rd runway plans fail their 4 tests – so may vote against the NPS

Theresa May’s plans for Heathrow expansion are facing an unpredictable Commons vote after Labour indicated that the runway plans do not pass its four key tests. These require (1). noise issues to be addressed, (2). air quality to be protected, (3). the UK’s climate change obligations met and (4). growth across the country supported.  Labour may refuse to vote for the plans when they come before MPs for a vote on the National Policy Statement (NPS) - ie. the runway  - in the next 3-4 weeks. With Boris Johnson expected to be (so convenient ...) "out of the country" and several Tory MPs voting against it, the government needs Labour and the SNP to vote in favour. However, Jeremy Corbyn’s office said the issues of air pollution, noise for residents, regional connections and greater capacity were crucial. The revised NPS, published on 5th June, is barely changed from the draft and does not include measures that convincingly pass the 4 tests. This suggests that Labour could either whip a vote against the 3rd runway plans or at least order its MPs not to back the Government. The SNP has not so far indicated if it will vote in favour, though they have become aware that the Heathrow runway is likely to damage Scotland and its airports. Labour and SNP MPs are concerned about yet more money being spent on London, rather than in the regions, and on the possible vast cost to taxpayers.

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Government deal to bail out Heathrow if runway plan fails – possible massive cost to taxpayers

Back in October 2016, the government did a deal (The Statement of Principles) with Heathrow (HAL), in which there are clauses implying the government would bail out any costs to the airport, if it does not finally get government approval to expand. There is no end date for the agreement. Though the document states it is non-binding, the wording is ambiguous - a gold-mine for lawyers? Justine Greening revealed this massive risk to taxpayers in Parliament, saying Heathrow "have somehow managed to get a poisoned pill agreed by DfT that means the taxpayer has to cover all their costs if things go wrong.  Isn’t this the worst kind of nationalisation? The public sector and taxpayers bearing all the Heathrow downsides and risks but the private sector owning all of the upside and financial returns.” The Statement of Principles says:  “HAL reserves its rights (including but not limited to its rights to pursue any and all legal and equitable remedies (including cost recovery) available to it under law) in the event of: .... The withdrawal of the Government’s support for aviation expansion for Heathrow Airport only after the Secretary of State has stated that HAL’s Scheme is the scheme it prefers in accordance with paragraph 1 of Part 1.”  This was only mentioned in passing in the NPS and Justine is seek urgent clarity of the clause, in order to give an opportunity for the issue to be discussed in the House of Commons before MPs vote on the NPS proposal - within 3 weeks. 

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Transport Secretary admits Heathrow 3rd runway would be bad for Birmingham Airport

Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, in announcing formal backing by the government for the 3rd Heathrow runway, has admitted that this will be bad for business at Birmingham Airport.  He said Birmingham would face “greater competitive pressure” as a result of Heathrow having a 3rd runway.  The line Grayling is taking, to try and reassure regional airports, is that the 3rd runway will encourage more domestic flights. However, he knows perfectly well that it is up to airlines, not airports or government, to determine which routes they fly - unless given hefty public subsidies to keep unprofitable routes in operation. His assurances to regional airports are all qualified by statements like Heathrow will try, government will support etc. Nothing concrete. But as Birmingham Airport is so close to Heathrow, there  will not be domestic flights to Heathrow, and all that will happen is Heathrow takes passengers away from Birmingham, and long haul destinations will increasingly be served exclusively by Heathrow. The government is well aware of this harm an expanded Heathrow will do to long haul services from other UK airports.

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As expected, Government approves outline plan for a 3rd Heathrow runway – which will then face legal challenge

Cabinet ministers have today given the official go-ahead for Heathrow expansion. This was never in doubt, as it is government policy. The NPS (now no longer a draft) was "laid before" Parliament, so now MPs will have to vote on them within 21 Parliamentary sitting days. ie.  before Monday 9th July. Simon Dudley, leader of Windsor and Maidenhead borough council, said a coalition of four local authorities and Greenpeace would seek a legal review of the plans for a Heathrow 3rd runway, if MPs vote for the plans, as they are. approve unchanged plans. The councils (Windsor & Maidenhead, Wandsworth, Richmond and Hillingdon - some of the boroughs worst affected by Heathrow noise and other impacts) want the government to "satisfactorily address concerns" over noise and air pollution. Mr Dudley said the councils will look at the proposals to see whether their significant concerns on flight paths, "respite",  night flights and air pollution have been addressed. If they have not, there will be a legal challenge. Greenpeace and the authorities contend new evidence on the severe health impacts of air and noise pollution makes the expansion of Heathrow far less likely to pass a review.

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Cabinet economic committee set for Heathrow 3rd runway decision, followed by Cabinet decision, followed by vote in Parliament within 21 working days

Controversial plans (the draft Airports NPS) for a 3rd Heathrow runway are set to be approved by ministers today, with the Cabinet’s economic sub-committee, chaired by Theresa May, signing off the plans. These would then be approved by the full Cabinet. Then the NPS is laid before Parliament, with a vote on it within 21 […]

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Call for the Competition & Markets Authority to investigate Heathrow

The No 3rd Runway Coalition has written to Lord Andrew Tyrie, the new chair of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), asking why the proposed expansion of Heathrow has not been scrutinised by the competition authorities. Heathrow is, by far, already the largest and busiest airport in the country. And with even proponents of the scheme accepting that Heathrow expansion would impact significantly on the smaller regional airports in the market, the letter suggests that competition authorities have been inactive. This is particularly surprising because the Competition Commission (the antecedent authority of the CMA) had stated that Heathrow already enjoyed such “substantial market power” that it would require further review and regulation, in future - even without a third runway. That situation would be far worse with a 50% larger Heathrow.  Back in 2008, the then BAA had to sell off airports because it was seen to have too much market power - it sold Gatwick in October 2009, Edinburgh April 2012 and Stansted in January 2013 . The current government proposal to expand Heathrow would simply recreate that monopoly position, perhaps in an even worse form.

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Airlines do not want Heathrow to have control of building a 3rd runway – perhaps a “Buildco” instead?

British Airways and other airlines are hoping to take over building the possible 3rd Heathrow runway from the airport’s owner, because they do not want costs to escalate.  They do not think the government or CAA has enough control over Heathrow to ensure it controls the costs of the massive expansion project. Passenger charges and investor returns are based on the total value of Heathrow's assets, (RAB) and this gives the perverse incentive for the airport not to keep its spending low.  The more it spends, the more its owners can earn. An investigation by The Sunday Times in March highlighted widespread concerns over Heathrow's bloated spending. Willie Walsh (CEO of IAG) told the Transport Committee's inquiry in February that he had “zero” confidence that Heathrow’s operating company would deliver the project on time and on budget. He said it would be foolish to sign a “blank cheque”. To try to calm the airlines' fears, and get them behind the runway plans, the airlines are proposing a special-purpose company, known as a "Buildco", to deliver the project; Heathrow and the airlines would buy stakes in it. The government is trying to reassure the airlines by slightly increasing the CAA's remit and powers.

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A 3rd Heathrow runway would benefit the few, not the many: Labour should oppose it

The government has apparently committed itself to backing the Heathrow 3rd runway, which will destroy local communities and make Heathrow far and away the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Labour has prevaricated and not yet taken a position on the runway issue. But it is now high time Labour took a stand against it. A hangover from the New Labour era is that there remain a number of Labour MPs who see backing a third runway as party policy. They support the runway for historic reasons and are reluctant to listen to the increasingly disparaging analysis of the project. Due to the huge rise in UK aviation CO2 emissions the runway would help generate, and its disproportionate social impacts, Labour should be opposing it. The runway cannot satisfy Labour’s four tests which the party has stipulated as the necessary basis for any support – so Labour should be obliged to oppose Heathrow expansion. The party should stick by its values, looking after citizens, rather than being driven by financial profit and more holidays for a privileged few. People are encouraged to write to their MP and ask them to oppose Heathrow expansion at the vote in June. Everyone is welcome to the Vote No Heathrow open meeting on 12 June in London to learn more.

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Conservative MPs including Boris Johnson & Justine Greening are threatening to rebel over Heathrow 3rd runway

The Times has published a list, by Justine Greening MP, of 8 key reasons why there should NOT be a 3rd Heathrow runway.  Times journalists also comment that it is likely the government will present the revised draft Airports NPS  (ie. Heathrow runway proposal) to Parliament within two weeks.  MPs then have to vote on the NPS within 21 sitting days - so in order to get all this through Parliament before the summer recess (starts 20th July) they have to start soon...  Once the NPS has been approved, and adopted, the legal challenges against it can start. Only if Heathrow wins those can it start on details of planning its expansion. Justine Greening has been a long-term vociferous opponent of the runway. Boris Johnson has also been deeply opposed to it, but has not dared say anything publicly since being elevated to being Foreign Secretary.  When there is a vote, Theresa May might be forced to rely on opposition parties to pass the runway plan, though Labour is also threatening to withhold support. The vote will come soon after a series of bruising debates over the EU Withdrawal Bill, with Downing Street reluctant to expend political capital on anything other than Brexit.

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Heathrow expansion under more scrutiny as Grayling broadens CAA’s oversight, trying to reassure airlines on runway costs

The Government has put more pressure on Heathrow to limit its expansion costs after broadening powers which enable the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the aviation industry regulator, to more closely scrutinise the airport’s plans. The airlines, and IAG in particular, are deeply sceptical about the cost of the 3rd runway, and how expensive it will be for them. They have no faith in Heathrow to be able to build its runway etc, for a reasonable price. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the CAA would now be able to seek views on the expansion of Heathrow from a wider range of stakeholders, and would also be able to benchmark the price of the project against international comparisons. The CAA's oversight powers will see the regulator able to get the views of airlines which don’t yet operate from Heathrow, but hope to do so in future. Heathrow has already tried to make £2.5 billion savings in its plans, as the airlines refuse to stomach the £17 billion price. Willie Walsh (CEO of IAG) said: “Heathrow is a monopoly with a history of gold-plating facilities and very high airport charges .... Benchmarking its cost proposals against similar schemes is critical and very welcome. It is imperative that Heathrow provides a full, detailed cost breakdown for expansion before Parliament votes on it this summer.”

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Shipping sector notes that its CO2 targets are far tighter than for aviation sector

Now that shipping has been set its first ever CO2 reduction targets, the sector has taken a swipe at its aviation cousins who remain the last large unregulated greenhouse gas emitter. Speaking last week at the annual Summit of Transport Ministers, hosted by the OECD International Transport Forum inLeipzig, Simon Bennett (deputy secretary general at the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) commented: “As well as being consistent with the 1.5 degree climate change goal, the IMP targets are far more ambitious than what has so far been agreed for aviation, or indeed the commitments made by governments with respect to the rest of the global economy under the Paris Agreement.”  In April this year, IMO member states voted to slash shipping’s CO2 emissions by half by 2050 from levels recorded in 2008. Also of note in the speech given by Bennett last week was his belief that the IMP targets “can realistically only be achieved with the development and global roll out of genuine zero CO2 fuels”.

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Stansted long-haul flights could quadruple as airlines decide against waiting for slots at Heathrow

Stansted is planning to quadruple the number of long-haul flights it offers, as delays and uncertainty continue on whether there will be a Heathrow's 3rd runway. Stansted, as London’s 3rd largest airport, is already expanding the number of long-haul services it offers, as it begins to shift away from being a traditional hub for short-haul tourist flights. Fly Emirates will start a daily service from the airport to Dubai next week, and Primera air has also announced four new transatlantic routes from Stansted to New York, Boston, Toronto and Washington that will start this year. Stansted wants others too and its Chief Executive Ken O’Toole said that up to 25 long-haul routes had been earmarked that eventually might take the total to 33 direct long-haul destinations.  It is building a new £130 million arrivals terminal, which will be complete in 2021. It is also applying to Uttlesford district council to lift the existing cap on passenger numbers from 35 million to 43 million per year - about the same size as Gatwick. Stansted airport, owned by Manchester Airports Group, believes that airlines were being attracted to Stansted due to becoming frustrated with constraints at both Heathrow and Gatwick.

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Heathrow and Grayling get business to lobby Theresa May (yet again) for fast decision in favour of 3rd runway

A number of business lobby groups have signed a letter to Theresa May, saying the government needs to "get on with expanding the UK's airport capacity". The letter has only been sent, due to Heathrow - and Chris Grayling - lobbying the companies to send it.  The same business groups have lobbied many times before, in favour of the 3rd runway. The claim is that, (despite all the financial uncertainties, the fact Heathrow is in the wrong location, and its immensely damaging environmental impacts) the runway will somehow help Britain cope with the problems Brexit will cause. The groups that put their name to the letter were the Confederation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, the EEF - The Manufacturers' Organisation, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and airport expansion lobby group London First. The timing of the letter, which has been published by Heathrow, is particularly important, because Heathrow wants the required vote to approve the draft Airports NPS (ie. the Heathrow 3rd runway) to go ahead as planned before September because then MPs will be more pre-occupied with Brexit. .

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