Farnborough Airport opponents check in for 28 days of public inquiry

1.6.2010 (Get Hampshire)

by Jack Sommers

Farnborough Airport

CAMPAIGNERS both for and against more flights at Farnborough Airport are hoping
that new and upcoming legislation  could be  on their side as  a five-week public
inquiry into the proposals continues.

The evidence presented at the inquiry, which began  last Wednesday (May 26), will
ultimately decide whether the economic benefits of having 50,000 flights a year
at the airport outweigh residents’ fears over noise, pollution and the risk of
a plane crash.

Rick Kimber, secretary of the Blackwater branch of the environmental group Friends
of the Earth, who described the prospect of more flights as “an environmental
disaster”, said he was hoping the Climate Change Act 2008 might see the proposed
increase rejected.

Before the new government scrapped the third runway at Heathrow, it was ruled
by a judge  that the Act had not been included in the planning for it.

The Act commits Britain to have its 2050 carbon level at 80% lower than in 1990.

But John Steel QC, airport owner TAG’s lawyer, said in his opening statement
that the policy of the new coalition government coincided with TAG’s plans.

As part of the Queen’s Speech, the new government announced the Airport Economic
Regulation Bill.

The Bill calls for the country to pursue “a new vision for a competitive aviation
industry, supporting UK economic growth and designed within the constraint of
the existing runway infrastructure”.

Mr Steel told the inquiry this was aligned with TAG’s proposal to be allowed
50,000 flights a year – up from 28,000 – without building any new infrastructure,
such as a runway or terminal building.

He said: "The proposals are to make best use of the existing infrastructure of
Farnborough Airport. This is fully in accordance with government policy.

“The increase in movements would bring significant economic benefits to the UK,
the region and the local area, including Rushmoor.

"It would secure existing jobs and create new ones, estimated by the appellant’s
consultants, Mott MacDonald, to be 1,880 new jobs."

All sides in the inquiry have produced hundreds of pages of evidence and Mr Steel
said he was working the night before to include a mention of the Queen’s Speech.

Part of the reason for the new Bill is  a third runway at Heathrow being turned
down, which means there will be less infrastructure to accommodate the expected
surge in demand for business flights.

But Mr Kimber felt the scrapping of the third runway was reason to think the
appeal would go against TAG.

"We’re reasonably optimistic it’ll get turned down," he said on the inquiry’s
first day.

"It’s been shown that if the airport operates at the level TAG wants, it would
have a terrible impact on the local area.

"We’ve seen the scrapping of the third runway so let’s hope TAG isn’t successful
this time around."

The inquiry, expected to last 28 days, is  the second  in three years  concerning
the airport.

The last one looked into whether it should be allowed 5,000 weekend and bank
holiday flights a year, rather than 2,000, for which  the government ruled in TAG’s