Airport News

Below are news items relating to specific airports

 

Legal proceedings against Heathrow expansion begin – groups against the 3rd runway welcome “decisive action”

Plans for Heathrow expansion will meet their first legal test on Thursday 4th October, as claimants against the proposals seek to proceed their cases to full judicial review.  Five parties have lodged judicial review claims against the plans including a consortium of 5 local authorities with Greenpeace and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Also Heathrow Hub Limited (promoters of a rival scheme to expand Heathrow), and Friends of the Earth. Also Plan B and a Twickenham resident, Neil Spurrier. The claims are against the Government’s National Policy Statement (NPS) – which only included Heathrow expansion – which Parliament voted on in June 2018, despite many unanswered questions about the projects legality and wider environmental impact.  Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “Having ignored evidence, such as the report of parliament's Transport Select Committee, the decision to expand Heathrow was always going to end up in the courts, under judicial review ..."  Government lawyers have conceded that all applicants are likely to get permission to proceed with their applications for JR, they are unlikely to oppose the granting of permissions at this pre-trial hearing.

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Newcastle Airport expansion plans slammed by Green Party as ‘harmful’ to health in the North East

The Green Party say planned expansion of Newcastle International Airport flies in the face of efforts to tackle climate change and improve public health in the North East. The Greens have set out a stinging critique of the wide-ranging ‘Masterplan 2035’ set out earlier this year. The public consultation on the plans closed earlier this month. By 2035, the aim is to drive passenger numbers up by 74% to 9.4m a year and increase the amount of freight coming through the airport  - in order (in theory) to boost the region’s economy. Environmentalists  say it is in incompatible with national and local policy designed to improve air quality and cut CO2 emissions. A spokesman for the Greens said:  “More flights at Newcastle Airport would take us in the opposite direction to our national and international legal obligations, and the resulting increase in road traffic would worsen already-illegal levels of air pollution."   The airport claims that restricting its expansion "would undermine the competitiveness of our region and make it difficult for businesses to operate."  The airport wants more investment in public transport to the airport.

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Heathrow pays towards peat bog restoration – but its contribution to offsetting Heathrow’s carbon is infinitesimal

Heathrow has invested in the restoration of UK peatlands, not just because it is a good thing to do, but to give the airport good PR, with an infinitesimal contribution to offsetting their CO2  emissions. Working with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and DEFRA, Heathrow’s first restoration priority will be Little Woolden Moss, west of Manchester, which has been subject to commercial peat extraction for more than 15 years. Heathrow says [sic]: "The restoration of the UK’s peatland bogs forms part of Heathrow’s plans to be a carbon neutral airport by 2020. " ....and, worryingly "Heathrow hopes to show that projects like this will make a good option for airlines’ CORSIA commitments." Heathrow has (paid already probably?) about £94,000 towards the project. They omit to mention that Defra has already paid £334,000 for the project. Heathrow claims "the restoration of this project area could lead to savings of 22,427 tonnes of CO₂ over 30 years ..." As Heathrow departing flights emit over 18 million tonnes CO2 per year, that comes to 540 tonnes of CO2 over 30 years (ignoring a possible 3rd runway, with emissions perhaps 50% higher). The 22,427 tonnes comes to all of 0.004% of that carbon. So in reality, irrelevant. But greenwash.

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Air pollution by NOx linked to much greater risk of dementia

Research published in the BMJ indicates there is an increase in the chance of developing dementia. About 131,000 patients in London aged between 50 and 79 were followed for 7 years, with air pollution exposure estimated by post code. People over 50 in areas with the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air showed a 40% greater risk of developing dementia than those with the least NOx pollution, according to data from London. The observational study cannot establish that air pollution was a direct cause of the dementia cases, but the link between higher pollution and higher levels of dementia diagnosis could not be explained by other factors known to raise risks of the disease.  Air pollution has already been linked with cardiovascular and respiratory disease, but this is one of the first studies to examine links with neurodegenerative illness.  It is possible that perhaps 60,000 of the total 850,000 dementia cases in the UK may be made worse by air pollution.  This adds to the body of research on the wide-ranging effects of air pollution, including evidence that particles of pollutants can cross the placenta - an evidence from  China of a “huge” reduction in intelligence associated with breathing dirty air, equivalent to losing a year’s education.

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Monbiot: “It doesn’t matter how many good things we do: preventing climate breakdown means ceasing to do bad things” (eg. expanding aviation)

An excellent article by George Monbiot, includes these comments in relation to aviation: "There may be more electric vehicles on the world’s roads, but there are also more internal combustion engines. There be more bicycles, but there are also more planes. It doesn’t matter how many good things we do: preventing climate breakdown means ceasing to do bad things."... "When a low-carbon industry expands within a growing economy, the money it generates stimulates high-carbon industry. Anyone who works in this field knows environmental entrepreneurs, eco-consultants and green business managers who use their earnings to pay for holidays in distant parts of the world and the flights required to get there." ..."Labour guarantees that any airport expansion must adhere to its tests on climate change. But airport expansion is incompatible with its climate commitments. Even if aircraft emissions are capped at 2005 levels, by 2050 they will account for half the nation’s carbon budget if the UK is not to contribute to more than 1.5C of global warming. If airports grow, they will swallow even more of the budget' ...Airport expansion is highly regressive, offending the principles of justice and equity that Labour exists to uphold. Regardless of the availability and cost of flights, they are used disproportionately by the rich..."

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Heathrow fined £1.6m for anti-competitive car parking

Heathrow and hospitality group Arora have admitted hotel airport car parking charges broke competition law. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has fined Heathrow a £1.6m while Arora escaped a penalty after being granted immunity by the CMA for bringing the matter to its attention under a “leniency programme”. The breach relates to a 2005 lease between Heathrow and Arora, the operator of the Sofitel hotel at what is now Terminal 5.  The Sofitel has a car park that is open to hotel and non-hotel guests. The lease contained a provision that prevented Arora from charging non-hotel guests less than the charges Heathrow levied elsewhere at the airport. The CMA said such a provision was anti-competitive.  The CMA has also issued letters to other airports and hotel operators, warning against similar agreements. Heathrow got a 20% reduction on its fine, that would otherwise have been a £2 million, for having voluntarily entered into a settlement. There are at present mounting tensions between Heathrow and Arora, the largest landowner in and around the airport, as its boss, Surinder Arora, wants to be allowed to build the new runway etc.  

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Date set for Stansted Airport expansion planning decision

The passenger limit at Stansted could be lifted from 35 million a year to 43 million. Now the date of the special planning committee hearing at Uttlesford District Council, (UDC) to decide a planning application that would mean potentially millions more people going through Stansted, has been announced. UDC said the special planning committee is will be on October 17th, following 3 public speaking sessions the week before the decision will be made.  The decision on whether to allow the airport to increase its annual passenger numbers was due to be decided in July, but because of the lack of information on sections of the application the meeting was delayed.  There has been staunch opposition from residents fighting to stop any increase in passenger numbers. In August, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) filed legal papers to try and force the government to make the decision on the application, saying that UDC didn't have the experience or expertise to handle such a complicated application.  Currently the airport is operating with around 27 million passengers per year, eight million fewer than its current passenger limit. SSE will continue  with legal action to make central government decide the plans, irrespective of the decision taken by UDC's planning committee.

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Air pollution particles found in mothers’ placentas

Scientists have found the first evidence that particles of air pollution travel through pregnant women’s lungs and lodge in their placentas. Toxic air is already strongly linked to harm in foetuses but how the damage is done is unknown. The new study, involving mothers living in London, UK, revealed sooty particles in the placentas of each of their babies and researchers say it is quite possible the particles entered the foetuses too. A series of previous studies have shown that air pollution significantly increases the risk of premature birth and of low birth weight, leading to lifelong damage to health. A large study of more than 500,000 births in London, published in December, confirmed the link and led doctors to say that the implications for many millions of women in polluted cities around the world are “something approaching a public health catastrophe”. Scientists are increasingly finding that air pollution results in health problems far beyond the lungs. In August, research revealed that air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence, while in 2016 toxic nanoparticles from air pollution were discovered in human brains.

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Trade Unions sceptical about extravagant jobs claims for a Heathrow 3rd runway

The Trade Union movement appears split on the issue of Heathrow expansion, following a fringe meeting (organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition and the PCS) held at the Trade Union Congress in Manchester. Unions such as Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) spoke at a fringe meeting on the issue of transport, climate and jobs, highlighting their continued opposition to a 3rd Heathrow runway, despite other trade unions supporting the hugely environmentally damaging project. Chris Baugh (Assistant General Secretary, PCS), said though workers would not support the agenda to transition away from fossil fuels if their jobs were put in jeopardy, claims of large numbers of high quality jobs were hard to believe.  Manuel Cortes (General Secretary, TSSA), raised concerns that the transport sector was heading backwards in addressing the challenge posed by climate change, while the UK urgently needs to address the crisis of CO2 emissions. Paul Beckford of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said the role played by trade unions in helping the transition to a low carbon economy will be crucial.  Unions have to be clear about the reality of future jobs, generated by the runway.

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Heathrow airport is battling debt pile of £13bn – enough to build the third runway

Heathrow has blown more than £6bn in interest on its debts over the past 12 years, a Mail investigation has found.  It spends more than £500m a year on interest payments alone, accounts for Heathrow Airport Holdings show.  Meanwhile its debt pile has risen to £13.4 billion – about the cost of aa possible 3rd runway. Heathrow is planning to spend around £14 billion on the project, but its mammoth debts reveal just how stretched the airport has become. Airline bosses fear Heathrow may not be able deliver the runway on budget, and want Heathrow to guarantee not to increase these to pay for the runway.  While it has paid more than £6 billion in debt interest over 12 years, shareholders have extracted £3.6 billion in dividends.  Heathrow makes money by charging landing fees to airlines, which are passed on to passengers – around £22 for each fare.  The airport is planning to spend £33 billion on infrastructure in coming decades – including the runway and terminals to serve an extra 52m passengers a year. Most of the work is due to be completed by 2035, and there is growing concern that the airport will have to raise charges significantly to pay the bills. 

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