planes plane-over-roof StopAirportExpansiontshirt BRITAIN HEATHROW AIRPORT EXPANSION

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Willie Walsh tells AOA conference Heathrow’s runway is too expensive, and at that price, would fail

The Airport Operators Association is holding a two day conference on the runway issue, and Willie Walsh (CEO of IAG) was its key speaker. He said Heathrow should not get a 3rd runway, if the Airport Commission’s calculation of the cost of building it is correct. He said: “The Commission got its figures wrong – they are over-inflated. If that is the cost [of a new runway], it won’t be a successful project.” He described the assumption that airlines would pay for the new runway through increases in fares as “outrageous”. British Airways is by far the biggest airline at Heathrow, with 55% of the slots. He said of the Commission’s report: ” … I have concerns about the level of cost associated with the main recommendation and the expectation that the industry can afford to pay for Heathrow’s expansion.” He does not believe the cost is justified, and “If the cost of using an expanded airport significantly exceeds the costs of competitor airports, people won’t use it.” It was not realistic for airlines: “You have to see it in terms of return on capital. ….Either the figures are inflated or you are building inefficient infrastructure. I do not endorse the findings. I definitely don’t support the costs of building a runway. If those costs are real, we should not build it.” On the cost of £8 billion to build a 6th terminal he commented: “How many chandeliers can you have in an airport terminal?

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“No 3rd Runway” flashmob at Heathrow Terminal 2

Around 60 protesters staged a flashmob in Heathrow’s Terminal 2, expressing their opposition to plans for a 3rd runway. With red “No 3rd runway” T-shirts and chanting “No ifs, no buts, no third runway!” There are already hugely more people affected by disturbing levels of plane noise at Heathrow than at any other airport in Europe. People who suffer from plane noise do not want more of it, and those who get some periods of “respite” during the day do not want to see this decrease. If there was a new runway there would be around 250,000 more flights per year using Heathrow – making a 50% increase compared with the existing number now. The level of noise, the new areas affected, and the hundreds of thousands more people to be newly affected would make the addition of a new runway unacceptable. And that is not to mention the increase in air pollution, the road congestion, the rail congestion, the huge cost to the taxpayer over many years. There is also the not inconsiderable matter of the demolition of 780 homes, making their occupants homeless. For all these reasons, a large number of groups and organisations from a wide area oppose the runway. People at the flashmob came from Hammersmith, Ealing, Chiswick, the Heathrow villages, and areas west of Heathrow affected by flight paths. They are adamant that protest at a runway will not go away.

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Though Gatwick number of passengers is up 5.7% this year on 2014, the number of flights only up by 2.6%

Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) says that use of larger planes, and with fewer empty seats, explained how Gatwick has a record-breaking 40 million passengers per year. Gatwick has been expanding its passenger numbers as fast as possible, in its bid to get another runway. The Airports Commission estimated, based on past trends, that it would not reach 40 million passengers per year for many more years. But Gatwick has not increased the number of air transport movements (flights) by much. While the number of passengers link in the 12 months to October 2015 is 5.7% higher than the previous 12 months, the number of flights was only 2.6% more. GACC said it is the number of landings and take-offs (air transport movements – ATMs) which create a need for a new runway, not just the number of passengers. The load factor (how full the plane is) is higher, with the figure in October 2015 being 85.3% compared to 82.2% in October 2012 or 81.7% in October 2013. GACC chairman Brendon Sewill said: “At this rate of growth Gatwick and Stansted and Luton won’t be full for at least fifty years!” In fact, Gatwick had more flights in 2007 than in 2014. There were about 256,000 ATMs in 2008, 259,000 in 2007 and 255,000 in 2014. The average number of seats per plane was about 180 in 2014 and about 174 in 2013. The average number of passengers per plane was about 151 in 2014 and about 145 in 2013.

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Stewart Wingate says Gatwick won’t give up on its 2nd runway – whatever the government says

Stewart Wingate says Gatwick will continue to push for a 2nd runway even if Heathrow gets Government backing for a runway, when (if?) the announcement is made in December. he Prime Minister has said there will be a formal response to the Airports Commission’s findings by the end of the year, though it may be by George Osborne or Patrick McLoughlin, to save Cameron having to admit his “no ifs, no buts, no 3rd runway” promise. Gatwick has spent the past four months attempting to pick holes in Sir Howard Davies’ work, trying – not very successfully – convince the Government to back Gatwick instead of Heathrow. Stewart Wingate has said he thinks a Heathrow runway is undeliverable, and he will not lose his appetite to get his runway. “This is going to be a multi-year event.” He refuses to rule out legal action to block Heathrow expansion if it gets government backing. Gatwick has already examined the legality of the air quality issue, but Wingate adds: “I think there’d be other people in the queue well ahead of us” who would challenge the Goverment in the courts. Wingate also insists that he will “absolutely not” resign if the Government supports Heathrow, because he believes Heathrow will ultimately be refused on environmental grounds. He continues to deny the environmental problems of a Gatwick runway, which are nearly as bad as one at Heathrow.

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TfL confirms extent to which Airports Commission underestimated Heathrow runway impact on surface access

TfL Heathrow fully utilised road trips

On 10th November, the GLA Transport Committee had a session looking at the implications for surface access – road, rail and Tube – if there was a 3rd Heathrow runway. There was a presentation by Richard De Cani (Transport for London’s Managing Director – Planning). The meeting was described as a “well mannered mugging” of the Airports Commission’s (AC) analysis of the situation. The AC did not assess the impact of a fully utilised 3rd runway, with 148 mppa; instead they only looked at the situation in 2030 with 125mppa. That might mean 70,000 more trips per day than estimated by the AC.They also did not take into account how recent employment forecasts will increase demand even further, or increased vehicles needed for expanded air freight capacity. TfL estimates it would cost between £15 and £20 billion to improve the transport infrastructure needed to get all passengers to and from Heathrow, with a 3rd runway. Unless this is spent, the road congestion and the rail congestion even by 2030 would be “some of the worst that we currently see in London.” It would “impact quite significantly on the whole performance of the transport network across west and south west London.” If there was a congestion charge, the impact on public transport would be even higher (perhaps 90,000 more trips per day than estimated by the AC).  See the full presentation. 

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Telegraph reports Whitehall sources saying Cameron ‘preparing to drop opposition to Heathrow 3rd runway’

The Telegraph reports (Whitehall sources say) that David Cameron is believed to have decided it would not be too politically damaging to back a Heathrow runway. David Cameron personally pledged in 2009 that there would be no Heathrow runway (No ifs, No buts) but soon changed his mind. The government insists it will make an announcement on the next phase of the runway process before Christmas, but how firmly it will be backing one runway option is not yet clear. It may be Osborne who takes control over the issue, keen to be seen as building infrastructure..There is then to be a new public consultation on this in early 2016. David Cameron apparently hopes – as was always the intention of setting up the Commission, during the coalition government – that the Commission’s recommendation would remove responsibility for the decision from himself. It would cover him from blame for breaking a pledge, and make that “politically acceptable.” The problem is that the Airports Commission has produced vast reams of material in its reports. Few – including few politicians – have read much of it. Its recommendation is not in fact reflected in the details of the reports. The economic benefit of “up to £147 billion over 60 years” to the UK economy may really be as little as £1.4 billion. The regional airports would suffer, as would UK carbon targets. The noise and air pollution issues are not resolved, as the Commission’s work shows.

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John Holland-Kaye again will not commit to no Heathrow night flights (11.30pm to 6am) at Environmental Audit Committee hearing

When the Airports Commission final report was published on 1st July, one of the conditions of a 3rd Heathrow was that there should be no night flights. The report stated: “Following construction of a third runway at the airport there should be a ban on all scheduled night flights in the period 11:30pm to 6:00am” and “the additional capacity from a third runway would enable airlines to re-time very early morning arrivals.” Already by its statement on 6th July, Heathrow was trying to cast doubt on the conditions, with John Holland-Kaye saying: “I’m sure there is a package in there that we can agree with our local communities, with the airlines and with Government.” Asked directly again, at the Environmental Audit Committee session on 4th November, if Heathrow would accept no night flights, he said Heathrow “we are not in a position to do that yet.”  It had not yet accepted a ban on night flights, and the airport was “confident we will be able to find a way forward”  in discussions with airlines and government, and it could “significantly reduce” night flights.  Mr Holland-Kaye instead talked of the alleged economic benefit to the UK of flights between 4.30 and 6am. He was asked by Committee members whether the government should agree to a Heathrow runway, (perhaps by December) before Heathrow firmly committed to the no night flights condition. Mr Holland-Kaye could not give an answer.

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John Holland-Kaye and Sir Howard Davies give evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee

The Environmental Audit Committee is holding an inquiry into the implications for Government commitments on carbon emissions, air quality and noise should the Airport Commission’s recommendation of a 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport be adopted. It is holding its second evidence session, hearing from John Holland-Kaye and Matt Gorman, of Heathrow – and Sir Howard Davies and Phil Graham, from the (now closed) Airports Commission. They will be asked questions on noise, air pollution and CO2. The Airports Commission, in their final report on 1st July and in supporting documents, gave unsatisfactory answers on all these. There are no details of flight paths from a new runway, with no information on which areas would be newly overflown. There is no certainty that levels of NO2 around the airport, already sometimes over EU legal limits, would not rise with a 50% increase in the size of the airport, and massive increase in road traffic. There is no satisfactory answer on how the UK could meet its aviation carbon target, while building a new runway. Heathrow has put forward various ideas on how it might slightly reduce its noise and NO2 impacts, many speculative (eg. marginally less noisy planes). The airport is not keen on ceasing night flights (11pm to 6am) though that was one of the Commission’s suggested conditions for a runway.

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Massive 170 acre business park planned outside Horley to produce a Gatwick airport city

Residents and businesses are shocked and appalled at news that Reigate and Banstead Borough Council has agreed in principle to use compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) for a business park on 172 acres of land off Balcombe Road, in Horley. That’s equivalent to 85 football pitches. The council says major international businesses want to move to the area. Residents who would be affected say they knew nothing about the plan in advance. Green Party Surrey County Councillor Jonathan Essex said the development would use up green space, which separated homes in Horley, from nearby Gatwick airporta and “Horley should be a separate town, not just part of the urban sprawl of Gatwick.” A local Conservative councillor said information about the plans could not be made public previously because it was “commercially confidential” andt that “Now we have made the decision we will be talking to and consulting with residents, employers and landowners who could potentially be affected.” There is now a campaign called Keep Horley Green, to oppose the plans. They have a Facebook page and a petition to local MP Sam Giymah. People want green countryside preserved, rather then being covered in concrete. One of the properties under threat of compulsory purchase is Bayhorne Farm, 72 acres. 172 acres is a vast area for a business park – far larger than average. It would become an “aerotropolis” project.

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Solena, the company meant to be producing “sustainable” jet fuel from London waste for BA, goes bankrupt

In February 2010 it was announced that British Airways had teamed up with American bioenergy company Solena Group to establish “Europe’s first” sustainable jet fuel plant, which was set to turn London’d domestic waste into aviation fuel. The plan was for BA to provide construction capital for a massive plant somewhere in East London. BA committed to purchasing all the jet fuel produced by the plant, around 16 million gallons a year, for the next 11 years at market competitive prices. BA had hoped that this 2% contribution to its fuel consumption – the equivalent to all its fuel use at London City airport – would give it green credibility, and it would claim it cut its carbon emissions. The timescale for the plant to be built kept slipping. Nothing has been heard of it for a long time. Now it has been announced that Solena has gone into bankruptcy in the USA. It was never clear why, if genuinely low carbon fuels could be produced from London’s waste, why these should not be used for essential vehicles in London – and why they would instead become a PR exercise for an airline. British Airways and the company Velocys are listed as creditors of Solena.

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Teddington Action Group show – from Heathrow report – that they are now suffering more aircraft noise

Residents in Twickenham and Teddington have been aware of greatly increased aircraft noise from Heathrow, over the past year. However, Heathrow have for months insisted that the noise has not increased. Now an independent report commissioned and paid for by Heathrow, by PA Consultants has shown that the residents are right. Examining data between November 2011 and May 2015, the report confirms that planes – especially the heavier, noisier types – are flying lower than previously over the area, in greater numbers and concentrated within flight paths. Also that the periods of greatest disruption are increasingly late at night and early in the morning. Rather than being associated with the 2014 Flight Path Trials, which saw record numbers of noise complaints from residents, the report states that these developments merely reflect the general trend of fleet development and air traffic movements. TAG say they have more of the noisiest long haul planes flying over lower than before, sometimes at little more than 2,000 feet in Teddington and 1,400 feet in Twickenham. Worryingly, if this disruption stems from new flight trends, it is only likely to get worse, and for many other areas overflown by Heathrow planes.

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GACC warns Patrick McLoughlin of the future costs to the Exchequer of infrastructure needed for Gatwick runway

GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has written to Patrick McLoughlin, to remind him about the comparative costs of infrastructure relating to a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick. Robert Goodwill recently indicated that whichever airport was selected would be expected to pay for the necessary infrastructure – a policy GACC fully supports. GACC point out that the calculation of the surface access costs, by the Airports Commission, is distorted. While it considers the requirements for both airports at 2030, it estimates that by then there would be 35 million extra passengers at Heathrow (due to pent up demand), but only 8 million more at Gatwick(struggling against Stansted and Luton). So the extra road and rail traffic generated at Heathrow by 2030 would be far greater than that at Gatwick, and (when adding tunnelling the M25 at Heathrow) accounts for the difference in infrastructure costs – £5.7 billion compared to under £1 billion. But with the runways working at full capacity by around 2040, the surface access infrastructure costs of a new Gatwick runway would fall on the Exchequer. These would include widening of the M23 or M25, and improvements to the Brighton main line. With Gatwick then bigger than Heathrow today, there might be a need of of a hugely expensive extension of the M23 into central London. And so on …

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Top Civil Servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, ‘warned ministers not to comment’ on Heathrow runway issue before conference

It appears that the whole issue of building a new runway is so fraught that the UK’s most senior civil servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, wrote to government ministers in the run up to the party conference season, warning them against speaking out about it. Sir Jeremy’s email said Ministers could repeat statements they had made before the report was published on 1st July, but urged them to keep quiet now. It was received by some with deep irritation. Laura Kuenssberg (BBC) said a cabinet minister told her it was “unprecedented”. The Cabinet Office said they would not comment on leaked documents, but the anxieties in government are real and are twofold. (1). There are concerns over any comments making the final decision more vulnerable to a legal challenge – tying up the decision in the courts for years to come. (2).There is significant political opposition around the cabinet table, including from Boris Johnson. Theresa May would not comment on the leak, but told the BBC that the story was a “mountain out of a molehill”. The PM and the chancellor have promised to make a decision by Christmas, but that promise won’t be easy to keep. Though AirportWatch and the Aviation Environment Federation did have a stall at the Conservative conference, there were difficulties in getting it approved.

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Heathrow send survey to Heathrow villagers facing potential compulsory purchase – to soften people up?

Heathrow has sent out a survey to (it appears) all the houses that would be under threat of compulsory purchase if there was a north west runway, seeming to ask about their homes etc. It could be considered hugely presumptuous for Heathrow to be mailing residents before there is even an indication from Government that there might be agreement for a runway. The very existence of the survey undermines affected Heathrow villagers, giving the impression that the runway is a done deal. The survey asks a lot of questions, as well as wanting address and email details, like: how many people live at the house, how long have you lived there; do you own or rent, and if so, from a private landlord or a local authority; and do you have other residential properties or commercial properties in an area that could be affected by the expansion of Heathrow. The intention of this survey appears to try to pick off the residents who would be keen to throw in the towel, take the money and get out. The more people sell up, take Heathrow’s offer and leave the area, the more the soul and spirit of the community is lost. Divide and rule. To help win people over, Heathrow is offering, for those whose houses could be demolished, one to one sessions with Heathrow staff to talk about it. (ie. be persuaded to take the money). The sessions can be booked by phone or email.

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Alex Salmond says SNP will not back a SE runway unless they are paid huge sums under the Barnett Formula

Alex Salmond, previous First Minister of Scotland,says the SNP will not back a new runway in south-east England unless David Cameron gives millions of ££ to Scotland. He says that to get backing for a runway from the 55 SNP MPs in Parliament, they would need to have agreement of huge funding for Scotland through the Barnett Formula. Alex Salmond said the Airports Commission report was “shoddy”, the “work on the cost/benefit analysis was pretty ropey”, and Sir Howard Davies was “blinkered”. Salmond wants guarantees of extra Scottish flights from an expanded SE airport. Under the Barnett Formula, for every £ spent in England, a proportion must be spent in Scotland, based on its population compared to that of England. It is know that at the very least, a Heathrow runway would cost the public £5 billion for tunnelling the M25. Under the Barnett formula of about 10% of the cost being given to Scotland, that would mean paying about £500 million. (And would the other regions also need their separate payments?) Salmond: “What we’d want to know is that if it were to be a development which depended on infrastructure spending, is that spending going to be properly Barnetted? Or is it going to be another fiddle like the Olympics?” He commented Heathrow and Gatwick had been “desperate” to speak to the SNP, with both sending lobbyists to the party’s conference.

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2M group boroughs produce highly critical report of Airports Commission’s Heathrow runway recommendation

The four boroughs that have worked hardest to oppose a Heathrow runway, Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, and Windsor and Maidenhead, have produced a damning report on the Airports Commission’s recommendation. They have called on MPs to carefully consider their in-depth assessment of the Commission’s claims, which they have say put together an inflated and distorted case for expanding Heathrow. The councils’ report challenges the recommendation on environmental, health, and community impact grounds, and highlights the environmental, transport, social and political factors that make the 3rd runway undeliverable. They point out how little extra connectivity a new runway would provide; they show claims regarding EU air quality legislation have been misunderstood by the Commission and that it has deliberately recommended adding a large source of pollution in an area that is already under severe strain. Critical factors presenting the biggest challenge to a runway “have been either avoided, or worse, misinterpreted by the Commission.” The councils conclude that a 3rd runway “would significantly reduce regional connectivity and economic competiveness. It would be severely damaging for the millions of people who neighbour the airport and live below its new flightpaths. It is the wrong choice at every level.”

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Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill says Heathrow has to pay for surface access work resulting from a 3rd runway

Adam Afriyie has reported that, in response to a question he asked the government’s aviation minister, Robert Goodwill, the Government ruled out spending public money for the related surface access costs of a Heathrow 3rd runway. If correct, this is a huge blow to Heathrow, as their surface access costs could be £5 billion just to tunnel the M25 and perhaps up to £10 -15 billion more, for other road and rail improvements, according to Transport for London. In response to the parliamentary question Robert Goodwill said: “In terms of surface access proposals, the Government has been clear that it expects the scheme promoter to meet the costs of any surface access proposals that are required as a direct result of airport expansion and from which they will directly benefit.” Adam Afriyie said: “It is welcome news that the Government has ruled out paying the costs of upgrading the railways and local roads or moving or tunnelling the M25. If Heathrow won’t pay and the Government won’t pay, then the 3rd runway is already dead in the water …It is quite right that the public should not be made to fork out up to £20 billion of subsidies to a private company which refuses to pay its own costs of expansion.” In July John Holland-Kaye said Heathrow would not pay.

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Leaders of Hillingdon, Richmond and Wandsworth councils tell PM that flight path consultation must precede Government’s runway support

The leaders of Hillingdon, Richmond & Wandsworth councils have written to the Prime Minister to warn that signalling Government support for a 3rd Heathrow runway would be unlawful unless the new flight paths needed re first subject to public consultation. The leaders also highlight a series of flaws and omissions in the Airports Commission’s final report, that recommends a Heathrow runway. They point out that by law, changes to London’s airspace require open consultation. Therefore a decision to expand Heathrow would pre-empt this statutory process. Approving a runway clearly infers the associated flight paths will also be approved. The Airports Commission, though working on Heathrow’s plans for 2 years, failed to identify the location of its new flight paths, let alone consult on them. Instead the Commission’s final report, which costs tax payers in the region of £25m, asks ministers to approve a 3rd Heathrow runway with no details at all on where flight paths would be. That is key information, needed to assess the areas to be worst affected. The local councils have now pointed out that the Commission’s recommendation is directing the Government down a legal cul-de-sac and has urged the PM to dismiss the report.

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Corbyn said to be ready to oppose Heathrow runway, partly due to air pollution

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to make air pollution a key campaign issue over the next year which could have “significant implications” for expansion at Heathrow. Writing to senior Labour members, he warned that a 3rd Heathrow runway could worsen the government’s “dreadful record on air quality”. He said “more than 50,000 premature deaths a year” are estimated to be caused by air pollution, and this has been brought into sharp relief by the VW diesel deceit story. A party source said: “Jeremy is clear that he expects Labour to now oppose a third runway at Heathrow. It is now up to the Government to decide what to do.” The decision by Labour to officially come out against a third runway will be a major stumbling block for Heathrow expansion. Jeremy Corbyn campaigned against Heathrow expansion during the Labour leadership contest. However, when the Airports Commission recommendation of a Heathrow runway was announced on 1st June, Labour’s then shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher suggested Labour would back this, as did Harriet Harman.

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Huge rally against Heathrow 3rd runway demonstrates intense cross-party opposition in London

All the speakers on stage at the end of the event

A huge rally against a 3rd Heathrow runway, attended by one to two thousand activists who are determined not to let it ever be built, They heard impassioned speeches from all the main London mayoral candidates, who reiterated the extent of the environmental impacts – noise and air pollution in particular. The rally sent a clear message to government that a runway is deeply opposed, and would be fought strenuously. The repeated chant at the rally was: “No ifs, no buts. No 3rd runway.” Zac said: “We know that our air pollution problems in London would be unsolvable if we expand Heathrow. And we know it requires the demolition of more than 1,000 homes. It is a catastrophic price to pay. I think we have won the arguments, I think we are winning the campaign. The environmental case against a third runway is devastating and makes expansion both legally and morally impossible. The economic case has completely disintegrated.” Sadiq said: “It would be madness to build a new runway. People who care about London and the health of London, who worry about the noise, who worry about the infrastructure, are united against it.” John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor and Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, said: “In my constituency at the moment, people are literally dying. They’re dying because the air has already been poisoned by the aviation industry.”

The crowd

Part of the crowd in Parliament Square

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Party Conference season!  Short briefings on:

Economics  …  Noise …  Air pollution …  Carbon emissions

These issues need to be resolved properly before any new runway could be built.

Protesters blast aircraft noise outside hotel of Conservative Party conference at 4.30am

Though not permitted into the Conservative Party conference, Plane Stupid campaigners have held a number of eye-catching (or ear blasting) protests outside. They played full volume sound of landing aircraft outside the Midland Hotel, where conference delegates were staying, at 4.30am – which is the time when the first flight arrives into Heathrow. The sound system was concealed in a wheelie bin. Plane Stupid campaigners wanted to give politicians a taste of daily life for those living under Heathrow’s (or other) flight paths. They also show that a decision for a 3rd runway will be met with fierce resistance to save the future of homes and communities in the Heathrow villages. As well as the 4.30am noise, protesters from Plane Stupid and the Heathrow villages paraded a giant model plane outside the conference, emblazoned with the words: “No third runway. No ifs, no buts” – a reminder of David Cameron’s pledge before the 2010 election. They also hung up a giant banner from a building opposite, saying “2015. No ifs, no buts. No new runways.” To rub salt into the wounds for the Heathrow villages residents, Heathrow has also revealed new images of their dreamed of new NW runway, showing how it erases hundreds of homes and makes other communities too noisy and polluted to realistically be habitable.

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Evening Standard believes Ministers likely to make runway decision by end of year

The Evening Standard reports that Ministers are determined to make a firm decision on building a new runway by the end of the year, and Heathrow is considered to be the most likely location. Runway proponents fear the Government would put off a runway rather than risk a huge battle against environmentalists and local residents blighted by more flights. There has also been talk of a delay on the airports announcement until after the London mayoral election in May 2016, due to Zac Goldsmith. Though Patrick McLoughlin has intimated that the decision could be postponed, the Standard understands that ministers are determined to make a firm decision by the end of the year. A special Cabinet committee on airport expansion, chaired by David Cameron, is to meet for the first time within weeks (its first meeting is meant to have happened already). George Osborne is setting up a new National Infrastructure Commission, and wants to be seen to be getting things built fast – a runway would be a key project. The government knows it has to get the Heathrow plan done correctly, to avoid judicial reviews causing delays.It would be easier for the government to choose a Heathrow runway, because if they choose Gatwick they would need strong arguments and fresh evidence, to override the Commission’s conclusions.

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Labour peer Lord Adonis to head Osborne infrastructure body – to get things like a new runway built fast

A new body to plan infrastructure projects, the “independent” National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) will be chaired by the former Labour transport secretary Lord Adonis. The government is expected to announce it will pledge an extra £5 billion in this Parliament for major schemes, which he hopes will boost the UK economy. Osborne says he plans to “shake Britain out of its inertia” and Lord Adonis thinks that without “big improvements” in transport and energy “Britain will grind to a halt”. The NIC will initially focus on London’s transport system, connections between cities in the north of England, and updating the energy network – funded by selling off land, buildings and other government assets. Lord Adonis has resigned the Labour whip and will sit as a crossbencher in the Lords as he starts work in his new role immediately. The NIC will produce a report at the start of each five-year Parliament containing recommendations of infrastructure building over the next 20 to 30 years. Osborne: “I’m not prepared to turn round to my children – or indeed anyone else’s child – and say ‘I’m sorry, we didn’t build for you.’ John Cridland, director-general of the CBI business lobby said: ” ….we must not duck the important infrastructure decisions that need taking now, particularly on expanding aviation capacity in the South East.”

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Sir Howard Davies writes to Patrick McLoughlin and the GLA to dismiss Gatwick’s claims

The Airports Commission, now almost closed down, has published on its website a letter to the GLA from Sir Howard Davies, setting out why they believe strongly that their analysis is robust to the arguments that Gatwick airport have made (recently repeated). The Commission also published a letter to the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, dated the 7th September, and now copied to the GLA, countering all Gatwick’s arguments why it should be the site for a new runway. The Commission’s letter to Patrick McLoughlin deal with Regional Connectivity, on which they dismiss Gatwick’s claims; Economic Benefits, on which the Commission says the benefits to the UK from a Heathrow runway are substantially greater than a Gatwick runway; on Costs and Charges; Deliverability and Financing; Air Quality; and Noise. The Commission says, quote: “GAL accuse the Airports Commission of having ‘largely ignore[d]’ Gatwick’s lower noise impacts compared to those of Heathrow. That is nonsense.” Sir Howard Davies’ letter to the GLA covers the issues of capacity and resilience, connectivity, noise mitigation, surface access and finance. Criticising the session at the GLA where Sir Howard was interviewed, he says there was no “serious consideration of the role of aviation, and the benefits of expansion, in supporting the capital’s long term prosperity.”

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Chairman of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says Cameron must answer questions on Heathrow expansion. Air quality a KEY problem (also CO2 & noise)

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee recently set up an Inquiry on the “Airports Commission report: Carbon emissions, air quality and noise.” It closed on 3rd September. A considerable number of submissions have been made, from councils, organisations, individuals (and a few from the aviation industry or its consultants). The Chairman of the Committee, Hugh Irranca-Davies, has said that the Government has “big questions to answer” over how it could meet the legally binding EU air quality rules while backing a 3rd Heathrow runway. The submissions, including the one from Transport for London (Boris Johnson) raised a series of objections to a bigger Heathrow. Boris said: “The Commission has failed to demonstrate that a three-runway Heathrow, even with mitigation, will not have the worst NO2 concentration in Greater London, so risking the compliance of the entire zone and EU fines on the UK.” He said the Commission failed to recognise the impact of increased road traffic. Clean Air in London said: “If the Commission is suggesting that the only relevant requirement is that additional runway capacity should not delay in time average compliance throughout the London zone, then it has misdirected itself on the law.” Sections on air quality from a number of submissions are shown in this article.

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BALPA questions effectiveness of Heathrow 3.2 degree approach trial – noise might even increase?

Heathrow has started a 6 month trial of some aircraft approaching the airport at a 3.2 degree angle, rather than the usual 3 degrees. Its intention is to make a small reduction in aircraft noise. But BALPA, the pilots union, has commented that this may actually be more noise, not less. The steeper angle means pilots will need to be aware of how this will affect the handling of the aircraft and will have to adapt their flying accordingly. Though modern planes are quite capable of landing at 3.2 degrees, the plane must be at a specific height and speed and configured correctly when it reaches 1,000ft above the airport. If it does not meet the criteria the landing must be aborted. It is possible the 3.2 degree approach could result in more go-arounds. That would cause more noise, more pollution and an increase in workload for both air traffic controllers and pilots. Planes would also need to slow down earlier in their preparation for landing. Using speed brakes, lowering the undercarriage and using flaps to reduce speed could possibly increase the noise levels further out on the approach to the airport. Some aircraft may have to use full flaps for landings, which will increase noise due to higher power settings required to counter the extra drag.

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Edinburgh trial (no prior consultation) of new narrow route to be ended 2 months early, due to opposition

Edinburgh Airport is to halt its controversial trial of a new flight path two months early (28th October). The trial of the concentrated route resulted in unacceptable levels of noise for those below the new route. The airport’s Chief executive Gordon Dewar admitted the airport had been overwhelmed with complaints about the trial route over areas which were not previously over flown. He said a letter from Transport Minister, Derek Mackay, asking if the trial could be shortened had also influenced the decision. The announcement was made at a packed public meeting in Broxburn. Like all other new routes that have been introduced through the CAA, there was no consultation. Mr Dewar said on the consultation: “…I do apologise. We have learned a lesson on that one.” The CAA has been taken aback by the extent of opposition to every new concentrated flight path it has introduced, and appears unable to work out how to implement the European SESAR changes to airspace on an articulate and determined population, against their will. Someone at the meeting commented that Gordon Dewar’s presentation was met with silence from the audience. But a short video by Sally Pavey, an experienced noise campaigner from Gatwick, received enthusiastic applause. Campaigners from affected airports are linking up to oppose unsuitable airspace changes.

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Commons Transport Committee start short inquiry into surface access for larger UK airports

The House of Commons Transport Committee has invited submissions for a short inquiry (ends 12th October) on surface transport at airports. “The inquiry will examine whether strategic connections to airports fulfil current and future requirements in terms of range and capacity. The Committee is interested to assess the effectiveness of the Government’s approach to planning surface access to airports, as well as understanding whether the Government is making full use of its powers to influence the selection of infrastructure and accompanying modes of transport to and from airports.” The inquiry is only for airports with over 1 million passengers per year, and it is not looking at air quality issues of surface transport (which is regrettable, for Heathrow and Gatwick). The Committee want submissions on how increased numbers of passengers and air freight in future are being planned for; whether better surface access could free up existing spare capacity in airports (Luton and Stansted perhaps); the Government’s role in planning surface access to airports in conjunction with airport owners, local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships. They also want submissions on the funding and the DfT’s role in ensuring planning is joined-up.

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Airports Commission figures show Heathrow runway to provide, at the most, just 12 more long haul destinations

The Airports Commission said that a very important reason for building a new runway, and Heathrow in particular, was to increase the connectivity with “long-haul destinations in new markets.” And so it would be logical to believe their analysis would show that a new runway at Heathrow, (or Gatwick) would show a large increase in these routes. The Commission’s own work [using their Assessment of Need scenario, carbon capped] forecasts that while Heathrow (2011) had 57 destinations with at least a daily flight, this would only rise to 63 without a new runway. It would only rise to 73 with a 3rd runway. That is just 10 more. For the UK as a whole, including all airports, the Commission forecasts that the number of long haul destinations in 2011 was 61, and this would rise to 82 even without a new runway. The total number would only rise to 87 with a new Heathrow runway. That is just 5 more. And their figures indicate that the number of long haul destinations from regional airports would fall from 23 to 21 by 2050 and be slightly lower than they would have been without a new runway. So much for boosting the “Northern Powerhouse.” The Commission said a Heathrow runway could provide “up to 12 additional long-haul destinations.”

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Heathrow trial of some planes using 3.2 degree approach (not 3 degrees) starts 14th September

Heathrow airport knows it has a massive problem in trying to persuade people that adding a new runway would not greatly increase the amount of noise that residents around the London area are exposed to. So it has various ideas about how it might manage this. It is starting a trial 14th September (ending on 16th March 2016) for planes to approach the airport at an angle of 3.2 degrees, rather than the normal 3 degrees. Heathrow says this is optional and airlines can take part if they like. They say this will only affect planes on the final approach into Heathrow (approx. 10 nautical miles from touchdown), and will be trialled on westerly and easterly arrivals. The claim is that a plane 10 miles away from touchdown would be 215 feet higher. So around Clapham a plane might be at 3,400 feet rather than at 3,185 feet. With less height difference near the runway. That really does not make a huge amount of difference to the noise perceived. Heathrow says planes will continue at 3.2 degrees right up to landing, though not in bad weather. However another possibility is a “2 segment” approach, where the plane levels off to 3 degrees for landing. “Even 3.2 degrees could interfere with the ability to use low power/low drag and reduced landing flap techniques.” The 3.2 degree approaches have been used at Frankfurt and residents do not report any significant benefits.

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Scottish MSPs call for the Edinburgh flight path trial, that is reducing people to tears, to be ended early

Edinburgh Airport started a trial of a new flight path in June, due to continue till 24th December. The purpose of the route is to enable the airport to have take-offs every minute, rather than every two minutes. It has resulted in a narrow, concentrated flight path over areas that did not have much plane noise before, and this has caused real distress. People are especially infuriated because the CAA allows NATS to run trials with no consultation of the public. This consultation is currently only needed once the trial has been done (and it pretty much a fait accompli). Campaigners of SEAT (Stop Edinburgh Airspace Trial) launched a petition against the trial and have won the support of cross-party Lothian MSPs, including Labour’s Neil Findlay who yesterday led the debate. Four MSPs spoke up in a debate at Hollyrood, saying it is not acceptable that people now badly affected by noise were not consulted, and they want the trial ended early. Alison Johnstone (Green Party Scotland) said the relentless noise, often from 5am all day through till midnight, had reduced people to tears due to stress and sleep deprivation. She added, re. the CAA: “Just because you don’t have to consult, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.”

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London Assembly votes decisively that “there is no circumstance under which Heathrow expansion would be acceptable”

Sir Howard Davies and Phil Graham, from the (now closed) Airports Commission, attended a Question and Answer session at the London Assembly. It is fully recorded and can be seen here. Over the two hour session, they answered questions on a range of issues including economics, reasons for rejecting Gatwick, noise, night flights, conditions imposed on Heathrow, air pollution, adequacy of surface access, amount of money needed to be paid by the taxpayer for surface access improvements, carbon emissions, impact on regional airports etc. Assembly members did not appear particularly persuaded by the replies they received. After the Q&A session, a motion was voted on. It was passed unanimously (13:0). The full text of the amended Motion is: “That the Assembly notes the answers to the questions asked and reiterates its belief that there is no circumstance under which Heathrow expansion would be acceptable.” The motion was proposed by Richard Tracey, and seconded by Darren Johnson. The Assembly say this is an absolute NO to Heathrow.

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Boris writes to all MPs and Peers to say 3rd runway at Heathrow ‘will fail on every level’

London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, a potential successor to PM David Cameron, said a 3rd Heathrow runway was doomed to fail, complicating an already fraught issue for the government. The Airports Commission said the runway would offer Britain the best way of adding long-haul routes to new markets that it said were “urgently required”. But Boris said the report itself showed a Heathrow runway would not solve capacity issues, and its own figures indicate it would lead to fewer domestic routes and very little increase in new long haul routes. “Their report very clearly shows that a third runway will fail both London and the UK on every level.” Boris and Justine Greening have sent a dossier to about 1,500 MPs and peers setting out the flaws in the Commission’s report. They say the runway would harm attempts by George Osborne, Johnson’s leadership rival, to build a “northern powerhouse”. Boris still wants a new airport in the Thames estuary, that was rejected by the Commission. He said: “The Airports Commission has spent several years in the production of a gigantic ball of wool that they are now attempting to pull over the eyes of the nation.”

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Analysis by AEF shows economic impact of Heathrow runway likely to be minimal, or negative. Not £147 billion (over 60 years)

The Airports Commission has claimed,in its final report (1st July) and the media has uncritically repeated, that a new north-west runway at Heathrow would deliver up to £147 billion benefit for the UK (over 60 years). Now the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) has done some critical analysis of the Commission’s various documents and figures, to elucidate what the actual economic impact on the UK economy might be. This is complex stuff, and making sense of the various facts (often in different documents at different dates) is not for the faint hearted. However, AEF shows that claims of £147 billion do not take into account the environmental or surface access costs associated with a new runway. The Commission’s own economic advisers have criticised the analysis (not done with the usual “WebTAG” model used by government) for double counting and questionable assumptions in relation to the indirect benefits associated with increased seat capacity. Using WebTAG, it appears – using the Commission’s own data – that there could be a net cost to the UK economy of – £9 billion over 60 years. Not a benefit at all, once all environmental and surface access costs are factored in. With some ‘wider economic benefits’ included, the benefit over 60 years would still be only £1.4 billion (not £147 billion), as quoted in the Commission’s own final report.

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Around 900 people stage protest over Gatwick flight paths

Gatwick Obviously NOT photo 16 Aug 2015

About 900 people, many from Sussex and Kent, gathered in a field at Penshurst, Kent, to protest against changes to flight paths. Campaigners unveiled a huge sign, 100 metres across [the width of the new, narrowed and concentrated flight paths being introduced by NATS and the CAA] consisting of people with hay bales, and that can be read by aircraft passengers (and pilots) landing at Gatwick. Martin Barraud, chairman of the group “Gatwick Obviously NOT”, commented that this is about sending a message to the airport from the people on the ground, making it clear there are a massive number who are affected by aircraft noise from Gatwick airport. Flight paths are now lower over their area, and concentrated – so people suffer from intense aircraft noise, often every two minutes or so, for most of the day. Planes also fly over them at night, though less often than in the daytime. Someone who attended commented that is was not only people over “a certain age” who took part in the protest, but also a large number of younger people, who are also concerned about the noise.  More details here


Gatwick adverts banned by ASA for ‘misleading public’ on comparing numbers affected by noise of new runways

Misleading adverts produced by Gatwick Airport about the noise from a new Heathrow runway have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ASA received five complaints about the ads. It upheld two complaints about the posters, which compared the number of people affected by a new runway being built at Heathrow or Gatwick. It said the basis for the airport’s comparisons was unclear. The banned posters stated that “320,000 additional people will be affected by noise from a new runway at Heathrow. Compared to 18,000 at Gatwick”. The ASA said the use of the word “additional” could be misinterpreted to mean the number of people newly affected by expansion, on top of those currently affected. Two of the complainants challenged whether the comparison was verifiable, while another two challenged whether the adverts omitted material information about the flight paths. The ASA said the comparison the airport made was unclear. Gatwick said it disagreed with the decision and may appeal, but the advert in question will not be used again and Gatwick will take on board the ASA’s comments if it uses the Commission’s figures in a different advert

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Airport shops cheating passengers out of £ millions in VAT fiddle

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke said he was concerned and disappointed that airport retailers were pocketing millions of pounds in VAT discounts without passing the savings to customers. And that this should stop. Stores at airports demand that passengers present their boarding cards at checkouts before paying for any goods,in order to avoid paying 20% VAT on everything they sell to customers who are travelling outside the EU. Most of these stores, including Boots and W H Smith, do not pass on the savings to passengers. The Independent says this ruse is also used by so-called “duty-free” shops to boost their profits on alcohol sales, thereby making profits of up to 100% on each alcohol sale they make to travellers leaving Europe. UKinbound chief executive said visitors to the UK already have the impression that the UK is an expensive destination – and this is not helping. The airports charge retailers huge rent, to have the privilege of a store in the captive market that is the airport departure lounge. Exact figures are hard to come by and not publicly available, but Heathrow alone last year made around £400m in rental income from its airport 345 concessions and stores. Unlike on the high street Heathrow does not charge its stores a set flat rent – but rather a % of their net sales. On average each retailer is paying over £1m a year in rent.

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GIP to put London City airport up for sale this year – might raise £2 billion?

London City airport is to be put up for sale by GIP by the end of the year, who want to capitalise on the rising global demand for air travel. GIP owns 75%, with Oaktree Capital owning the remainder, but both have agreed to the sale. GIP also has the main stake in Gatwick airport, and Edinburgh but say they are not selling these now. It is thought the airport might fetch as much as £2bn, which the FT says would be a multiple of over 60 times the company’s EBITDA in 2014. GIP bought the airport for about £750m in 2006 from Dermot Desmond; he had paid £23.5m for it in 1995 from Mowlem. The airport is trying to get planning consent for work to increase the annual number of passengers to 6 million per year by 2023, (4.1 million in 2014) but this has been blocked by Boris, due to noise. London City is appealing against this and may hear the outcome next year. City airport has already been granted permission to increase ATMs from 70,000 to 120,000 per year. It is widely believed that GIP would sell Gatwick soon, after the government makes a decision on if/where there might be a new runway. Last month, GIP said it would be prepared to give a legally binding promise that it will not sell out for a quick profit if the government decides to opt for a runway at Gatwick.

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Independence of Airports Commission questioned over Howard Davies’ role in Prudential, which recently bought more Heathrow property

Campaigners against a 3rd Heathrow runway have questioned the independence of the Airports Commission and its chairman, Howard Davies. It has been revealed that he is a board member of Prudential, an insurance group which invested in property near Heathrow, just months before the Commission recommended a 3rd runway. He chairs its risk committee, which reviews and approves group investment policies as well as advising the board on risks in the company’s “strategic transactions and business plans”. The Guardian reports that Prudential embarked on a £300m spending spree on properties around Heathrow, just as the commission prepared to deliver its final report, on 1st July. Prudential has an asset management business, M&G. In 2013 it bought the Hilton hotel at Terminal 5 for £21m and an earlier investment with planning permission for a large hotel close to where the proposed 3rd runway would be built. In May and June 2015 M&G bought more property including cargo depots and a business park a short distance from Terminal 4. Howard Davies also, till September 2012, advised the GIC (Singapore), which owns 11.2% of Heathrow. The Teddington Action Group say Davies’ links with Prudential undermines the impartiality and credibility of the Commission’s recommendations.

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Airports Commission report shows fewer, not more, links to regional airports by 2030 with 3rd Heathrow runway

The Times reports that analysis by Transport for London (TfL) of the Airports Commission’s final report shows that, with a 3rd runway, Heathrow would only serve 4 domestic destinations by 2030, compared to the 7 is now serves. It would serve only 3 with no new runway by 2030. (The Gatwick figures are 7 domestic destinations by 2030 with a 2nd runway, compared to 10 now). Heathrow has been claiming that its runway will be important for better links to the regions, and improved domestic connectivity by air. The Heathrow runway has been backed by Peter Robinson, the first minister of Northern Ireland, Derek Mackay, the Scottish transport minister, and Louise Ellman, the chairwoman of the transport select committee – on the grounds that it would help the regions. The Commission’s report says: (Page 313) “15.8 ….without specific measures to support domestic connectivity even an expanded Heathrow may accommodate fewer domestic routes in future….” The Commission cannot see effective ways to ensure domestic links are not cut in future, as less profitable than long haul, but they suggest public subsidy by the taxpayer for these routes. This is by using PSO (Public Service Obligations) which could cost £ millions, is a bad use of public money, and may fall foul of EU law.

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British Airways-owner CEO, Willie Walsh, opposes new Heathrow runway as too expensive to airlines

British Airways-owner IAG does not support the building of a 3rd Heathrow runway, its chief executive said, because the costs of the project does not make sense for the airline. Willie Walsh said: “We think the costs associated with the third runway are outrageous and certainly from an IAG point of view we will not be supporting it and we will not be paying for it. …We’re not going to support something that increases our costs.” British Airways is the biggest airline at Heathrow [it has around 50% of the slots]. An expanded Heathrow with a new runway would be partly paid for by higher charges to airlines. In May this year he had said “the cost of all three [runway] options are excessive and would translate into an unacceptable increase in charges at the airports.” Not to mention the problems of politics and unacceptability to the public. The Airports Commission’s final report says, with a new runway at Heathrow, “The resulting impact on passenger aeronautical charges across the Commission’s four demand scenarios for Heathrow is an increase from c. £20 per passenger to a weighted average charge of c. £28-30 per passenger and a potential peak of up to c. £31.”

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Ipsos Mori poll across UK shows 33% don’t want airport capacity increased (60% do). Only 13.2% want Heathrow runway.

The Evening Standard commissioned a poll by Ipsos Mori, of attitudes to a new runway – or a new airport. It was a telephone poll, of 1,026 adults across the UK, between 18th and 20th July. It found that 60% thought there should be some airport capacity expansion. 33% though there should be no expansion (and 7% did not know). Of the 60% in favour, 44% (ie. 26% of the total) either wanted a new airport or expansion of an airport other than Heathrow or Gatwick. Only 22% of those wanting expansion wanted a Heathrow runway (ie. 13.2% of the total sample) and only 24% (ie. 14.4% of the total sample) wanted a Gatwick runway. Those figures really are very small. Asking the whole sample, including those who did not think airport expansion was needed, what were the most important issues the Government should consider on where a runway should be built, the very highest number said “impact on the natural environment” (39%) and the second highest was “noise created for local residents” (30%). Other issues like total costs, support of local residents, local air quality and traffic congestion were all important (about 11 – 15%). The message being taken from the poll is not only that backing for a runway at Heathrow or Gatwick is very small, and there is no consensus, but also that there is more backing for a new airport elsewhere – or expanding another airport (regional?)

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David Cameron urged to reopen consultation on air quality at Heathrow

More than 30 west London politicians and anti-airport expansion group leaders have signed a letter to the PM over air pollution following Airports Commission recommendation to allow a 3rd Heathrow runway. Serious concerns exist about the level of air pollution around Heathrow, where it is already above the legal limit. The group of organisations signing the letter to David Cameron include the leaders of two councils, and 5 MPs, 3 Assembly members and environmental groups, say this problem has not been taken seriously by the Commission. There either needs to be a new consultation, or the government should rule out a Heathrow runway. The Commission’s conclusions are based on a highly flawed and very short consultation. The letter states: “Given the Commission timetable and the fact their main 350-page report was published just a month after the air quality consultation ended, it is clear that the Commission effectively regarded it as a tick box exercise and one that was immaterial to the overall report. It is hard to see how a third runway with millions more car and lorry journeys to the airport will improve air quality around west London. It will obviously make it worse. In doing so it will also raise the legal bar for expansion ever getting the green light.”

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Heathrow may oppose ban on night flights, and ban on 4th runway, as price for 3rd runway

Heathrow is to press the government to loosen the conditions attached to a 3rd runway going ahead, unwilling to agree either to a ban on night flights or on a 4th runway. These were two important conditions suggested by the Airports Commission, to make a 3rd runway acceptable to its neighbours. However, Heathrow sees the conditions as negotiable, and John Holland-Kaye brazenly said he was confident Heathrow would be given the green light to expand and that “it wouldn’t make sense” for the prime minister to oppose a new runway now. Even if Heathrow does not agree to important conditions. Holland-Kaye wants to have a “conversation” about conditions with government. It is used to trying to have “conversations” with local residents, in which the airport generally manages to get its way, with only minimal concessions. Heathrow does not want lose lucrative night flights: “We have a significant number of routes to Hong Kong and Singapore. That’s getting key trading partners into the UK to start their business. It’s very popular because it’s an important route.” Holland-Kaye said the airport would “comment later on the package of conditions as a whole”, but he noted that “we do have the ability, physically” to build a 4th runway.

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Heathrow boss rules out footing the £5 billion bill for road and rail works – wants taxpayer to pay

The Airports Commission left the matter of who would pay for the approximately £5 billion needed to tunnel a section of the M25, and other surface access improvements, vague. The assumption has been made that the taxpayer would have to fund this, though the Airports Commission suggested that Heathrow would be able to find the funding from its investors for this. Now the CEO of Heathrow has dismissed the suggestion that the airport foots the £5 billion bill for road and rail work if a 3rd runway is built. Huge motorway engineering would be needed, to have the runway going over the motorway. John Holland-Kaye has ruled out paying for the surface access work. Though the government funds road and rail improvements under normal circumstances, tunnelling the M25 and dealing with hugely increased road traffic using an airport 50% larger than at present are not normal circumstances. Especially in times of huge economic savings being necessary in public finances. The Commission’s final report said it considered the runway was commercially viable “without a requirement for direct government support. This remains the case even in a situation where the airport is required to fund 100% of the surface access costs.” This would be by Heathrow “raising both debt and equity finance. This finance is then serviced through subsequent revenues and refinancing by the airport operator.”

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MP’s Environmental Audit Committee launch inquiry into Heathrow 3rd runway impacts

Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has launched an inquiry into the implications for government commitments on air quality, noise and CO2 of a Heathrow 3rd runway. The Airports Commission, in recommending a Heathrow runway, said this should be subject to environmental and quality mitigation measures. This includes binding air quality commitments so that compliance with EU limits will not be delayed any further, at risk from increased road traffic for a larger Heathrow. EU limits for NO2 around Heathrow are already being exceeded. On increased aircraft noise, which would be unavoidable from a 3rd runway, the Commission proposed an aviation noise levy to fund mitigation measures, an independent aviation noise authority and a legally binding “noise envelope.” None of which really address the problem of up to 50% more flights, with the inevitable noise. The EAC inquiry is requesting submissions (deadline 3rd September) on whether proposed mitigations set out in the Airports Commission’s are realistic and achievable, and wider government policy. The new Chairman of the EAC is Huw Irranca-Davies, since Joan Walley stepped down. Other EAC members are Rory Stewart and Caroline Lucas.

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Slough Council secret deal with Heathrow includes gagging order, so it couldn’t fight for a better deal from Heathrow for 3 – 4 years, and only 5 hours free of night flights

“Colnbrook Views” reports that residents of Colnbook, close to Heathrow and due to be badly affected by a 3rd runway, submitted a FoI request to get the details for the secret, but legally binding, deal done between Slough Borough Council and Heathrow airport. The details of the deal are worrying. As well as finding out that Colnbrook, and help for the residents, do not feature in the deal, it has emerged that Slough Council has accepted what amounts to a self-imposed gagging order, unable to criticise Heathrow for the next 3 to 4 years,until Heathrow is granted a Development Consent Order (DCO). As well as a boost for investment in the town and improved access from central Slough to the airport, the secret agreement sees Heathrow commit to supporting the Council’s representations to Government to seek compensation for lost business rates, put by the council itself at up to £10 million earlier this year. In return, however, Cabinet is legally bound to giving public support for the airport until final permission, is granted. A Development Consent Order is at least three years away, possibly four. Residents expected that their council would have argued for “world class” compensation and mitigation.

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Cabinet ‘stitch-up’ on Heathrow: Cameron chairing runway sub-Committee, locking out ministers who oppose 3rd runway

On the say MPs left for their summer break on 21st July, the Cabinet Office slipped out the names of 10 senior Tories on the Economic Affairs (Airports) sub-Committee. This committee will consider what to do about a new runway. Chaired by David Cameron it includes vocal supporters of a 3rd Heathrow runway including Chancellor George Osborne and Business Secretary Sajid Javid. There are concerns that the committee’s membership deliberately excludes the Cabinet members (Justine Greening, Philip Hammond, Theresa May, Theresa Villiers – and even Boris). Also on the Committee are: Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Environment Secretary Liz Truss, Scotland Secretary David Mundell, Communities Secretary Greg Clark, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin and Chief Whip Mark Harper. The make up of the Committee is seen as indicating that David Cameron is ready to over-rule concerns from ministers who oppose the runway, and suggests the final decision will not be made by the Cabinet as a whole. John Stewart, Chair of HACAN, said: ‘It certainly looks like a stitch-up. It could be Cameron is going for a solution he believes will work ion the short-term but could backfire in the medium term because some of the Cabinet ministers who are against a third runway feel so strongly that it could be a resigning issue.’

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SNP, which won just 1.45 million votes in the election, says it will decide the vote on a SE runway

The SNP have 56 MPs, and each was only voted by an average of about 23,000 voters, which is a much smaller number than even Conservative MPs, and massively less than LibDems, UKIP or the Greens. Nevertheless. Nicola Sturgeon says the SNP will decide on whether a runway is built at Heathrow or Gatwick (they are not wise enough to appreciate no runway is needed). The SNP transport spokesman Drew Hendry said the party was “neutral” between Heathrow and Gatwick, while earlier it had been thought they favoured Heathrow. The SNP will “negotiate” with both airports, to see which gives them a better deal and they will vote for whichever gives Scottish people the cheapest flights, and “guaranteed connections with international flights” which Scotland has not been able to provide for itself. The SNP is aware that people in England, especially those to be adversely affected (or evicted from their homes) by a runway did not get the chance to vote for or against the SNP. The runway is largely an English matter. But Zac Goldsmith warned SNP MPs would be “crossing the line in terms of our democracy” if a deal is struck for cheaper flights for Scottish travellers in return for votes.  Mark Field, Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, argued that the SNP should abstain on a Westminster vote on locating a new runway in the South-East.  (Combined anti-Heathrow party votes of LibDems, UKIP and Greens were 7.45 million. SNP votes were 1.45 million).

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Heathrow campaigners provide the (suit)case against the runway, in holiday reading material for David Cameron

On 20th July, the day before Parliament broke for its summer recess, campaigners from national organizations and local groups opposed to expansion at Heathrow packed a holiday suitcase for David Cameron’s summer holiday – with material they believe he should read and view on his holiday before he makes up his mind on a 3rd runway. They were joined by the new Twickenham MP Tania Mathias and the veteran opponent of Heathrow expansion, Baroness Jenny Tonge. Organised by HACAN, some of those at the event were campaigners from Greenpeace, FoE, CBT, AEF, SHE , RHC and CAIAN. Items packed into the suitcase included “Heat,” a climate change book by George Monbiot; a video showing Harmondsworth; the most recent IPCC report; AirportWatch briefings on economics, noise, carbon emissions, and air quality; maps showing areas of London to be impacted by flight paths from a 3rd runway; a “No Ifs, No Buts, No third runway” beach towel; and John Stewart’s book “Why Noise Matters.” The case was then wheeled off in the direction of Downing Street. HACAN chair John Stewart said, “This diverse range of groups gives a flavour of the formidable opposition David Cameron will face if he gives the green light to a third runway.”

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Ciudad Real airport, cost €1.1 billion to build, sold for €10,000 to Chinese group, perhaps for cargo airport

An abandoned Spanish airport which cost about €1.1bn to build has been sold for €10,000 (about £7,000) in a bankruptcy auction. The deal includes the runway, hangars, the control tower and other buildings. However, the terminal and parking facilities were not part of the sale. Ciudad Real’s Central airport, located about 235km south of Madrid, became a symbol of the country’s wasteful spending during a construction boom that ended with the financial crisis of 2008, the year the airport opened. It was meant to be an alternative to Madrid’s Barajas airport. The operator of the airport went bankrupt in 2012 after it failed to draw enough traffic. Ryanair used it briefly. A group of British and Asian international investors, Chinese group Tzaneen International, tabled the single bid in Friday’s auction. There was no other interest. The receiver had set a minimum price of €28 million. If no better bid is received by September, the sale will go through. Tzaneen reportedly plans to invest €60 – €100 million in the airport and make it a cargo hub. The offer is for the airport infrastructure only, not adjacent land. It has a long runway and was designed to handle 2.5 million passengers per year. It is thought that Chinese companies want to make it their “main point of entry into Europe”.

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Heathrow gets 270 businesses to ask David Cameron to support building 3rd runway

Heathrow has got some 270 business people, many from companies with a clear direct financial interest, to write an open letter to David Cameron to ask him to get on quickly with building a Heathrow runway. They make the usual claims about the lack of a runway holding back the growth of UK business across the UK, and of limiting future investment in the UK. The actual connection between the runway, and all these good things, is never clearly set out, and the runway would in reality largely be used for holidays or visiting friends and family. The business people say in their letter that the runway would ” improve connectivity both within and outside the UK, driving exports and stimulating growth across the country.” Curiously, they never mention stimulating imports. They want the UK to be macho and show it is willing and able to “take the steps needed to maintain its position as a well-connected open trading economy in the 21st century” and “doing nothing will put Britain’s economy in a perilous position.” It claims “a majority of people in Heathrow’s local communities” back the runway. No evidence for that is given. Meanwhile Heathrow is encouraging passengers to send an easy-to-fill-in-with-no-effort postcards, to David Cameron, asking him to expand Heathrow immediately. Daniel Moylan tweeted: “Move fast on Heathrow? Before we work out the cost to taxpayer and passenger and the harm to residents? Got it.”

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Many thousands of determined opponents of new Nantes airport gather for mobilisation weekend before final court decision

Over the weekend of 11th and 12th July there was a massive gathering at Notre Dame des Landes, in western France, to show the strong opposition to the building of a new runway there, to replace the current Nantes airport. This “mobilisation” is the 15th that the organisers, ACIPA, have put on over the years. It was estimated that perhaps 15,000 people attended over the two days. People at Nantes are very aware of the carbon and climate implications of a new airport, as well as serious local environmental destruction. They also link the Nantes campaign with other huge infrastructure projects across Europe, that would be damaging in terms of carbon emissions – such as a new runway in the UK. There is a desire to link up campaigns against such developments. The gathering combined a lot of workshops and education sessions with fun, with music, dancing and food -but with a very serious message. On Friday 17th July the Nantes Administrative Court will rule on the last 17 appeals by opponents of the airport project, on several environmental issues in contention with EU law, such as on water law and destruction of protected species. It is thought the court will rule against the opponents,but they will appeal. These legal issues are all that is holding up building of the airport.

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Plane Stupid activists set up protest, locking themselves together, on Heathrow northern runway

At around 3.30am a group of 12 climate change activists from the group Plane Stupid cut a hole in the perimeter fence at Heathrow, and set up a protest on the northern runway. They set up a tripod of metal poles, and metal fencing panels, and locked themselves onto these. Some were attached by D locks around their necks, onto the fence. Others used arm locks (two people link arms, handcuffed together, inside a hard tube) to make it difficult for police to remove them. Police arrived on the scene shortly after the protest was set up. The first flights arrive at Heathrow from around 4.30am. Flights were delayed while the airport needed to shift runways. Six protesters were removed quite quickly. The protest was due to the recommendation of the Airports Commission that a 3rd runway should be built at Heathrow. Besides the serious negative impacts of the runway on noise, air pollution, destruction of Harmondsworth, huge costs to the taxpayer and considerable social disruption for miles around, the issue which has been glossed over is the CO2 emissions that the runway would create from greatly increased flights, many long-haul. The Commission itself was aware that a new runway would mean the UK could not achieve its aviation carbon cap, and make it less likely the UK could meet its legally binding carbon target for 2050.

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FT says after government statement on runway in late autumn, there will be a public consultation

It seems likely that the government will indicate its preference for the location of a new runway before Christmas (could be in November). A Whitehall source has indicated to the Financial Times that Patrick McLoughlin is then expected to set out a “clear direction” — rather than a hard and fast decision. That will then require a public consultation by the DfT. The DfT said: “The government is now carefully considering the evidence before making a decision and the secretary of state for transport plans to make a statement in the autumn to provide clear direction on the government’s plans ….Further consultation will be required as part of any decision-making process and to secure planning consents.” George Osborne indicated recently that there would be a consultation before the government made any final decision. He said: “Now we’ve got to consult people, let Londoners have their say as well and not prejudge that.” Maybe that’s a way for the Cabinet to try to resolve their internal split on Heathrow. A Treasury spokesperson later said consulting widely with residents would be expected: “You would criticise us if we didn’t consult on a decision this big.”

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Heathrow wants “discussions with government” to negotiate runway conditions set by Airports Commission

The Airports Commission recommended a 3rd runway at Heathrow, subject to a number of conditions (noise, compensation, local consultation, air quality etc). But Heathrow is not keen on these conditions, and now says it is “seeking discussions with government ” on them. John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said Heathrow “would have to consider” the demand from the Commission that there should not be night flights, and that there should be a legal prohibition on a 4th runway. The point of conditions is that they are, well as they say, conditions. But Heathrow says: “We will work with the government to make sure we have a solution that can be delivered. I am not saying today that we will accept all the conditions that have been put down.” Airlines would not like night flights, as they make long haul routes less profitable and problematic. Heathrow’s hope of getting conditions, all recommended for good reasons, removed or reduced will only increase the level of hostility towards the airport by its opponents. Whitehall sources say the government will state its preference for the location of a new runway before Christmas (could be November?) — but will then launch a fresh consultation.

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Surrey County Council leader says Heathrow runway would require 70,800 new homes and 56 new schools

Surrey County Council leader, David Hodge, says Surrey will require investment in infrastructure if there is a 3rd Heathrow runway. Speaking at the RunwaysUK conference David Hodge said that before a new runway is built 70,800 new homes need to be built in the local area surrounding Heathrow over the next 15 years. This area includes 14 boroughs surrounding Heathrow, including Spelthorne and Runnymede. This would also mean an additional 50 new primary schools and 6 secondary schools would be essential. He said: “We are not against expansion of either Gatwick or Heathrow… but we can only support expansion if the necessary investment in local infrastructure is put in place first.” There need to be significant transport improvements in the area for a Heathrow runway, including adding a 4th lane to the M25 between junctions 10 to 16. Also a new rail service to Waterloo from Heathrow, and more coach and bus links to Camberley, Woking and Guildford would be needed. He added that is not the only priority if there is expansion: “investment will need to go well beyond improving transport links.” [All this comes at a cost to the taxpayer – and would not be paid for by Heathrow.]

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Richmond parties unite to fight “deeply flawed” Heathrow expansion report

Conservative Council leader of Richmond, Lord True, launched a scathing attack on the “wretchedly predictable” Davies Commission recommendation for Heathrow expansion. He called for a cross-party campaign against a 3rd runway. Lord True cited failures to address noise pollution, air quality, security issues and a “questionable loading of the economic dice in favour of big Heathrow” in the “deeply flawed” report and said Richmond Council would never accept expansion in any form. Lord True lambasted the “contemptible” attitude of Davies committee members and quoted from a section of the report that claimed the negative effect of aircraft noise on people’s happiness was less than the negative effect associated with living in social housing. He said that was a shameful comparison. He called for a “fighting fund” to be set up to legally challenge expansion. Leader of Richmond’s Liberal Democrats, Gareth Roberts, was delighted to second a motion calling for a special standing committee to fight expansion. The LibDems want to work together on this, and Richmond will also work with other, similarly opposed local authorities.

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Elderly couple in Harmondsworth vow to fight Heathrow 3rd runway, which would see their home bulldozed

Armelle Thomas, wife of a 93-year-old WW2 veteran and Harmondsworth resident, is “incensed” after a Heathrow letter was delivered to her door 90 minutes after the Airport Commission’s recommendation. The letter was a reminder about the compulsory purchase order on her home – just 90 minutes after the Davies recommendation for a 3rd Heathrow (destroying most of Harmondsworth) was announced. The couple face their home being bulldozed if the north-west runway goes ahead. Arnelle says there is “no way” they’d consider leaving the village her husband “fell in love with” when he first moved there in 1964. She was shocked that Heathrow had those letters out within just 90 minutes of the announcement. Armelle said: “If they actually try to bulldoze, my husband – who by then will be 97 – will be standing outside and we’ll see what happens. We have no intention of moving. My husband has the right to die in this house and I promised him as much.” A promise made is a promise kept.” Tommy fought in World War 2 with distinction, and now in his twilight years, he is going to be turned out of his home. This plays on his mind all the time, and the stress is not helping his health. All Heathrow is offering is 125% of the price of the homes to be demolished. Their house prices have been blighted for years by Heathrow.

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Forget “vital business connectivity” – Air travel makes you happy, says the Airports Commission. That’s why we need another runway

The Airport Commission (AC) changed its arguments sharply between its 2013 interim report and the final document. Initially the idea was that there was a need for a runway because of a rising need for business air travel, and vital business routes. Interestingly, in its final report, the AC – realising that the demand for business flights is not growing – has switched to saying it is good for leisure travellers. At Heathrow only at most 30% of passengers are on business, the majority are on holiday, and the rest visiting friends and relatives (VFR). The AC says because air travel and holidays make people happy, put them in a better of mind and give a feeling of well-being, a runway is needed so we can fly even more than we already do. This runway if ever built would, unavoidably, be mainly used for ever more leisure trips. Nothing to do with emerging economies or connectivity, unless the business people help make fares cheaper for the tourists, and vice versa. Having an annual holiday is associated with greater happiness. Whether taken by plane or other modes of travel. Nobody will be surprised. People who are able to take holidays tend to be happier than those that do not. (People involuntarily living with the adverse impacts of an airport may have lower well-being and be less happy).

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Protester whose Harmondsworth home would be destroyed by 3rd runway, blocks Heathrow tunnel for half an hour

A blockade of Heathrow’s road access tunnel to Terminals 2 and 3 brought traffic to a halt for more than half an hour at 12.45pm today. The protest follows yesterday’s announcement that the Airports Commission report recommends the building of 3rd runway at Heathrow. This would require the destruction of over 1,000 homes in Harmondsworth, Longford and Sipson with a further 3,000 homes made uninhabitable due to excessive noise and pollution. Neil Keveren, a Harmondsworth resident, used a large white van to block both lanes to incoming traffic. He then unfurled a banner that covered the side of his vehicle to face the stationary traffic saying, “Residents Against Expansion – No ifs, no buts, no third runway”. The banner refers to David Cameron’s pledge prior to the 2010 election. His entirely peaceful protest was only ever intended to last 20 minutes, to avoid disruption to the airport. His co-operation enabled the police to avoid an evacuation procedure that would have caused further disruption to traffic. Neil Keveren made it clear his action was a personal protest, and was not part of his role as Chair of the Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE) campaign group. However, his action were supported by many local residents and the local MP, John McDonnell.

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Airports Commission recommends a 3rd Heathrow runway, but leaving door open for Gatwick runway if Government find Heathrow too difficult to force through

The Commission has recommended the Heathrow north-west runway proposal, and is adamant that option has the most benefits for the UK. It has left the option of Gatwick open, but says the arguments are very, very much stronger for Heathrow. Having delivered its report, the Commission is now standing down.

Airports Commission’s Final Report

Airports Commission’s “Business Case and Sustainability Assessment – Heathrow Airport Northwest Runway”

Sir Howard Davies’ letter to Patrick McLoughlin 

Some reaction to the Airports Commission announcement below

HACAN comment on Commission choice of Heathrow: “The final chapter is yet to be written – it’s far from the end of the story”

In response to the Airports Commission, HACAN (the main community group opposing expansion of Heathrow) says even though Heathrow has been recommended for a runway, the Commission has left the door open for a 2nd runway at Gatwick. The Government will announce its decision towards the end of the year. John Stewart, HACAN chair, said: “This is far from the end of the story. The final decision will be taken by the Government. Given the strength of opposition there is to Heathrow within the Cabinet, the final chapter could contain a sting in the tail. Gatwick could emerge as the final choice by Christmas.” There is significant opposition to Heathrow within the Cabinet, and from Boris and Zac. The The obstacles to a 3rd runway remain enormous: – Noise disturbing more people than any other airport in Europe – Air Pollution levels hovering above the EU legal limits – Thousands of people facing eviction from their homes – Millions of pounds of public money required to upgrade the roads network – And the prospect of the biggest environmental battle in Europe

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The Guardian view on expanding Heathrow: just say no. Guardian Editorial

The Guardian writes that the Airports Commission and most of the reporting of the Heathrow runway recommendation looked only at issues like economic growth, the alleged urgency of more links to emerging markets, and the UK keeping its place as top dog on aviation in Europe. A few voices were raised about the local “environmental” effect, noise, air pollution etc. But these “pale besides aviation’s contribution to the planet’s slow cooking. If there is a difficult question that has been ducked for too long, then that is the one about decarbonising the economy.” Though the Commission looked at carbon, their “emphasis … and the basis for arguing that increased capacity was not merely desirable but imperative, was on a …fairytale future, in which passengers double, under the auspices of comprehensive and globally enforced carbon trading.” This requires an effective global system in which the price of carbon rises from around £5 to several hundred £s which would greatly increase the price of air tickets. That is not likely to happen. The aim of the runway is to make flying cheaper, not more expensive, so people take even more flights. ” The infrastructure we have now is enough to speed climate change. “Transport networks need to be re-engineered for decarbonisation. But that would require some real blue-sky thinking, and of that there is no sign.”

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Richmond Heathrow Campaign response to the Airports Commission choice of Heathrow

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign is wholly against a new third runway at Heathrow. There is unlikely to be any net benefit to the UK aviation market or to the UK economy. Why? According to the Airports Commission’s own figures, a new Heathrow runway results in no overall increase in the number of UK passengers, business passengers, flights or connectivity because it would be fed by re-distributing growth from other UK airports – in particular from airports outside the southeast. Heathrow expansion would result in cuts to flights at airports outside the southeast: as much as 45% at Birmingham, 30% at Bristol, 15% at Manchester and 10% at Edinburgh. It would stifle growth around the UK and concentrate it at a single airport in the economically overheated southeast. This would be contrary to the government’s aim of re-balancing the UK economy. And the RHC makes also sets out its other key reasons for opposing a new Heathrow runway.

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Heathrow third runway unanimously recommended by Airports Commission, but with conditions

The Airports Commission has recommended that a 3rd runway should be built at Heathrow, but only if it can meet stringent conditions on noise and air pollution. Those conditions should include a ban on night flights, legally binding caps on noise and air quality – and legislation to rule out ever building a 4th runway [unlikely to be effective?] .The Commission has said their view was “clear and unanimous” that Heathrow’s plan was the strongest case for a runway, delivering the greatest strategic and economic benefits, and they hoped the conditions would make the airport a “better neighbour” than today.

The conditions are:

– A ban on all scheduled night flights from 11.30pm to 6am….- No fourth runway – the government should make a firm commitment in parliament not to expand further. Davies states: “There is no sound operational or environmental case for a fourth runway.”….- A legally binding “noise envelope”…..- A noise levy on airport users to compensate local communities…. – A legal commitment on air quality (details to be announced, compliant with EU limits)…. – A community engagement board to let local people have a say…. – An independent aviation noise authority to be consulted on flight paths and operating procedures at airports….- Training and apprenticeships for local people.

The government must now decide whether to act on the recommendation – by autumn, or before Christmas.

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Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airport community groups stand united against new runway decision

In response to the threat of a new runway at Heathrow (or very possibly at Gatwick, when the government decides on the Airports Commission announcement), the community groups opposed to increased aircraft noise have issued a joint statement. They say: “The announcement is bad news for all those who will inevitably be affected by increased aircraft activity, noise and air pollution and the associated effects on people’s lives and health as a result of a new runway. As groups representing hundreds of thousands of people already suffering the impact of changes in airspace use, or new flight paths we are very aware of the negative impacts of living under, or close to, a flight path. There has been insufficient and inadequate consultation of affected communities on the introduction of airspace changes in the past. There is little reason to believe this will improve when large numbers of new flight paths are to be created in the wake of this recommendation. The campaign to prevent further runways being built and to return the flight paths to their previously regionally acceptable routes will go on. The noise and pollution groups at City, Gatwick and Heathrow airports remain united in this cause.”

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Campaigners against a Gatwick runway relieved by Airports Commission decision, but aware Gatwick may still ultimately be selected by government.

Thousands of people across Surrey, Sussex and Kent will be relieved that the threat of an environmental disaster has been lifted – though this reprieve may only be very temporary. The Commission appears to leave the door open for a Gatwick runway, while hugely favouring Heathrow, considering the Gatwick option could be pushed through by the Government with less difficulty. There will, however, be no rejoicing from the Gatwick area: campaigners there are only too aware of the misery which will be created for those living near Heathrow. GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) commented: “We do not want this for our area, and equally we do not wish it onto others, for whom it would be just as bad. We will continue to make the case that no new runway is needed, neither at Heathrow, nor at Gatwick, nor anywhere else.” GACC, and all the protest groups around Gatwick, will be studying the report carefully and will remain on guard in case there is pressure to reverse the recommendation. A Gatwick runway would be an environmental disaster for the south east.

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Caroline Lucas blog: “Heathrow might have been his answer, but Davies was asking the wrong question”

The Airports Commission (AC) has finally recommended that Heathrow, Europe’s biggest noise polluter, should expand. The decision has been framed simply: Gatwick or Heathrow? Either new runway would cost billions of pounds and cause thousands more people’s lives to be blighted by more aircraft flying low over homes, schools and neighbourhoods. Caroline Lucas considers the AC’s failure to properly consider the option of “no new runway” is indefensible. The proposed new runway isn’t just bad news for people living nearby – it’s extremely damaging to our efforts to meet our climate change targets. The AC knows the CO2 emission from UK aviation would breach the sector’s generous targets – even without a new runway. There are other questions that should e asked, not just if a runway should be at Heathrow or Gatwick. Should frequent flyers pay more, the more they fly? The runway is not “needed” for the average family taking one, or even two annual trips. Should public investment, which would be needed to assist a new Heathrow runway, be better spent elsewhere – on local transport? With different questions asked, there are different answers – not involving another runway.

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Supreme irony of the hottest July day on record at Heathrow


Hottest July day on record as temperatures reach 36.7C at Heathrow. The previous record was 36.5 °C on 19th July 2006 in Wisley, Surrey. Roads melted and trains were cancelled. Urgent health warnings were issued and paramedics dealt with a surge in calls amid fears the hot weather could result in deaths. Wimbledon recorded the hottest day in its history as players sweltered in the searing heat of Centre Court. The London Ambulance Service said it had seen call-outs to people fainting increase by more than a third (35%) compared to the same day last week. Britain’s trains were blighted by delays and cancellations as Network Rail imposed speed restrictions on some lines amid fears the metal tracks could buckle under the searing heat.

And yet, as a supreme irony, this was the day the Airports Commission advocated building a 3rd runway at Heathrow, knowing the extra carbon emissions this will generate will mean putting the UK’s climate targets at risk. The heat wave is the sort of weather that scientists expect would be come increasingly common, as global CO2 levels rise.


Friends of the Earth warn that airport expansion will undermine UK climate action

Commenting ahead of the Airports Commission report which is expected to recommend airport expansion at either Gatwick or Heathrow, Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: “It’s simply not credible for the Government to build a new runway in the South East and still claim to be serious about tackling climate change. “Airport expansion will also have huge impacts on the local community, noise levels and air quality. We can’t preach to the world about stopping catastrophic climate change on the one hand and send aviation emissions soaring on the other.”

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Guardian: House of Commons majority for Heathrow
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian
Independent: Analysis of politics

Committee on Climate Change confirm aviation CO2 must remain capped – putting new runway into question

On the eve of the Airports Commission’s runway recommendation, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has told Government it has until 2016 to set out an effective plan for limiting aviation emissions. The Government’s official advisory body on delivery of the UK’s Climate Change Act used its 5th ‘Progress Report’ to Government to highlight the need for action on aviation, including constraints on demand. The CCC says that given the anticipated growth in emissions from the sector, the DfT must set out how it will ensure that emissions from aviation are no higher in 2050 than they were in 2005 (37.5 Mt). The limited scope for improvements in aviation technology mean that demand growth must be kept to no more than 60% above its 2005 level. Current forecasts of air passenger growth with associated CO2 emissions exceed this level EVEN WITHOUT adding a new runway. With a new SE runway the growth in passenger demand – and thus CO2 emissions – would be even higher. Extensive analysis by the AEF has shown that a new runway would make the aviation emissions cap (37.5MtCO2 annually) impossible to achieve. Ruling out a new runway is the most obvious first step for the Government to take in response to the CCC’s advice. Adding a runway, and then having to manage the extra carbon problem it has produced, is not an efficient way to deal with the issue.

Click here to view full story…     Recommendation 19 by CCC

Heathrow and Gatwick CEOs both say their runway campaigns will go on, whatever Commission recommends

The CEOs of Heathrow and Gatwick both say they will continue their campaigns for expansion, whatever the Airports Commission recommends (next week?). Holland-Kaye is trying to make out that Heathrow’s plans for a 3rd runway had been so substantially altered since David Cameron blocked them in 2010 that “the prime minister could defend a decision to change his mind.” (The changes are small – different location, better compensation offers, more attempts to overcome local opposition … same need to destroy communities, make areas almost uninhabitable, immense increase in noise and air pollution etc etc). Gatwick keep attempting to persuade people their runway is more deliverable than Heathrow’s. Both fear the report ending up on a shelf, gathering dust. Heathrow expansion is environmentally and politically just about impossible, but it is what the airlines, the industry and its backers want. Holland-Kaye said Heathrow would not give up pressing for another runway even if the Commission recommends Gatwick. “It’s not a binding report … we’d have to wait and see. A decision hasn’t been made and to some extent the campaigns will keep on going.” As one commentator remarked: “… the most likely final resting place for Sir Howard’s report is a dusty shelf, somewhere in Whitehall.”

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Boris calls for Stansted expansion as the best runway option


The Mayor London has renewed calls for a second runway at Stansted Airport to help alleviate the UK’s air capacity problems. Boris Johnson says expansion at there should be reconsidered as it is a better option than Heathrow. He said: “You should see the map of the extra noise over London that will be produced by a third runway, you should see the modelling that TfL have done on the traffic impacts of vehicular pollution. …One of the things that interests me about Crossrail Two (which will see trains run from Shenfield to Maidenhead, in Berkshire) is that it does open up the possibilities of Stansted….“The Airports Commission under Howard Davies was very precipitate in ruling expansion at Stansted and other options will have to come back into play at some stage.” Expansion at Stansted has already been rejected by the Davies Commission into Airport Capacity. “The Airports Commission under Howard Davies was very precipitate in ruling [out] expansion at Stansted and other options will have to come back into play at some stage.”… Mr Johnson said he would “counsel” David Cameron “very strongly” against building a third at Heathrow and “It is perfectly obvious to me that there is going to be an unholy mess when Sir Howard reports.

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Levy on frequent leisure flyers proposed to make airport expansion unnecessary

Plans for a “frequent flyer” tax to curb demand for leisure flights and make a new runway in south-east England unnecessary have been unveiled by an influential group of transport campaigners, environmentalists and tax experts. These include the Campaign for Better Transport, the New Economics Foundation, the Tax Justice Network, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth among others. In a letter to the Observer – in order to remove the alleged “need” for a new south east runway – they put forward the concept of allowing each person one tax-free flight per year, but increasing the rate of tax for people who fly frequently. The levy would rise with each successive flight. This would mean that instead of APD (£13 per return flight to Europe) there would be a higher rate of tax for frequent fliers. Their analysis shows that 15% of the UK population take 70% of all the flights, while half of us don’t fly at all in any given year. Rather than a new runway being vital for business, the reality is that it would be used for the better off to take more leisure flights (holidays or visiting friends and family). The proposed levy would mean the number of flights would be cut to a level that would make a new runway unnecessary. The authors of the scheme have also shown that this change to the taxation of air travel would also ensure the UK could comply with its obligations under the Climate Change Act.

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APD frequenty flyer

Big five EU airlines join to form new lobbying alliance – to cut taxes and regulations, and make more money

The EU’s 5 largest airline groups – Air France-KLM, EasyJet, IAG, Lufthansa and Ryanair – have unveiled plans to establish a new airline lobbying group (not yet named) later this year to present a set of common goals to European regulators. They met in Brussels to set out the initiative. Carolyn McCall said the new entity will be based on the “Airlines for America” lobbying group in the USA and will be “open to all European airlines.” The airlines say there is a “need for a new entity, something new and different” with real “traction”. They want to put on a show of unity and provide a united position on regulatory policy as the new European Commission works on its key aviation package. Carolyn McCall says the new entity will go “live” in October, will represent 4 shared common goals: (1). Development of a European aviation strategy, to have simple regulation, to ensure growth and cut costs. (2). Lowering airport costs through reforming the European airport charges directive. (3). Stopping air traffic management from striking, and using SESAR etc to make savings and more profit. (4). Growing demand for air travel by “removing passenger taxes and unreasonable environmental taxes”. Willie Walsh also wants to “impress on the Commission the risk of and impact of passenger taxes.”

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Zac Goldsmith unveils maps showing 1 million under indicative flight paths for a 3 runway Heathrow

Zac’s all party group of MPs has produced a new map showing where flight paths might be, with a Heathrow 3rd runway. Their map shows that hundreds of thousands more London residents would find themselves under new flight paths if the runway was built. Senior Tories including Justine Greening and Boris Johnson joined Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith in Parliament to launch a campaign alerting people to the potential impact on neighbourhoods across the capital. Heathrow disputes the map, and nobody knows exactly where the flight paths would be. Zac said Heathrow was “already the biggest [noise] polluter in Europe by far” and that additional noise was just one of the reasons to oppose expansion. Boris Johnson said David Cameron should honour his 2010 pledge of “No if, No Buts, No 3rd Runway”. Jenny Jones and the Green Party were the only politicians present who said no runway should be built.myself. Zac Goldsmith is aware of the environmental reasons why no runway should be built. However, he has chosen not to say this and go with the dubious assumption that it is just a choice between Heathrow and Gatwick. He commented: “I recognise by piling pressure against Heathrow expansion, I make it more likely that you have Gatwick expansion, but my first priority is to stop Heathrow expansion, it has to be.”

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Teddington Action Group prepare to sue Airports Commission over lack of fair consultation on air quality

The Airports Commission and the Department of Transport have been notified by Neil Spurrier and Teddington Action Group (TAG) of their intent to apply for a Judicial Review of the Commission’s work. TAG is a group of residents affected by environmental nuisance in terms of emissions and noise from Heathrow flights. They have taken advice from leading counsel, and allege that the Airports Commission’s 3 week consultation on air quality, in May, was rushed and insufficiently publicised. This meant they (and many others) did not had a fair chance to respond. The consultation document was a highly technical 200 page report, containing a large amount of technical data. TAG say the lack of proper engagement by the Commission in relation to the latest air quality consultation is unacceptable and local people should be consulted in a meaningful way on an issue that directly impacts their health and well-being. TAG say the 3 week consultation is far shorter than the Cabinet Office guidelines which recommend three months for controversial or technical consultations. The length and nature of the air quality consultation was widely criticised, as being inadequate and unfair. TAG also questions the continuation of Sir Howard Davies in the role of chair of the Commission in the light of potential conflicts of interest, as he has been appointed to RBS.

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Angry residents serve ASBO on Heathrow in flight path noise protest

Residents from a raft of communities to the west of London have served Heathrow with an ASBO (anti social behaviour order) in protest at the increase in aircraft noise generated by new flight paths implemented for Heathrow by their partner NATS. Members of a new grouping, CAIAN (Communities Against Increased Aircraft Noise) took their mock ASBO to Heathrow, to draw attention to the serious impact recent flight pattern changes are having on people across Surrey, Berkshire, and parts of west London. CAIAN represents local action groups that have joined forces to challenge new and altered arrival and departure routes imposed by Heathrow and NATS, without warning or consultation. The mock ASBO accuses Heathrow of “breaches of common decency”, specifically for running an airport “with general disregard for neighbours and the environment, that allows excessive noise for 17+ hours a day, and which contributes to high local air pollution”. CAIAN has a range of demands, including a moratorium on new runways until noise and pollution from the existing two are properly addressed. They will keep up the pressure, to get proper accountability in the aviation sector. There is widespread fury and outrage that PBN routes are being determined by airline profitability rather than any consideration for communities being overflown, who are suffering the consequences.

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Government will not provide a formal response to the Airports Commission runway recommendation until the end of the year.

June 10, 2015

The Financial Times has reported that it has been informed by a Whitehall source that Ministers will not provide a formal response to the Airports Commission’s recommendation on a runway till about “before Christmas.” The official told the FT there would just be a cursory acceptance of the report (expected in late June?) by senior ministers. It had been thought for sometime that the DfT would have to do at least 6 months work, considering the Commission’s verdict,before a final decision could be made. The Commission has left many gaps in its analysis, with many questions unanswered. The FT reports that: “Civil servants say they need to start work on any proposed legislation & prepare for legal challenges that are considered almost inevitable.” The decision for the Airports Commission has not been an easy one, because there are overwhelming arguments against a new runway at either Gatwick or Heathrow. The Cabinet faces division on the issue of Heathrow, with George Osborne in favour and other senior members deeply opposed. The pro- runway lobby has been complaining vociferously that a runway decision must be made quickly. Labour’s Mary Creagh has accused David Cameron of “unforgivable delay” on the issue, and putting party stability “ahead of the national interest.”

The reality is that there is no political consensus on where to build another runway, due to the huge complications that would be caused by the addition of a runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick. The obstacles are almost insurmountable. The work of the Airports Commission contains many gaps, but it has illustrated just how huge the problems are – for any of the 3 short listed options.

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EasyJet CEO, Carolyn McCall, again says there is no economic case for a Gatwick runway

Carolyn McCall, the CEO of EasyJet – the largest airline using Gatwick airport – has again said that there is no “economic reason” to build a 2nd runway at Gatwick. She believes it does not need to expand, because of a lack of demand from passengers. She would prefer a runway at Heathrow, as EasyJet and other airlines are “queuing up to get in”. They could make more profit there. Though the airlines want a new Heathrow runway, it is both physically, geographically, environmentally and politically very, very difficult indeed. Gatwick is also geographically and environmentally very, very difficult. For Gatwick to build a new runway, the cost would have to be paid by the airlines, which means flights costing more for passengers. As the budget airlines make thin profits (perhaps £7 per passenger after tax), adding on an extra £30 + to a return trip is utterly contrary to the low cost airline business plan. On dirt cheap flights, £30 extra is enough to matter. Even though easyJet is currently Gatwick’s biggest customer, Ms McCall said it had “never proved it can really be the kind of airport that Heathrow is.” Heathrow slot pairs can cost £25 million, but EasyJet got their Gatwick pairs for about £1 million.

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Gatwick Tory MPs warn of ‘political stitch-up’ on runways by anti-Heathrow faction in Cabinet

A group of senior Conservative MPs has warned David Cameron that he must avoid a “political stitch-up” that would favour cabinet ministers, and other party heavyweights led by Boris Johnson, who are campaigning against a Heathrow 3rd runway. Crispin Blunt, the former justice minister who chairs the 9-strong group of Tory MPs representing constituencies around Gatwick, told the Tory chief whip, Mark Harper, this week that cabinet ministers opposed to a third runway at Heathrow airport should “recuse” themselves [ie. not take part in a decision, due to danger of a potential conflict of interest or lack of impartiality] when the government considers the Airports Commission’s findings. The decision by the government must be taken in an impartial manner. The Gatwick area MPs are concerned that as well as Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith, both keenly against a Heathrow runway, in Cabinet there are also Justine Greening, Theresa May and Philip Hammond, who are openly against a Heathrow runway. The Gatwick MPs are concerned about a political stitch-up on the runway decision. They do not believe a runway at Gatwick is in the national interest.

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Patrick McLoughlin having final talks with Heathrow and Gatwick on their runway plans

Sky News is reporting that Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, is to hold a final round of talks with Gatwick and Heathrow in the next week or so, with the Airports Commission announcement expected around the end of the month. Mr McLoughlin is to visit both London airports to discuss the prospective financing of their multi-billion pound schemes as well as crucial issues such as the environmental impact of new runway capacity. The DfT has already drafted in bankers from Rothschild to help assess the deliverability of the 3 runway schemes. All the runway schemes would mean huge expenses, which are not yet clearly known, for the taxpayer – due to extra infrastructure required. Spokesmen for Gatwick, Heathrow and Heathrow Hub all declined to comment on the meetings with Mr McLoughlin. The date of the Commission’s announcement is not yet known, and there is speculation it could be late June, or possibly on the 8th July, when George Osborne delivers is Emergency (or Summer) Budget. Osborne said in a speech to the CBI last month that the Government would act swiftly to get a new runway built.

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Gatwick, Heathrow and London City Airport campaigns come together to oppose airspace change – joint letter to Patrick McLoughlin, Sec of State for Transport

Over the past year or more, changes to flight paths and airspace being introduced in the UK, and these have caused considerable anger and upset among the many communities – and tens of thousands of people – now affected. Many new groups sprang up, in response to the greatly increased levels of aircraft noise people were being exposed to. Now these flight path groups at Gatwick, Heathrow and London City airports have joined forces and got together, to show the DfT, the Government, the CAA and NATS the anger of residents across the UK to these airspace changes. They have signed a joint letter, being delivered to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, demanding that Government policy should be changed to minimise the impact of aircraft noise on residents. They also demand that the right of people to health, well-being and family life should be prioritised by Ministers over the drive of airlines, airports and aviation industry for greater profits. They are asking that Government should instigate legislation that governs and controls NATS usage of airspace, and that the CAA gives true consideration to residents who are affected, which is not the current situation.

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Fears Cameron may opt for Gatwick runway, just to avoid Cabinet rift on Heathrow

The Airports Commission is due to make its runway recommendation by the end of June, and since its recent consultation on air quality, speculation on the runway issue has become ever more feverish. The issue of air quality, in reality, prevents either runway being built – at Heathrow air quality is already too poor; at Gatwick, it would be illegal to worsen tolerable air quality for thousands of people. Speculation grows that perhaps, on some measures, the extent of the environmental damage at Gatwick might be lower than at Heathrow. It is still too high to enable a runway to be built. Now a large number of senior Tories and those in the Cabinet are personally opposed to a Heathrow runway, due to the location of their constituencies. Their constituents would not tolerate a new Heathrow runway, due to noise and pollution. So there are fears the Conservative government might try to go for Gatwick, in order to avoid internal splits within the Cabinet. Surely not a sufficient justification for devastating damage to a huge area of Sussex and Surrey, air pollution, intolerable pressure on surface transport, intolerable pressure on social infrastructure, intolerable noise burden over a wide area, huge cost to the taxpayer (not to mention raised CO2 emissions – from a government claiming to be “green”) – just to suit Cabinet members and avoid a party rift?

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Clean Air in London respond to Commission consultation – Heathrow or Gatwick runway would breach air pollution laws

Clean Air in London (CAL) has made its response to the Airports Commission’s air pollution consultation (ends 29th May). They make 2 key points – that either runway at Heathrow would cause aggravated breaches of the NO2 annual limit value, in 2030 (and perhaps other timescales) and therefore be unlawful; and that a runway at Gatwick would not be consistent with sustainable development, as it would worsen air quality. The Airports Commission expects the Heathrow north west runway scheme would mean worse air quality, (in terms of annual mean NO2 concentrations) at about 47,000 properties, and 39,000 for the Hub ENR runway scheme; and at about 21,000 properties for the Gatwick runway. For Gatwick to do this would not be consistent with the duty on Member States under Directive 2008/50/EC to maintain the levels below the limit values. Under Directive 2008/50/EC NO2 limit values must not be exceeded once attained; and where air quality is ‘good’, Article 12 of the directive applies i.e. Member States shall not only maintain the levels below the limit values but also “endeavour to preserve the best ambient air quality compatible with sustainable development”.

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Council leaders, representing the 2M group, say Airports Commission air quality consultation is “not credible or realistic”

The Airports Commission has published a highly technical consultation on air quality, with only 14 working days for responses (3 weeks). It is presented in a way to make it very hard indeed for non-experts to understand. Now speaking on behalf of the cross-party 2M Group, which represents 20 Councils, the leader of Hillingdon Council (Ray Puddifoot), the leader of Richmond Council (Lord True) and cabinet member for environmental services at Windsor & Maidenhead (Carwyn Cox) have complained to the Commission about their consultation. They say it is “not credible or realistic”. Ray Puddifoot said it is not credible or realistic to imagine Heathrow could vastly increase flights, passenger numbers and its freight operation, but with no extra traffic on local roads, or more pollution. He said a 3rd runway would increase pollution levels for roughly 47,000 homes and break EU NO2 limits. Lord True asked why the Commission is estimating pollution levels in 2030, long before the expanded airport is at full capacity, and road traffic is at its peak. Carwyn Cox said the Commission is “gambling” on road vehicles producing fewer emissions in future, and on a congestion charge zone which “are not going to happen”. Many of the same arguments apply to Gatwick too.

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Brendon Sewill letter in the Times, correcting some claims by “Let Britain Fly”

In a letter to the Times, responding to lobbying by “Let Britain Fly,” Brendon Sewill (Chairman of GACC – Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) corrects some of their inaccuracies. Let Britain Fly put out an open letter, signed by some 100 business people, wanting the government to decide rapidly on building a new runway. They claim that the UK “have not built a new full-length runway in the southeast since 1945”. In fact the Gatwick runway was built in 1956-58, and the runway at Stansted was revamped in the late 1980s. They claim that most of London’s airports will be full by 2030, but in fact, if the growth of air travel is constrained within climate change limits, Stansted (now under half full) is not forecast to be full until 2040. The letter also claims that we trade up to 20 times more with countries that we have a direct link to, but this obscures the fact that we develop air links to the countries with which we trade, not the other way round. The claim that Paris has 50% more flights to China than Heathrow is only correct if Hong Kong is excluded. “The truth is that there has been massive resistance from those who value the English countryside, and each time the problem has evaporated because airlines have used larger aircraft, meaning that existing runways have been able to handle more passengers.”

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Residents say Belfast City Airport’s plans to treble flights will cause intolerable and unacceptable noise level

Residents affected by aircraft noise from George Best Belfast City Airport say the noise will be “intolerable” and unacceptable. Under the plans, which are to be considered at a public inquiry starting on 18th May, lasting for 4 days, the airport’s own figures show that the annual number of flights could rise from the current level of 14,000 per year to 43,000 if the proposals are implemented. Up to 18,000 residents could be affected at a noise level which the UK government says causes significant annoyance (57 dB Leq) with the projected impact higher than the noise footprint of Gatwick and Stansted, where around 3,700 and 1,900 people respectively are affected at the same level. Local group, Belfast City Airport Watch, commissioned a survey that showed how much plane noise is already disrupting their lives. This showed of those living near the flight path 38% said plane noise was “very high” at their home. 20% said planes disrupted their sleep “very often” or “quite often” and 25% of parents with young children said their children’s sleep was disrupted “very often” or “quite often.” Belfast City Airport Watch said: “It’s quite intolerable for the airport to heap further misery on residents in the pursuit of higher profits when we already have an international airport sitting in a green field site with spare capacity just up the road.”

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Zac Goldsmith says Heathrow expansion would split the Cabinet with opposition from the very top

Zac Goldsmith was re-elected to his Richmond Park seat with a majority of about 23,000 – up from a 4,000 majority in 2010. He has always been very firmly against a Heathrow 3rd runway. Zac believes that if Heathrow is “chosen” for approval by the Airports Commission, it would cause a split at the very top of government, and a real problem for David Cameron: “If you look at the cabinet today, there are at least 3 heavyweight people there, Philip Hammond, Justine Greening and Boris Johnson and others, in fact, who are implacably opposed to Heathrow expansion … He’d face a split at the highest level and I don’t think a fragile government with a small majority wants to do that.” Zac also says giving the go-ahead to Heathrow would be “an off-the-scale betrayal” from David Cameron, who came to west London before the 2010 election and promised locals, “No ifs, no buts, no 3rd runway” – and that there wouldn’t be a new runway under the Conservatives. Zac has repeated his threat of resigning if the government backs a Heathrow runway. His resignation would trigger a by-election in which he could stand as an independent on that one issue. It would offer him the opportunity to get a lot of publicity for the anti- runway case

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Protesters stage silent air pollution demonstration at Heathrow Terminal 5

Around 50 campaigners have staged a silent protest against air pollution in Heathrow Terminal 5. The protesters wore face masks and t-shirts to make their point that the high air pollution levels in the Heathrow area should rule out its plans for a 3rd runway. The protest was just days after the Airports Commission announced a further consultation into air pollution at Heathrow, and a fortnight after the Supreme Court ordered the UK Government to produce plans by the end of the year on how it intends to tackle pollution across the country. The protesters at Terminal 5 included local people whose homes are threatened by a 3rd runway, activists based at Transition Heathrow and residents whose lives are disturbed by aircraft noise. Air pollution already affects local communities badly, with the amount of road traffic generated by the airport. It will not be possible for Heathrow to guarantee that, with a 3rd runway and an extra quarter of a million planes each year, and associated road vehicle journeys, air pollution levels could be reduced so they meet the EU legal limits. The Airports Commission’s consultation closes on 29th May, and its findings will be included in the Commission’s final report which is expected to be published in June.

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Airports Commission to carry out a new consultation on air quality impact of runway schemes

It is reported that the Airports Commission is now intending to carry out a new public consultation on the the impact of air quality of a new runway. It is thought that the Commission is keen to avert a potential legal challenge to their decision, if the runway would put air quality standards at risk. Only recently the UK Supreme Court ruled that as Britain is still not meeting EU air quality standards, it must quickly produce plans to limit pollution, especially NO2. The FT reports that the consultation would be a very quick, technically focused one, perhaps being completed by the end of May. It is not anticipated to involve any meetings with the general public. Sir Howard Davies is off to become Chairman of RBS, starting that job on 1st September. He joins the RBS board at the end of June. Therefore the runway decision was anticipated during June. If the consultation on air quality is to be thorough enough, and give those consulted adequate time to respond, getting an announcement by the end of June would be very difficult. Parts of the Heathrow area regularly breach air quality limits. Though Gatwick has less of an air quality problem, expanding it to the size Heathrow is now would risk breaching air quality limits – and the Commission should not recommend a development that would mean NO2 limits would be broken.

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Why this election result makes it less likely a 3rd runway will be built at Heathrow

Boris Johnson said in his acceptance speech after being elected MP for Uxbridge that he would join John McDonnell and “lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway.” John McDonnell, re-elected as the MP for the neighbouring constituency of Hayes & Harlington, had said in his speech that he expected the MP for Uxbridge to follow the commitment of his predecessor, John Randall, “and join with me in lying down in front of those bulldozers if they come.” This determination will not make it easy to get a new Heathrow runway. There are many other Conservative MPs such as Zac Goldsmith, Justine Greening and “big beasts” in the Party such as Philip Hammond and Theresa Villiers (maybe Theresa May too) who are against a runway. There would be troublesome and potentially embarrassing opposition to any runway plans. Labour MPs Andy Slaughter, newly elected MPs Ruth Cadbury and Rupa Huq all oppose a runway. Though Vince Cable lost his seat, he is replaced by Conservative Tania Mathias, who is strongly against a runway. Senior Lib Dems, Vince Cable and Ed Davey, who opposed a Heathrow runway, will be missed, but the picture one day after the election looks as if Heathrow will find it increasingly difficult to get expansion.

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Election results put Gatwick runway in doubt – so does surprise air quality consultation by Airports Commission

All eleven MPs elected for the constituencies around Gatwick are opposed to a 2nd runway. Most significant is the result from the marginal seat of Crawley (where a high proportion of the residents are employed directly or indirectly at the airport) – a dramatic win for the Conservative anti-runway candidate, the MP Henry Smith, but defeat for the pro-runway Labour candidate, Chris Oxlade (the vote was 22,829 against 16,303). This makes another runway at Gatwick look increasingly doubtful. This solid bloc of anti-runway MPs will make it difficult for the new Government to push through a new Gatwick runway without the support of some minor Parties. And the Lib Dems, UKIP and the Greens are all opposed the runway. Another reason why a Gatwick runway looks less likely is the surprise announcement on polling day by the Airports Commission that they are to hold another (very brief) consultation – on air quality. This is obviously the result of the decision by the Supreme Court that the UK must implement the EU limits on air quality. That may rule out a Gatwick runway, as EU law states that ‘Air quality status should be maintained where it is already good, or improved.’ A new runway would hugely increase the number of road vehicle trips, including lorries. Their emissions would be bound to worsen air quality and would thus be contrary to the EU Directive.

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GACC critical of Gatwick’s promises – unless part of legal agreements signed before any runway consent

Gatwick’s latest leaflet to those that live around Gatwick is full of promises but provides no guarantees and misses much of the details, as usual. GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has suggested to the Airports Commission that they need to make sure that all the attractive looking promises made by the airport are real, and not just part of their publicity campaign – to be forgotten when the airport is sold. The promises should not unduly sway a decision about a 2nd runway, unless the airport can be compelled to keep their word. The reality is that there is no method of enforcing the various undertakings being made by Gatwick, other than by legal agreements. However, any new legal agreement would need to be negotiated before approval is given in principle for the runway, otherwise all bargaining power would be lost. GACC submitted this fact to Crawley Borough Council this week, which seemed to be unaware of it. Signing binding legal agreements would prove the airport’s sincerity about its offers, rather than just using them for PR purposes. Gatwick is promising some compensation to a small number of people; it is promising £5,000 per house built for a Gatwick employee; £10 million towards motorway widening; and that landing charges would not rise above £15 till 2030.

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Why the ruling by the Supreme Court on air pollution could stop plans for a new SE runway

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Government must produce a new action plan by the end of this year for bringing air pollution within legal limits. A decision to allow another Heathrow runway could be legally challenged unless the Government’s new plans are sufficiently ambitious to reduce emissions of a 2 runway airport below the legal limit – and also leave enough headroom to accommodate the negative impact of a 3rd runway. There is only pure speculation on how it could be achieved. The court ruling also suggests that the cost-benefit analysis for adding a runway will need to be revised, as the Government has previously claimed that complying with air quality law would be too expensive. And this does not only affect Heathrow, but Gatwick too. Gatwick is keen to claim it does not have a poor air quality problem. But EU regulations require not only that poor air quality must be improved but also that good air quality should be protected. A 2nd Gatwick runway would mean local air pollution hotspots, with a risk of breaching the legal limits. The Airports Commission has a duty to the public not to recommend a project that would significantly damage people’s health. It would also be a poor use of taxpayer’s money to make recommendations that invite a legal challenge.

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BA’s CEO, Willie Walsh, says post-election indecision will block building of any new south east runway

Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG, the parent company of British Airways, has again said that there will not be a new south east runway. He has often said this before, but this time he sees the likelihood of political indecision after the election as an additional issue. Willie Walsh thinks that to build a runway, there would need to be “political consensus across all the parties – not just coalition partners.” He also warned that the cost of each of the 3 runway proposals would all be prohibitive. The expense would lead to higher landing costs, and airlines would not find that acceptable. Willie Walsh reiterated his view that there was “no business case” for a 2nd Gatwick runway, with not enough demand from airlines for it. He has said in the past that Gatwick does not have the same international attraction as Heathrow. He commented that Heathrow was already “the most expensive airport around.” The runway decision would be a political one, and with a coalition government looking to be inevitable, there would be huge political difficulties in pushing through an unpopular runway, with dubious benefits even to the airlines.

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Airport debate is silent on climate change (letter from Tim Johnson, Director of the AEF, in the Independent)

26.4.2015 (Independent on Sunday)

Peter Wadhams and his co-signatories (18 April) highlighted the gap in current political discourse about climate change. This is nowhere more apparent than in relation to the impending decision on airport expansion.

Shortly after the election, the new government will receive the advice of the Airports Commission in relation to new runway capacity. But while the commission’s head, Howard Davies, speaks as though climate change impacts are being taken fully into account, in fact the commission’s own analysis predicts that aviation emissions will exceed the maximum level compatible with the UK’s Climate Change Act if any of its shortlisted schemes at Heathrow or Gatwick is granted approval.

This enormous climate hurdle in the way of expansion appears almost totally absent from political debate. With a new runway potentially locking the UK into an emissions path entirely at odds with our long-term climate commitments, politicians will very soon need to face up to the CO2 consequences of sanctioning airport growth.

Tim Johnson
Director, Aviation Environment Federation    Link to Letter

Landmark air pollution ruling by Supreme Court could scupper 3rd runway at Heathrow due to high NO2 level

The UK Supreme Court has quashed the Government’s ineffective plans to cut illegal levels of air pollution in Britain and ordered it to deliver new ones by the end of the year. The Supreme Court Justices were unanimous in their decision, saying: “The new Government, whatever its political complexion, should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue.” This could have implications for a 3rd runway at Heathrow, as areas around the airport continue to be stubbornly above the EU legal limits. That is due both to air pollution from the planes in addition to the huge amount of traffic on the M4 and M25. In their verdict, 5 judges ordered the Secretary of State at DEFRA to consult on strict new air pollution plans that must be submitted to the European Commission by 31 December 2015. The EU Air Quality Directive demanded the UK brought pollution down to legal limits by 2010 or apply for an extension by 2015. But the government in 2011 said that a number of areas, including London, would be unable to comply by 2015 and instead argued the law allowed it to comply “as soon as possible”. The judgement marks a victory for the campaigning legal firm ClientEarth. HACAN commented: “This is a potential show-stopper as far as a 3rd runway is concerned.”

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CCC confirm UK air passenger rise of 60% by 2050 only possible if carbon intensify of flying improves by one third

The Committee on Climate Change has reported to Parliament on progress on the UK’s carbon budgets. They say: “Under the current rate of progress future budgets will not all be met.” Carbon budgets do not currently include emissions from international aviation and shipping, but these are included in the 2050 carbon target. The government will review aviation’s inclusion in carbon budgets in 2016. In 2012 the UK’s international aviation emitted 32 MtCO2, and domestic aviation 1.6 MtCO2. The CCC and the Airports Commission say a new runway can fit within climate targets, but their own figures show aviation growth exceeding the target for decades. Growth in passengers of “around” 60% above 2005 levels could only fit within the carbon target if there is an improvement in the carbon intensity of aviation of around one-third by 2050. The Airports Commission’s own interim report says there can only be 36% growth in flights by 2050, to stay within targets. They say any more growth than that should not happen, “unless and until” there are the necessary technology improvements, cutting aviation emissions. But neither the government, nor the CCC, nor the Airports Commission can pin down what these will be, or when they will happen. UK aviation emissions remain the highest in Europe. CCC and AC aviation CO2 projections to 2050

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Green organisations tell Sir Howard Davies that allowing another runway jeopardises UK climate goals 

8 NGO logos for Airports Commission letter

November 1, 2013      

Eight of the key environmental organisations in the UK have written an open letter to Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Airports Commission, to express their concern about the Commission’s “emerging thinking” that more runway capacity is needed for the south east, as expressed in Sir Howard’s speech on 7th October. They have serious concerns about how adding a new runway could be compatible with UK climate targets, and they call on the Commission to demonstrate how its recommendations will avoid gambling on our future ability to meet the UK climate target. The NGOs say the Committee on Climate Change’s analysis concluded that stabilising UK aviation’s emissions at their 2005 level could translate to a maximum 60% growth in the number of passengers at UK airports. They set out 4 key arguments why no new runway capacity is needed even if passenger numbers are permitted to grow by up to 60%. They also urge the Commission to retain a “no new runways” option in its deliberations as the best way of achieving the targets set in the UK Climate Change Act. The eight green NGOs which have signed the letter are: Aviation Environment Federation; Campaign for Better Transport; Friends of the Earth; Greenpeace; RSPB; Stop Climate Chaos; The Woodland Trust; WWF-UK. Click here to view full story…

Aviation now contributes 4.9% of climate change worldwide

Work by the IPCC now estimates that aviation accounted for 4.9% of man-made climate impacts in 2005. This contrasts with the 2% figure that is constantly quoted by aviation lobbyists, and 3% which the same authors quoted two years ago. They have now revised their estimates with 2 important changes: including for the first time estimates of cirrus cloud formation and allowing for aviation growth between 2000 and 2005. The effect of these is to increase aviation’s impacts to 3.5% without cirrus and 4.9% including cirrus. 23.5.2009  More  …

Committee on Climate Change.

4th Carbon Budget UK should commit to a 60% cut in emissions by 2030 as a contribution to global efforts to combat climate change.

Aviation emissions must be no higher in 2050 than in 2005, and to do this, all other sectors must cut by 85% by 2050 to allow aviation to grow by 60%

The Committee on Climate Change today recommended a Carbon Budget for 2023-27 and a target for emissions reductions in 2030 – halfway between now and 2050. The recommended target for 2030, to cut emissions by 60% relative to 1990 levels (46% relative to current levels), would then require a 62% emissions reduction from 2030 to meet the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act. The Carbon Budget says international aviation and shipping should be included, and it is vital that UK aviation emissions in 2050 are no higher than in 2005.  Also that, as technologies to cut aviation emissions are not readily available, other sectors of the economy will need to cut by 85% in 2050 in order to let aviation grow by 60%.  7.12.2010  More ….. . . .