20 years after Manchester’s 2nd runway, the forecast jobs did not materialise – about 1/3 less than forecast
In 1997 there were lengthy, determined protests – for around 6 months – involving tunnels and tree houses, to stop the building of a 2nd runway at Manchester airport. In the end the bailiffs the protesters (including Swampy) were removed and the runway finally opened on February 5, 2001. This is an account of the protests. The runway was meant to increase the number of passengers at the airport from just below 15 million per year to 30m by 2005. In reality, by 2019 there were 29.4m. In 2010 there were 17.7m. That was WAY below the forecasts. The runway was meant to create 50,000 jobs in the longer term, to add to around 45,000 – 55,000 jobs associated with the airport in 1997. The government inspector then ruled that even if the passenger and job forecasts were wrong, the impact on the region’s economy ‘would be huge’. In 2019 (just before the pandemic) the airport employed 3,500 workers directly and a further 19,300 indirectly – while the total number of jobs said to be supported by the airport was 45,000. All that comes to about 68,000 jobs, some 30,000 fewer than had been envisaged prior to Runway 2. ie. almost a third less. This is just another airport in which the predictions of thousands of jobs did not materialise.
Swampy and the second runway: 20 years since the battle which transformed Manchester Airport
They built tunnels and lived in tree houses during a six-month campaign to thwart the £172m project
7th March 2021
by John Scheerhout (Manchester Evening News)
Lots of photos in the article, here
This time 20 years ago Manchester Airport had just opened its second runway at a cost of £172m, heralding what was trumpeted as a bright new era for aviation and a jobs bonanza fuelled by no-frills budget airlines.
Civic leaders hailed it as an important milestone for a city with ambitions to become an international player.
Two miles of concrete carpet unfurled onto rolling Cheshire countryside, it came at a cost that was environmental as well as financial.
But it undoubtedly helped create thousands of jobs aimed at satisfying our lust for more and cheaper air travel.
And long before Greta Thunberg was born, it helped cement the star status of Swampy, perhaps the first celebrity eco-warrior.
Real name Daniel Hooper, he first hit the headlines in 1996 when he spent a week living in a complex of tunnels he’d helped to excavate to stop an extension to the A30 in Fairmile, Devon.
A year later, he joined a vocal band of protesters – a curious mix of anarchists, environmentalists and concerned local residents – determined, at least on the face of it, to halt the construction of Runway 2 on prime Cheshire greenbelt land to the south west of the airport.
Once completed, it was supposed to boost the number of people flying in and out of the airport from just short of 15m each year to 30m by 2005, a milestone which now seems vastly over-exaggerated, because in 2021, pandemic aside, it still hasn’t been surpassed.
The son of middle-class parents in Berkshire, Swampy has been back in the news again recently, this time trying to stop HS2 in its tracks.
But in 1997 he became the face of a six-month protest in a vain effort to stop Runway 2. He and his accomplices set up four camps with names like Flywood dotted around the River Bollin.
The stand-off between protesters and the security team brought in by the contractors – with the police trying to keep the peace in the middle of them – became headline news almost every night that summer.
The four protest camps were fenced off and, at one stage, no food was allowed inside, to encourage those eco-warriors to up sticks and leave so the diggers could move in.
That merely prompted sympathetic residents from near-by communities in Knutsford and Mobberley – many of whom were opposed to the runway and the noise and disruption it would bring – to bring food to the camp, and chuck it over the fence for Swampy and his mates, much to the frustration of the watching security guards.
It was over the same fence that Swampy’s mother, who had travelled north from her home in High Wycombe, threw him two new pairs of trainers to prevent him developing trench foot in the wet Cheshire mud.
It wasn’t all high-minded discussions about saving the planet around those camp fires.
Another of the eco-warriors, Denise Bishop, then 29, from Chorlton, famously became pregnant with her first child while camping out in those tunnels.
She only left her cramped 7ft by 10ft chamber because she did not want the difficult conditions to harm her unborn son and she was suffering from morning sickness.
Years later, she said: “I look back on it with a great fondness – the best thing that happened was my son. Our tunnel was the deepest one and it was difficult to cope with at times but I would never regret it.”
The protesters, among them anarchists, occupied tree-houses and built a network of tunnels. They held regular ‘non-hierarchical’ meetings although, officially at least, there were no leaders.
Attendees were asked to sit during those meetings as standing was seen as an attempt to ‘physically dominate’ others during discussions.
Shoulder-to-shoulder with the anarchists were local residents who had already been concerned about the noise of 747s flying over their roofs as the aviation industry started to expand and were worried that another runway would make the problem worse.
“I viewed it all with quite a lot of amusement,” said Jeff Gazzard, now 70, one of those who attended those camp meetings. “Even anarchists need a little bit of organisation!”
Campers scavenged the woods for tarpaulins and other materials and had to source food from the outside appropriate for vegetarians and vegans. The carnivores were able to get meat stored in what was darkly referred to as ‘the dead box’.
From Knutsford, Jeff was – and remains – a committed environmentalist, particularly when it comes to aviation.
He recalled the nights he spent at the camp were ‘cold’ and that the experience ‘wasn’t fun’, mainly because of the ‘aggressive’ security guards.
He remembered ’15 to 20 hardcore anarchists’.
Their aim was never to stop the second runway, he insisted, but instead to get publicity for their cause and ’cause the developers to spend shed loads of money’. The protests added about £270,000 to the cost of the runway.
“We were never going to stop this development being produced but we could raise awareness,” he said.
“In those days aviation was just the beginning to be an issue and climate change wasn’t an issue at that time. It was all about disrupting the countryside, more noise and local air quality. It predated the huge awareness we have now of aviation and climate change,” said Jeff.
“In the early days it was quite good-natured but the security company was increasingly aggressive as the months went on. There were some violent incidents on both sides. At one stage security decided that there was to be no food allowed into the site. Big mistake. It meant the local housewives came down and threw food over the fence.
“Looking back, I was happy to be involved. I did believe in the issues passionately and still do.”
In the end the bailiffs removed the campers, the diggers moved in and Runway 2 finally opened on February 5, 2001. It was the UK’s first new runway in 20 years.
It was the end of a long journey for the ten local authorities which owned the airport and which first applied to build the second runway in 1993 and, following a public inquiry, were finally given approval in 1997, prompting a summer of protest.
Environmentalists were supposed to feel assuaged by a £17m package of measures to protect the environment, a part of the total £172m cost of the project. Six new trees were to be planted for every one removed and two ponds dug for each one lost. More than 15 miles of hedges were to be planted or restored. New wildflower grassland and woodland were promised.
A 27 metre high tunnel was built so the Bollin could meander beneath the new runway, with space for bats, nesting boxes and mammal runs.
The airport told the public inquiry the new runway would create an extra 18,000 jobs by 2005 and 50,000 in the longer term.
At the time the airport estimated between 46,000 and 55,000 people were already employed in jobs associated with the airport. The government inspector agreed and ruled that even if the forecasts were wrong the impact on the region’s economy ‘would be huge’.
The airport would end up supporting around 100,000 jobs, according to the estimates.
Budget airlines like easyJet and later Ryanair moved in and forced other carriers like British Airways into a re-think. Some fights were being sold for less than the taxi fare to the airport. People all over the north west embraced cheap air travel.
Those pre-1997 estimates haven’t aged well, however.
Just before the pandemic, the airport employed 3,500 workers directly and a further 19,300 indirectly while the total number of jobs said to be supported by the airport was 45,000.
That’s about 70,00 jobs, some 30,000 fewer than had been envisaged prior to Runway 2.
Jeff Gazzard never believed the predictions.
He said: “It’s been great for the economies of Dubai, Florida and Balearic islands. That airport is for the 7.5m people who live within 90 miles of it and who use it as a springboard for going on holiday. People have a right to enjoy the fruits of their labour. I don’t begrudge people going away on holiday but there is an environmental impact.
“But, yes, it has created jobs related to its operation like air traffic controllers, baggage handlers and taxi drivers. They are worth having.
“In the future, all of us must take personal responsibility to cut our fossil fuel consumption and that means potentially flying less. Holidaying in the UK, travelling to our near-European neighbours by train and for businesses, video-conferencing are real alternatives everyone can do if we’re serious about combating climate change.”
A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “Being one of only two airports in the UK to have two full length runways has enabled Manchester Airport to deliver a wide range of benefits to the city, and the wider north.
“The extra capacity it brings has allowed our route network to grow significantly, particularly to key long-haul destinations. Over the last two decades this has allowed the region’s economy to prosper, by connecting the north to international powerhouses like Beijing, Dubai and major cities on the USA’s east and west coasts.
“As well as opening up new routes and creating jobs, the extra runway allows us to handle a larger variety of aircraft. Over the years we have welcomed a variety of special planes and visitors. These include the iconic Concorde aircraft, the Chinese President on his state visit, plus rock bands’ aircrafts including Iron Maiden and the Rolling Stones.”
See more about the history of the protests at Manchester Airport