Celebrities join petition against Birmingham Airport runway extension

2.12.2008   (Birmingham Post)

by Paul Dale

Comedian  Mark Thomas and the novelist Will Self are among celebrities opposed
to a planned 400-metre extension of Birmingham International Airport’s main runway.

The pair joined 1,000 protesters to sign a petition urging Solihull Council to
throw out the £120 million scheme on environmental grounds.

Campaigners dressed as pilots delivered the petition, in the form of postcards,
to Solihull Borough Council on top of a duty-free shopping trolley.

Dubbed Flyagra by the protesters – "the miracle treatment that really keeps you
up" – the petition was accepted by two Liberal Democrat councillors. Borough planners
will decide on December 15 whether to approve the extended runway, which is being
backed by the political leadership of all seven West Midlands metropolitan councils,
including Solihull, and could be in place by 2012.

Local authority leaders say a longer runway, which will allow flights to operate
non-stop for the first time from Birmingham to India, China and the west coast
of America, is desperately needed to boost the regional economy, attracting inward
investment and creating thousands of new jobs.

But anti-airport noise group Birmingham Airport Anti Noise Group (BANG) and Friends
of the Earth insist the extension will make the airport busier than ever and is
out of step with Government pressure on councils and businesses to tackle climate
change by cutting CO2 emissions by 80 per cent.

James Botham, secretary of BANG, said: "A decision to approve the runway extension
would usher in a damaging new era of aggressive expansion at Birmingham International

Joe Peacock, from Birmingham Friends of the Earth, said: "We know from the studies
by independent consultants that aircraft noise and carbon dioxide emissions will
grow if BIA is allowed to extend its runway."

He said the airport management’s argument that the scheme would benefit the environment
was flawed since the emissions saved from fewer car journeys would be dwarfed
by the extra emissions generated by longer flights.

A BIA spokesman said: "Forecasts show that BIA will handle 27 million passengers
a year by 2030 and an extension would account for four million of these. But these
four million would be very important, bringing wealth and prosperity to the region
through overseas investment and supporting regional business, commerce, industry
and tourism."

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Editorial Comment page 2:

Why airport runway protest has failed to get off the ground

It is difficult not to feel just a little sympathy for the environmental groups
campaigning against Birmingham International Airport’s proposed runway extension.

Try as they might, Friends of the Earth and the anti-airport noise group BANG
have been unable to generate anything resembling a vociferous campaign. With a
decision about the £120 million scheme less than a fortnight away, the groups
have resorted to not very funny sexual innuendo and support from Blist celebrities
whose connections with Birmingham and the West Midlands is not immediately obvious.

Comedian Mark Thomas and the novelist Will Self were among 1,000 people persuaded
to sign a Flyagra petition – miracle treatment that really keeps you up, geddit?
– which was delivered to Solihull Council by campaigners dressed as pilots.

When only 1,000 people living close to an airport where the immediate catchment
area must number over 200,000 households can be bothered to protest about a runway
extension, you just sense this is a campaign that has failed to get off the ground.
By comparison, protests against the Middle Quinton eco-town have been a master
class in motivation.

The reason for the lack of concern over the expansion of BIA is quite simple.
Most people accept that while the environmental impact of a 400-metre extension
will be limited, particularly as planes become quieter and cleaner, the positive
economic impact will be huge.

By offering non-stop flights to growing economies in China and India, BIA can
ensure that Birmingham and the West Midlands competes for new business against
the North-west and South-east of England where airports already offer this facility.

Those who would deny BIA a longer runway would also deny this region jobs and



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