News about the Airports Commission

Some news about the Airports Commission is below:

Links to responses to the Airports Commission consultation on air quality

The Airports Commission consultation on air quality ended on 29th May.  It lasted only 3 weeks (14 working days) and as well as being technical, it was not in a format that non-experts or lay people could easily understand. Let alone respond to, other than in general terms. However, lots of organisations and individuals did manage to make sense of it, and submit responses. The response by the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) was one of the most extensive and technical.  Many other organisations responded, making the point that air quality is a key problem for all three runway proposals. Adding a runway could only have the effect of increasing the amount of air pollution, due to substantially increased numbers of road traffic movements. The emissions from diesel powered vehicles have not reduced as much as had been hoped. Models of future air pollution have to make a range of assumptions, such as layout of roads, use of vehicles within the airport, proportion of passengers travelling to and from the airport by rail, and future improvements in vehicle emissions. The health impacts of air pollution are increasingly being recognised, and the judgement by the Supreme Court that the UK must work faster to meet EU air limits has been important.


GACC response to Airports Commission: Gatwick runway could breach EU pollution law

GACC, in their submission to the Airports Commission, predict that pollution levels around the airport could become much worse than the Commission forecast. They point to a judgement by the Supreme Court on 29th April that the UK Government must enforce the EU Directive 2008/50/EC on Air Quality. A clause in Directive states that: “Air quality status should be maintained where it is already good, or improved”  and limit values must not be exceeded once attained.  According to GACC chairman, Brendon Sewill: “The Airports Commission are seriously underestimating future pollution levels.  First they are looking at 2030 when the new runway would only be half full;  and second, their estimates of future road traffic are only about half of what would be created by an airport larger than Heathrow today. There will be around 100,000 extra cars per day in the Gatwick area plus a ten-fold increase in freight and commercial vehicles – all adding to pollution.” The Airports Commission expects the Gatwick runway scheme would mean higher mean NO2 concentrations for about 21,000 properties. There have been many studies of the adverse impact on health of NO2 and other pollutants from aircraft and vehicles, particularly for those with respiratory diseases.


Richmond Heathrow Campaign response to Commission’s air quality consultation

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign (RHC) have submitted their response to the Airports Commission’s consultation on air quality. They comment on the inadequacy of the consultation, and the difficulty for lay people in understanding it. They say that with at least 100,000 people affected by a worsening of the air quality resulting from Heathrow expansion, plans, it is not realistic for the government to approve such a plan. The various possible mitigations for NO2 “may not be sufficient to avoid delaying compliance with standards that are already being breached. This will mean that if expansion were approved by the Government, it would knowingly be planning to continue breaching standards without a realistic plan to put this right.” The RHC put – in plain English – some of their concerns about the Jacobs study, done for the Commission, and the things it has left out. Just a few of these include: the date chosen to assess air quality is 2030, when a runway would only be perhaps 35% full; much of the anticipated reduction in air pollution is from a higher proportion of air passengers travelling to and from the airport by rail; the cost of the necessary enhancements of rail services would be a huge cost for the taxpayer; health impacts, especially of vulnerable groups, have not been assessed. Richmond Heathrow Campaign response here.

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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”.  Clean Air in London response here. 

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Airports Commission rushes out new technical consultation (for just 3 weeks) on air quality

The Airports Commission has, at the last minute, produced a very short (only 3 weeks) consultation on air quality. It says this was not done earlier due to the pre-election “purdah” period when there are restrictions on activities such as consultations by government. The timing, shortly after the ruling by the Supreme Court, that more has to be done by the UK on air quality may, or may not, be coincidental. The consultation ends on 29th May. The Commission aims to make its runway recommendation in June, before Sir Howard starts work at RBS (joining its board at the end of June). The consultation outline is given in a cover note, with one main document, an appendix document, 10 pages of maps, and databases of backing data – over 280 pages. All to be checked through in 21 days, including a Bank Holiday. The November 2014 consultation stated that dispersion modelling still needed to be done. That was not included in time for the main consultation. The Commission has now found some differences between the two Heathrow options. It has looked at a range of “mitigation measures” to reduce the level of NO2, and considers whether these would be enough to keep within legal limits. It is a technical consultation, very difficult for lay people – who are not expert in the area of air quality – to understand.

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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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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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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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New briefing on the Airports Commission – why their runway recommendation is likely to be flawed and incomplete

Before the 2010 General Election, both Conservatives and LibDems had come out against new runways in SE England. However, by September 2012 the Coalition government set up an “Independent Commission” to look into the runway issue. Though the impression has been given that the Commission’s work is thorough, painstaking, and has assiduously covered every issue, the reality is somewhat different. A short paper produced for AirportWatch (very readable) sets out the areas where the Commission’s analysis has not dealt with issues adequately, including key social, health and environmental costs. Some examples are that the extent of claimed economic benefits of a new runway are based on an “innovative” – ie. unproven – economic model, which leaves out the cost of noise and air pollution. There is obfuscation on climate change, where the bald fact is that any new runway would almost certainly be inconsistent with the UK’s climate target for 2050. Air quality work has not been done. The paper concludes: “… politicians and others should feel entirely free to make their own judgements about airport expansion – based if possible on genuinely independent and unbiased evidence. They should not be influenced by recommendations from the Airports Commission. ”

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Some of the many responses that have been sent in to the Airports Commission consultation

The Airports Commission consultation on its 3 short-listed runway options closed on 3rd February 2015. Responses have been sent in from a huge number of organisations, not to mention thousands of individuals. Heathrow and Gatwick have felt it necessary to blitz the south east (and further afield) with advertising, to get people to tell the Commission they want their runway. What the Commission actually wanted in responses – other than the airports’ mass mailings – was considered comments on the 58 or so documents put out by the Commission, and comments on how they have carried out their appraisals, including things they have left out. They also ask how the runway schemes could be improved, or their negative impacts mitigated. The Commission will publish “all substantive, technical responses it has received” at the same time as it makes it recommendation on the runway some time in summer 2015. On this page, AirportWatch has put links to as many responses as possible – those which have been made public. More will follow, as we locate them …..

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Responses received:  The Commission says it received over 68,000 responses – 63,000 from “campaigns”.  Over 30 from MPs, 130 from local or regional government, over 180 from business organisations; over 40 responses from environment or heritage groups;  over 30 responses from academic groups; over 30 responses from community action groups.  Link

Committee on Climate Change writes to Sir Howard to say aviation CO2 emissions must not be over 2005 level by 2050

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has written to the Airports Commission (AC) in response to its consultation. The letter reiterates the Committee’s earlier recommendation that the Airports Commission’s economic analysis of the expansion options should reflect the need to restrain aviation growth in order to manage emissions from the sector. This in effect means that the costs of limiting emissions – which may be transferred to passengers or industry – are included in the cost-benefit analysis for each of the 3 runway schemes. The AC has yet to complete this assessment. The CCC is clear that the Government’s airports policy should reflect the need for aviation emissions to be no higher in 2050 than in 2005, this being the maximum level of emissions that would be compatible with the Climate Change Act. However, the ‘uncapped’ forecasts for national aviation emissions produced by the AC exceed the 2005 emissions levels under all three possible expansion options. In the absence of some unspecified policy that would limit emissions, therefore, a new runway would result in the UK failing in its legal climate commitments. The CCC letter says “Higher aviation emissions than 2005 levels in 2050 should not be planned for, since this would imply greater than 85% cuts in other sectors; there is limited confidence about the scope for this.”

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Revolving Door: DfT hires Heathrow PR director Simon Baugh


Simon Baugh, director of PR at Heathrow Airport, is moving to the Department for Transport to take up the role of group director of comms. Baugh, who has been at Heathrow for four years, will start in his new role on 30 March. He is replacing Vickie Sheriff, who moved to Diageo last year to become global comms director. Scot Marchbank has been covering the position on an interim basis. Baugh was previously director of airport comms at BAA. Baugh said: “I can’t think of a more exciting time to be joining the team or to be promoting the role that transport plays in driving UK economic growth.” He has been overseeing PR at Heathrow as the debate on expansion and capacity has intensified. This has included the launch in late 2013 of Back Heathrow, a ‘grassroots’ campaign aimed at garnering more support for expanding the airport.  [Most of the Airports Commission staff are from the DfT and the DfT is department responsible for the Commission.  It will continue its work on runways, after the Commission makes its recommendation. AW note.].


Gaping holes in Airports Commission’s analysis of airport expansion conceal potential environmental disaster

The Aviation Environment Federation, in their response to the Airports Commission consultation, says there are gaping holes in the Airports Commission’s analysis of airport expansion. These conceal a potential environmental disaster. AEF says the Commission ran out of time to complete key pieces of research on greenhouse gas emissions and on air quality. AEF is calling on political parties not to accept the Commission’s recommendations until all relevant evidence has been gathered and made available for public scrutiny. The gaps in the Commission’s analysis include not completing local air quality modelling in time for the consultation, despite the Commission’s assessment objective being “to improve air quality in line with EU air quality laws”. Also not following the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation that the economic impact assessment of expansion must include the costs associated with meeting UK aviation emissions targets (which a nrw runway would probably breach); and not providing any analysis of how noise impacts would vary if different assumptions were made about the location of flight paths.

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Detailed critique by Hillingdon Council of the Airports Commission’s failure to cover health issues adequately

In its response to the Airports Commission consultation, Hillingdon Borough Council has been highly critical of the Commission’s failure to deal properly with health impacts of a new runway. They say a specific Health Impact Assessment (HIA) would have been the best way of addressing weaknesses on health matters. There is no proper baseline for the health and wellbeing status of local communities. They say it is inequitable that existing airport-related impacts are not considered as a key part of the overall assessment of the three schemes. “There seems to be an implicit weighting for economic development and against health evidence.” Hillingdon say “it is unclear how local stakeholder feedback would be incorporated” on health issues. And “The Department of Health and Public Health England do not seem to have been consulted” during the Commission’s work. “Aggregating positive and negative impacts is flawed and inequitable. The negative impact of noise cannot be ‘bundled’ together with the positive impact of employment, because most often the negative and positive impacts are experienced by different groups of people.” “Impacts on children are not considered as part of this assessment either qualitatively or quantitatively. This is a significant omission.” And so on. A long catalogue of failures and omissions.  Response is at  “Equity Focused Review Report of the Airports Commission’s Community Health Relevant Assessments

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Airports Commission adds an Addendum document on noise levels to its consultation

The Airports Commission put out their consultation on the three runway schemes, on 11th November. But on 19th December the Commission added a document on noise, entitled the “National and local noise assessment addendum”. It was prepared for the Commission by Jacobs, as many other papers including those on noise. The addendum deals with Imminent/Future Aircraft Modelling Assumptions. There are tables indicating the noise levels of current and future aircraft; the latter must be partly speculative. Jacobs says these future aircraft types have been modelled by using an existing similar aircraft as a surrogate type and adjusting the noise levels as required, for arrivals and departures separately. The noise forecasts for the runway options partly depend on the noise level of the aircraft in future as well as a forecast of the mix of aircraft using each runway. There is inevitably a large degree of uncertainty in any such forecasts.

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Commission publishes new report on “strategic fit” for its consultation – on possible impact of runways on air travel cost

The Airports Commission has published another report to form the background information for its consultation. The consultation is on details of runway plans at two runway options at Heathrow, and one at Gatwick, and ends on 3rd February. The new document is entitled “Impacts of Expanding Airport Capacity on Competition and Connectivity – The case of Gatwick and Heathrow” and is by the International Transport Forum. It comes under the “strategic fit” category, and supports the strategic fit analysis in the consultation. By strategic fit the Commission means:”To provide additional capacity and connectivity in line with the assessment of need” and “To improve the experience of passengers and other users of aviation.” (Nothing to do with those affected by aviation impacts, but not passengers). The new document looks at possible scenarios of what might happen with either a Heathrow or Gatwick runway, and how airlines might react. While it is probable that both airports would have to put up landing charges, to pay for a runway etc, it is likely the extra runway capacity would reduce the cost of slots and therefore lead to lower fares. The extent this might happen is conjecture, as it is not possible to accurately predict airline etc behaviour in future.

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Public invited to Gatwick drop-in session with Airports Commission 6 – 8pm on Tues 16th December in Crawley

On Tuesday 16th December, the Airports Commission will be holding its second full public discussion day on airport runway proposals, about Gatwick. The first was about Heathrow, on 3rd December. The Commission has now announced there will be a public drop-in session, available to anyone who wishes to attend, from 6 – 8pm on Tuesday 16th. There is no need to have a ticket. The Commission says the purpose of this drop in session is for Commission staff to hear first-hand from people to be affected locally. Commission staff will be available to answer questions, and help people find the information they need in order to respond to the Airports Commission runway consultation, that closes on 3rd February. The main meeting during the day is by ticket only, as capacity is limited and there has been huge demand. There are no more tickets available. However, the Commission will be publishing a full transcript on their website so those unable to attend can read what was said. But everyone is invited to attend the 6 – 8pm session at the Arora Hotel, Crawley.

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Complaint to Airports Commission that ££ multi-million Gatwick & Heathrow ads & PR blitz is ‘subverting democracy’

Campaigners against a new runway at Heathrow r Gatwick, have attacked the multi-million ££ advertising and PR campaigns being mounted by both airports for their expansion plans. They say this huge expenditure is “subverting democracy” and drowning out discussion of alternatives – and the basic question of whether a runway should be built at all. A coalition of environmentalists and senior MPs has written to Sir Howard Davies, the head of the Airports Commission, to say the two airports are exerting “unfair influence” because of their marketing power and huge budgets for advertising and PR. There has been a blitz of large adverts in the national press and billboards or posters in prominent places, including Westminster Tube station and also close to the offices of Airports Commission. Heathrow has placed billboards as far afield as Newcastle and Manchester. One media buying agency told The Independent that the cost of both campaigns was likely to have exceeded £7m. Heathrow has also funded an astroturfing campaign called “Back Heathrow”, and repeatedly refused to say how much it has spent – and continues to spend – on this.

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Intelligible summary of the Airports Commission consultation documents

Airports Commission consultation launched – on its assessments of Heathrow and Gatwick runway plans

The Commission launched its consultation on the runway hopes of Heathrow (the airport’s north west runway scheme, and the Heathrow Hub extension of the northern runway), and Gatwick. The consultation runs till 3rd February. Apart from one main consultation document, there is a main document on Heathrow, Heathrow Hub and Gatwick. There are also over 50 technical documents giving more detail. A great deal to read through and take in. Sir Howard Davies’ introduction says: ” It is particularly important for local residents and their representatives to understand more clearly what the proposals entail, and what their consequences might be for the local environment.” The Commission wants to know if people have any comments on how it has carried out its appraisals, including methodology, and if are there any relevant factors that have not been fully addressed by the Commission to date. It is also interested in evidence and ideas about how any or all of the short-listed options might be improved, or ideas for mitigation measures to address specific impacts.

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Airports Commission estimates new homes needed for new runway – 18,400 at Gatwick; 70,800 at Heathrow (maybe more)

The Airports Commission estimates that a 3rd Heathrow runway could require up to 70,800 homes to be built locally to support the additional jobs created by the development. The Commission estimates a Gatwick 2nd runway could require up to 18,400 homes to be delivered across 14 local authorities, and it said this could be done up to 2030, with “land availability unlikely to be affected by green belt issues”. (Estimate of 30,000 – 45,000 homes by W Sussex County Council + Gatwick Diamond). More houses would be needed for Heathrow expansion than Gatwick expansion, due to more additional business activity following a runway at Heathrow than at Gatwick, and more from the airport’s north-west runway plan (up to 70,800), than the Heathrow Hub idea of extending the northern runway (up to 60,600). The Commission acknowledges that these upper limits may present challenges for local authorities, outlining that “many… already struggle to meet housing targets”. The only relief would be that the homes could be delivered over a number of years, and the pain would be shared between many authorities. However, Green Belt would be seriously threatened – not to mention urban cramming and loss of village character.

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Heathrow runway schemes to cost £3-4 bn more than forecast – benefits over 60 years hard to assess

The Airports Commission figures in their consultation documents show costs of building a runway would actually be considerably higher than any of the 3 scheme proposers have estimated. The Commission anticipates a Gatwick runway would cost £9.3 billion, not £7.4 billion the airport claims. The cost of the Heathrow Hub project (extending the northern runway westwards) would be more like £13.5 billion, not £10.1 billion. The cost of Heathrow’s north west runway scheme, destroying Harmondsworth, would be more like £18.6 billion, not Heathrow’s estimate of £14.8 billion (excluding £800m of surface access costs). Those sums would be for runway construction, new terminal and “all other required airport facilities.” The Commission says the higher cost estimates are due to “optimism bias and differing construction profiles.” The possible economic benefits depend on which of 5 scenarios is considered. This could be from £42-127 billion for Gatwick, from £101-214 billion for Heathrow Hub, and from £112-211 for a Heathrow north west runway,depending on the scenario (over 60 years starting in 2026).

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Manchester Airports boss deeply critical of likelihood of large public subsidy aiding Heathrow or Gatwick runway

The CEO of Manchester Airports group, Charlie Cornish, has protested about the likelihood of public funds being used to assist a new south east runway. He says: “Given the private interests at stake, adopting a special set of rules that favours the delivery of new capacity over the use of existing capacity, will have profound adverse consequences for competition and consumers in the long-run.” More public funds for London airports does not help regional airports. The Commission, in its consultation documents on Heathrow and Gatwick runway plans, does not give specific figures on anticipated public subsidy. But it comments there “may be a case” for some funding by the public sector. Equally, if the airport benefits from surface transport paid for by the taxpayer “may mean that a contribution from the scheme promoter to these costs is justified.” State aid rules may also require an airport operator to make an appropriate payment, if it benefits from a surface access scheme. “The Government would need to reach its own view on the level of public investment that can be justified.”

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Airports Commission assesses Gatwick’s runway would cost about £2 billion more, needing high landing charges

The Airports Commission’s consultation on their short-listed runway options contains a lot on the economics. While Gatwick airport has said their runway would cost the taxpayer nothing, and only cost about £7.4 billion, the Commission puts the cost higher. They estimate the work for the 2nd runway, with a 3rd terminal and all associated infrastructure, would cost up to £9.3 billion. The Commission’s higher figure reflects “in large part differing views of optimism bias and differing construction profiles.” Gatwick already has current debt of about. £1.5 billion made up of Class A bonds. It also has £300 million of revolving credit facilities. The Commission estimates Gatwick would need to raise additional equity of up to about. £3.7 billion and additional debt of up to about. £14.3 billion. “This level of finance is not unprecedented for infrastructure projects and airports. It is, however, significantly larger than the company’s financing to date and may be challenging.” Gatwick would also have to substantially raise its landing charges from £9 per passenger to up to £15-18 or up to £23. Like expensive Heathrow.

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Initial comments from GACC on the Airports Commission consultation documents

The Airports Commission has released its consultation. There is a “Business Case and Sustainability Assessment” for Gatwick (137 pages), and there are also some 50 long technical documents. GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) will study all these carefully in due course, but at first sight the documents confirm that a new runway would make Gatwick bigger (more passengers) than Heathrow today. That would be an environmental calamity. The consultation paper shows 30,000 people affected by noise from Gatwick, compared to 10,000 today (54 leq). And 560,000 aircraft a year compared to 250,000 at present. This would mean urbanisation of large chunks of Sussex; new flight paths over many towns and villages across the area, loss of tranquillity to AONB areas, gridlock on roads, and a worsening of the north-south divide. The Commission reckons that Gatwick landing charges would need to rise from £9 to £19, or £23 at peak – more than at Heathrow today. Would such a runway be used, especially with others like Stansted, Luton and Birmingham under capacity?

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Airports Commission consultation launched – acknowledging it lacks the necessary information on carbon constraints

The Airports Commission has published its consultation about the 3 short -listed runway schemes (Heathrow north-west runway, Heathrow “Hub” and Gatwick). The Commission, rather than themselves assessing whether a runway could, or should, be built – adding to UK carbon emissions, leaves that part of policy to others. The CCC (The Committee on Climate Change) has advised that UK aviation emissions should not rise to over 37.5MtCO2 per year, from around 33MtCO2 now. The Commission has had trouble trying to incorporate a new runway at one airport, as well as growth at other UK airports, within the 37.5MtCO2 cap. All sorts of assumptions have to be made. At heart, the Commission has conceded that: “The Commission intends to carry out further work to complete a fuller economic assessment of the case where UK aviation emissions are constrained to the CCC planning assumption of 37.5MtCO2e for its final report in summer 2015.” ie. They do not have the necessary information on whether a runway could be viable, with the necessary price of carbon in future.

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Airports Commission gives comprehensive & unambiguous decision not to short-list a Thames estuary airport

As widely leaked, the Airports Commission has decided against short listing an inner Thames estuary airport scheme, for further consideration. The Commission had intended not to short list the scheme back in December 2013, but were persuaded to give the concept further thought. The report’s wording is unambiguous. They say, to take a few direct quotes: ” we are not persuaded that a very large airport in the Thames Estuary is the right answer to London’s and the UK’s connectivity needs.” “To roll the dice on a very risky project, where delays and overruns are highly likely, would be reckless.” “…Commission has concluded that the proposal for a new ITE airport has substantial disadvantages that collectively outweigh its potential benefits. Cumulative obstacles to delivery, high costs and uncertainties in relation to its economic and strategic benefits contribute to an assessment that an ITE airport proposal does not represent a credible option for short-listing.” And “…if UK carbon emissions are to be kept within the overall cap, concentrating a very high number of flights in one location could limit the scope for growth elsewhere and hence reduce the overall diversity of the UK airports system.” So a very definite NO.

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Boris Johnson accused of ‘lying’ in airport row

Boris Johnson has been called a liar and a conspiracy theorist by the head of Britain’s airport commission, as the row over airport expansion continues. Sir Howard Davies rejected the Thames Estuary scheme, for a long list of persuasive reasons.

Boris’s comments prompted an angry response from Sir Howard, who said that Mr Johnson was lying about their phone call.

(Extracts from Times article):

“He’s said all kinds of things about what I said to him yesterday, most of them are actually untrue,” Sir Howard told The Times.

“I am afraid the truth is he thinks that he will best mobilise opposition to Heathrow if he says, ‘When they say third runway they really mean four’, and it is not true. It just is wrong.”

Sir Howard said that Mr Johnson’s claim that the commission’s ruling had been influenced by Whitehall was a “complete lie”. He added that there was “absolutely no pressure on this from the civil service or the government”.

He said that the mayor’s reaction was “disappointing” after he and four colleagues had spent a “huge amount of time on this for nothing — we’ve no interest in this whatsoever, we’re doing all of this pro bono”.

Boris then hit back (4.9.2014) saying – in the Times – that his handwritten notes (presumably made during their phone call) which it said proved that Sir Howard Davies had told him a second commission would be needed in 2020.

“What is clear from that note and my recollection of the conversation is that Howard talked about a second runway at Gatwick or a third runway at Heathrow now and then a further runway, and a further review as early as 2020,” he said.   Link  Times £

Boris produces TfL report on estuary airport, saying Sir Howard & the Commission “must” short list it

Boris remains desperate to get his fanciful plans for a Thames Estuary airport short listed by the Airports Commission, which has repeatedly found it would not be a realistic option. The Commission’s verdict on inclusion (or not) of the estuary scheme, in the airport plans to be taken forward for detailed consideration -and public consultation – is expected next month. In an 11th hour attempt to persuade the Commission to keep it in, Boris has got TfL to do yet another report, pushing the scheme and making out that is imperative. The report is called “Gateway to our Future”, is a good example of an attitude towards encouraging and facilitating growth, and more growth, in the manner of the cancer cell – regardless of what damage that never-ending growth has on other things. The report goes big on the numbers of jobs created, the need for London to grow into an even more massive city, for it to have a vast airport (as if London did not already have the largest airport for international passengers in the world)…. and so on. Says Sir Howard “must” include it. Boris’ aim is to bamboozle the Commission and Sir Howard into including his scheme. …. Regardless of huge volumes of evidence recently produced, showing just how unrealistic – and damaging – an estuary airport would be. Boris the bully?

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Four Inner Thames estuary airport studies for Airports Commission finally kill off “Boris Island”

The Airports Commission has now published all four of the studies it has commissioned on an Inner Thames Estuary (ITE) airport. These reports are on environmental impacts, operational feasibility and attitudes to moving to an estuary airport, socio-economic impacts, and surface access. The first report, on environmental impacts was utterly damning, confirming the massive extent of the harm done to highly conserved habitats and their wildlife, and the near impossibility of successfully moving the wildlife elsewhere. Now the report on the feasibility of moving the airport shows the problems of flood risk, fog, wind direction, bird strike, explosives on the SS Montgomery and the Isle of Grain gas terminal – with many practically insurmountable. The report on socio-economic impacts demonstrates that aeronautical charges would have to be very high to pay for the airport, and be too high to compete with Dubai etc. Heathrow would have to close, at immense cost. The surface access report shows the cost of even minimal rail services to get most passengers to the airport would be £10 billion and more like £27 billion for a good service. The cost of road improvements would be £10 to £17 billion. The reports’ conclusions now make it nearly inconceivable that a Thames Estuary Airport will ever be constructed.

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Airports Commission publishes new discussion document – a call for evidence on “Delivering new runway capacity”

The Airports Commission has published its 7th Discussion Paper, “Delivering new runway capacity: call for evidence.” The deadline for comment is 15th August. The paper explores: – legal and planning issues surrounding runway capacity; engagement with local communities including compensation and mitigation; and the role of the state. The Commission welcomes feedback on these issues, to help in its deliberations. The paper sets out the two main routes through planning that a runway proposal could take, either through the NSIP (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project) route, or through a Hybrid Bill in Parliament. The paper also raises issues such as how decisions on associated housing should be dealt with; it considers how consultation can best be carried out to be effective; it asks to what extent – if at all – the State should subsidise an airport, without falling foul of European regulations on state aid; and likewise on spending tax payers’ money on surface transport, that mainly benefits an airport and its users. The Commission recognises the importance of noise, and will use multiple contours for LAeq and Lden as well as N70 daytime and N60 night ‘number above’ contours.

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Airports Commission publishes “Environmental Impacts” report on Thames Estuary airport, for comment

The Airports Commission has undertaken to commission studies to assess whether a Thames Estuary airport should be short-listed, with the 3 schemes (Heathrow airport, Heathrow Hub, and Gatwick airport) to Phase 2 – for detailed consideration. These studies would be published in July, and accordingly, now the first study has been produced. It is on Environmental Impacts, and it was carried out by Jacobs Consultancy. The report is and is over 200 pages long, and appears to be thorough. It is clear that the extent of the environmental damage done by an airport would be huge, and the mitigation measures needed would be on a scale not seen before in Europe, if such mitigation was possible. It also stresses that, to allow this degree of environmental harm, “the Secretary of State for Transport would need to be certain that no alternative solutions existed, had considered the best scientific knowledge and taken into account the representations of Natural England and Environment Agency. If this test is passed it would need to be demonstrated that the proposals were needed for Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public interest (IROPI).” The Commission invites comment on whether the report contains errors, or if anything has been omitted, by 8th August.

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New UK runway consent unlikely before March 2020 at the earliest, due to necessary National Policy Statement etc

Speaking at the RunwaysUK Surface Access debate on 2nd June, Oliver Mulvey of the Airports Commission Secretariat confirmed that final go-ahead by the government for any new runway would take at least a year following publication of the Commission’s final report after the General Election in 2015. Planning consent for a new runway is unlikely to come before March 2020 (with an election in May 2020) despite government efforts to streamline the controversial planning process using the Airports Commission. It would take the new government at least a year to produce the necessary National Policy Statement on runways. It might take 2 years to agree the NPS. After that, Mr Mulvey confirmed there are 2 possible routes: “The first is a planning application under the 2008 Planning Act. The other is the Hybrid Bill route, as for HS2. Both have their own risk and costs associated with them. ….All our dates show the middle of the next decade [2025] as the earliest a new runway could open.” The planning process for a NSIP (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project) – which a runway would be – is itself a long process.

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Airports Commission publishes discussion on the UK’s existing regional airport capacity

The Airports Commission is calling for evidence on the connectivity and business models of the UK’s existing airport capacity. It has released a discussion paper – its 6th – entitled “Utilisation of the UK’s Existing Airport Capacity” which considers the national aviation picture from which the Commission is considering the shortlisted options for additional capacity in London and the south east. This call for evidence focuses on the domestic and international connectivity provided by regional airports and airports serving London and the south east other than Heathrow and Gatwick, and considers what recommendations the Commission could usefully make to shape this national picture. It says all airports other than Gatwick and Heathrow are critical to the Commission’s analysis, and they will continue to play a crucial national role, especially at a time when the major London airports are operating very close to capacity. The discussion document looks at “connectivity trends at these airports, how the business models of these airports are developing and whether the connectivity provided by these airports can be enhanced.” Deadline for comment is 25th July.

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Airports Commission publishes final version of its Appraisal Framework for short-listed runway schemes

April 2, 2014

The Airports Commission has published its final Appraisal Framework which is the document it will use to assess the 3 short-listed options for one net new additional runway. There was a consultation draft of the appraisal framework, in January. The Appraisal Framework sets out how the Commission expects the runway scheme designs to be developed, and how the schemes will be appraised by the Commission. The deadline for scheme submissions is now 14th May (not 9th). The Appraisal Framework has a list of “sift criteria categories” which are: strategic fit, economy, surface access, environment, people, cost, operational viability, and delivery. Within these categories are a list of “appraisal modules” with things like “noise, air quality, biodiversity, carbon, water and flood risk, and place” under environment. The Commission hopes “The objectives conform to the principles of mitigating and adapting to climate change and achieving good design, and they should ensure that schemes balance national, local and commercial interests.” It adds that ” it is unlikely that proposals will meet each objective to an equal degree and that an element of ‘trade off’ between objectives might therefore be required.”

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Concerns about the effectiveness of a new aviation noise authority – and the public’s trust in it

March 4, 2014

In its interim report published on 17th December 2013, the Airports Commission recommended to government “… the establishment of an Independent Noise Authority to provide expert and impartial advice about the noise impacts of aviation and to facilitate the delivery of future improvements to airspace operations.” GACC – the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign – has responded to this suggestion with a lot of caveats. GACC would welcome the authority if its main purpose is to reduce aircraft noise, but not if its main purpose is to persuade local residents to relax their opposition to a new runway at Gatwick. Residents want the noise to be reduced, not ‘mitigating’, and not ‘reducing the number of people affected’ if that means merely making noise worse for fewer people. . There have been years of unsatisfactory complaints mechanisms on aircraft noise, and also of broken assurances from the aviation industry. “A single point for complaints, an aircraft noise ombudsman with power to order improvement or compensation, would be welcome. But we do not see this in the recommendations of the Commission’s Interim Report.” There are fears that the new body will be “long grass into which difficult issues could be consigned.” A body designed to smooth the path of a new runway, whether at Gatwick or elsewhere would be vigorously opposed.

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The environmental implications of the Airports Commission’s backing for a new south-east runway

February 12, 2014

In a recent blog, Tim Johnson (Director of the Aviation Environment Federation) says of the current pressure to build another south east runway, that the environmental implications need to be assessed very carefully indeed, before any consent is considered. Aircraft noise remains the principal source of community conflict with airports. Noise does not merely cause annoyance, but there is also growing evidence supporting a correlation between aviation noise and ill health. There is also an established relationship between air quality and health and the EU’s legal limits mean that any expansion plans must guarantee the limits will not be breached. Aviation’s contribution to climate change remains one of the fasting growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. UK aviation emissions already contribute around 6% of our total emissions with that proportion set to grow to 25% by 2050 (even if aviation emissions are maintained at 2005 levels). Unfortunately the Airports Commission has reached a decision on the need for a new runway before it has made an appraisal of the local issues. It is unfortunate that the Commission has made the mistake of viewing climate change, as well as local impacts of noise and air pollution as mere afterthoughts to their interim conclusions.     Click here to view full story…



Presentation by Tim Johnson, Director of AEF, at the recent RunwaysUK conference

Tim Johnson speaking at RunwaysUK 2014

This is the video of the presentation by Tim Johnson, (Director of AEF – the Aviation Environment Federation) at the recent RunwaysUK conference, on 16th January. 14 minutes of important environmental information (noise, carbon, air pollution, biodiversity, impacts on local communities) and valuable common sense.  It sums up concisely why a new runway could not be built and used, even keeping within the current Committee on Climate Change guidelines.  If a new runway is built in the south east, it will mean growth having to be limited retrospectively at other, regional, airports across the UK.  Increasing the north-south divide.  Well worth watching.

Tim was the only speaker on environmental matters at the conference. Almost all others speaking were in favour of a new runway. The other videos from the conference are at


Scale of taxpayer contribution needed for Heathrow or Gatwick runways shown up in KPMG report for Airports Commission

January 20, 2014

A report dated December 2013 by accountants, KPMG, for the Airports Commission, says a 3rd runway at Heathrow could require £11.5bn of government support, (ie. money from the taxpayer) while a 2nd runway at Gatwick may need as much as £17.7bn of taxpayer contributions. An airport in the Thames Estuary would need even more from the taxpayer – maybe £64 billion. The report contradict claims by airport operators that an extra runway could be financed either exclusively or predominantly by the private sector. Gatwick has said it could build a 2nd runway for £5bn to £9bn with no government aid. Heathrow has raised the prospect of £4bn to £6bn of taxpayer support to improve rail and road links, but has argued that a 3rd runway, at a cost of £17bn, would be largely funded by the private sector. The KPMG analysis also highlights the potential burden of building a new runway on passengers, who would pay higher ticket prices. KPMG says these would have to rise by 136% at Gatwick to repay the money borrowed. That would mean charges at Gatwick rising by 2.5% above inflation every year from 2019 to 2050. At Heathrow charges would need to rise by 13% initially and then by 2.5% above inflation. Repaying the money takes till 2050. Unless charges for passengers rise enough, the public (many of whom do not fly) will have to stump up the funds.     Click here to view full story…


Airports Commission has published 4 sets of airport level passenger forecasts 2011 to 2050

January 20, 2014

The Airports Commission is basing its advice to the government, that a new runway is needed over coming decades (not in the short term) on future passenger forecasts. In its Interim Report, on 17th December, the Commission set out its thinking on forecasts, with and without more runway capacity (no new runways, or one or two more) both with current theoretical constraints like the EU Emissions Trading System, and with more stringent controls to actually attempt to limit UK aviation emissions to their 2005 level, by 2050 – though allowing them to rise higher than that level in the interim. The Commission has now released its forecasts for its 4 scenarios, a matrix of carbon traded and carbon capped, with capacity constrained by no new runway, and with a new runway. They have also published estimates for Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Schiphol airports, from 2011 to 2050. At the extremes the forecasts range from UK air passengers by 2050 being between 178% to 199% higher in 2050 than in 2013. The figures range, for Heathrow, from passengers being 127% to 195% higher in 2050 than in 2013. For Gatwick the forecasts range from 136% to 153% higher in 2050 than in 2013.      Click here to view full story…


Airports Commission now consulting on Thames estuary airport options – deadlines 14th February and 23rd May

January 18, 2014

On 16th January the Airports Commission published its consultations on Thames estuary airport options. It did not short-list an estuary option, in its interim report on 17th December. Now there will be a first consultation, ending on 14th February on four options in the inner estuary. The Commission are asking for comments on its current position on the proposed terms of reference, especially if they contain gaps or weaknesses and whether other specific analyses need to be undertaken. There will be a second deadline date, ending on 23rd May, on an inner Thames proposal in which respondents are invited to submit analysis, evidence, and additional research or comments. The Commission says this will give sufficient time to ensure that appropriate evidence can be considered to inform the final study outputs before the studies are concluded and published. The Commission says it “expects to procure expert assistance from consultants in environmental appraisal and technical support; in the provision of engineering, airport operations and logistics consultancy and in the provision of economic modelling, commercial and financial appraisal.” Presumably at public expense (the Commission has a budget of £20.35 million over 4 years, from DfT). The Commission expects to be in a position to publish many of the study outputs by July 2014, to ensure that any further evidence from interested parties is taken into account before a decision is made in September.” Final public consultation on the schemes starts in October.    Click here to view full story…


TESTRAD questions Airports Commission decision to rule out their “London Britannia” estuary airport

Date added: January 18, 2014

TESTRAD (the Thames Estuary Research and Development Company has appealed to the Airports Commission for more information on how it reached its decision not to short-list a Thames Estuary Airport. The TESTRAD CEO Bridget Rosewell has written to Sir Howard Davies, saying they are “concerned about the adequacy of the assessment upon which the Commission has based its conclusions for the final short-list”. Sir Howard said that seeing merit for potential to boost economic development to the east of London and reduce noise over the Capital, the Commission would undertake further assessment of its own for a potential airport on the Estuary’s Isle of Grain. A decision on whether to include it on the short-list will be made by “late summer” in time for the consultation on the chosen options in October. At the RunwaysUK conference, the Grain possibility was discussed and it was clear that arguments against it were hugely stronger than those for it. It makes little practical, economic or environmental sense. Bridget Rosewell and her team want clarification on why TESTRAD’s and other Estuary proposals were deemed “not credible”. She also says some projects (Heathrow?) were given preferential access to the Commission and wants details of those meetings.   Click here to view full story…


Airports Commission launches 6 week consultation on appraisal framework for short-listed runway schemes

January 17, 2014

The Chairman of the Airports Commission, Sir Howard Davies, launched the most recent consultation by the Commission, at the RunwaysUK conference on 16th January. This consultation is on its appraisal framework, and ends on 28th February. The aim is to set out how the runway schemes it short-listed (2 at Heathrow, one at Gatwick and the possibility one for the Isle of Grain will be added by late summer 2014) will be assessed in terms of social, economic and environmental criteria. A summary of responses will be published within 3 months of the consultation closing. The document is 127 pages long, requiring detailed and carefully considered responses. On environmental matters, the Commission lists their objectives, for appraisal of schemes, to include: minimising noise impacts; protecting local air quality; minimising CO2 emissions in airport construction and operation (not from flights); protecting quality of ground and surface water, using water efficiently and reducing flood risk; and minimising impacts on existing landscape character and heritage assets. Under the heading “People” their objectives are to maintain and where possible improve the quality of life for local residents; manage and reduce the effects of housing loss on local communities; and reduce or avoid disproportionate impacts on any social group. They also ask: Are there any other objectives that the Commission should consider, and if so what are they?

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Airports Commission publishes interim report with 2 options for a runway at Heathrow and 1 at Gatwick. Estuary still being considered

December 17, 2013

The Airports Commission’s interim report has put forward 3 options for a new runway, and have kept their options open on an estuary airport. There would only be one runway, not two and they consider this should be in operation before 2030. At Heathrow the choices are a north west runway, 3,500 metres long, destroying Harmondsworth; and an extension westwards of at least 3,000 metres, of the existing northern runway. They also consider a wide spaced Gatwick runway to the south. The Commission also says “there is likely to be a demand case for a 2nd additional runway to be operational by 2050.” They claim this is “consistent with the Committee of Climate Change’s advice to government on meeting its legislated climate change targets.” Stansted is ruled out, and on the Thames Estuary they say: “The Commission has not shortlisted any of the Thames Estuary options because there are too many uncertainties and challenges surrounding them at this stage. It will undertake further study of the Isle of Grain option in the first half of 2014 and will reach a view later next year on whether that option offers a credible proposal for consideration alongside the other short-listed options.” The report also contains recommendations to the government for immediate action to improve the use of existing runway capacity. Among others, these include better airspace organisation and surface transport improvements such as enhancement of Gatwick station, a rail link from the south to Heathrow, and a rail link between Heathrow and Stansted.    Click here to view full story…


Heathrow campaigners furious over leak that Sir Howard Davies is backing 2 new runways at Heathrow (with a 2nd Gatwick runway as one option)

December 11, 2013

Heathrow campaigners have reacted with anger and disbelief to the leaked news that the Airports Commission Interim Report, which is due to be published on 17th December, favours 2 more runways at Heathrow. From the leaks, the Commission is expected to go for a 3rd runway at Heathrow followed by a 4th Heathrow runway or a second runway at Gatwick. The draft of the report, presented to Chancellor George Osborne, ruled out new runways at Stansted or an Estuary Airport. It is thought, however, that Tuesday’s report may formally retain more options in an attempt to give it some balance. This news will cause fury across whole swathes of London and the Home Counties. with the Airports Commission’s work over the next two years in selecting from its “short list” seen as a “busted flush” with its decision already taken. John Stewart, Chair of HACAN – which represents residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said: “It is astonishing that Davies has put so much faith in an option he must know is politically the hardest to deliver. The one good thing is that he will force political parties to come out for or against a 3rd runway before the 2015 General Election.” Another Heathrow runway means thousands of people stand to lose their homes. They are not going to stand by and let that happen. The campaign against a 3rd runway starts today.    Click here to view full story…


Telegraph article discussing some of the issues for the Airports Commission’s interim statement, due on 17th December

Date added: December 9, 2013

The Airports Commission will make its interim announcement on 17th December, on short term measures, and its short-list of runway options for the long term. The Telegraph writes about this with great enthusiasm at the prospect of aviation capacity equivalent to the size of Gatwick today being added to the south east, (mainly to accommodate more leisure air travel). Some of the points they make are that, predictably, the Airport Operators Association (AOA), say after 2015 any Prime Minister “who rejects the findings of that commission in 2015 would look very weak.” Heathrow expansion would need at least £4 – 6 billion of public funding for the road and rail links. It appears that MAG is lukewarm on the idea of a mega-hub at Stansted. Even Boris’ own advisers fear the tide may have turned against any of the Thames Estuary options, which have been fiercely attacked by critics for the associated costs. Stewart Wingate of Gatwick fears the commission could simply choose to drop the most whacky options, and just ask for more work to be done on the most ones – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and an airport in the Thames Estuary. It is not yet clear if the commission will shortlist a location or a specific option there (they don’t yet have enough detail on them to choose). Several groups, including Heathrow hedged their bets by submitting more than one option, which met the various “sift” criteria in different ways.     Click here to view full story…



Airports Commission input into National Infrastructure Plan on improvements to surface access to main airports

Date added: December 5, 2013

Sir Howard Davies wrote to George Osborne on 26th November, on surface access to airports. This has influenced the National Infrastructure Plan for 2013, now released. The Airports Commission says that as adding any new runways will take a decade (or decades), in the interim “there is a strong case for attaching a greater strategic priority to transport investments which improve surface access to our airports.” The letter gives specific recommendations on improving surface access at UK main airports. On Heathrow it recommends: “Recognising the importance of encouraging modal shift towards more environmentally sustainable forms of transport at Heathrow, not only for supporting future expansion plans [!?] but also for optimising the airport’s operations within its current capacity constraints, the Government should work with Network Rail to undertake a detailed study to find the best option for enhancing rail access into Heathrow from the south. Initial indications are that up to roughly 15% of Heathrow’s passengers in the London and South East region could benefit from improved Southern Access.” They “remain concerned that the proportion of users (particularly workforce) accessing Heathrow using private cars remains high, with consequent implications for air quality.”    Click here to view full story…


Airports Commission surface transport improvement plans for Gatwick airport including £180 million station upgrade

Date added: December 5, 2013

Sir Howard Davies (Chairman of the Airports Commission) has written to George Osborne, on the subject of surface access to airports. He says that as adding any new runways will take a decade (or decades), in the interim “there is a strong case for attaching a greater strategic priority to transport investments which improve surface access to our airports.” The Airports Commission have recommended improvements for Gatwick including improvements to the train station, which could cost £180 million – “subject to the airport providing an appropriate contribution to the costs of the scheme.” It is not currently regarded as being well suited to travellers, especially those with heavy luggage, so better luggage space would need to be added. The Commission says Gatwick is succeeding in getting more long haul routes, and due to capacity constraints at Heathrow, “we believe that the UK’s interests to enable passengers to more effectively access Gatwick’s increasing connections to new markets, as well as its existing route network.” The government says it will provide £50m towards the redevelopment of the station, subject to satisfactory commercial negotiations with Gatwick airport.    Click here to view full story…


SSE challenges Airports Commission at the High Court on “apparent bias” due to involvement of Geoff Muirhead

November 22, 2013        Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has launched a High Court bid to force the Airports Commission to revise its work on the future of aviation expansion in the UK. SSE’s case, asking that the Airports Commission should re-determine its so-called “sift criteria” for assessing growth options, was heard by Mrs Justice Patterson. SSE claims that the sift criteria process was infected by apparent bias because Geoff Muirhead, then still a member of the Commission, had worked as Chief Executive for – and continued to work for – MAG. The sift criteria will ultimately guide the Commission in its final decision on where any new runways in the UK should be built. SSE’s barrister, Paul Stinchcombe QC, argued that Mr Muirhead’s resignation was too late to save the sift criteria proceedings and that his involvement had tainted and was continuing to taint the activities and decisions of the commission by reason of apparent bias. The DfT said “there is no evidence whatsoever of bias and the Airports Commission is content that decisions taken to date are robust.” The Commission said its processes to date were “appropriate and robust”. Mrs Justice Patterson said she will make a decision on the matter in writing at a later date.     Click here to view full story…



Put the “No New Runway” option back on the table, AEF tells Sir Howard Davies

October 17, 2013

Writing in the Huffington Post, James Lees ( (Research and Communications Officer, Aviation Environment Federation – AEF) says the Airports Commission is wrong in its preliminary conclusion – announced by Sir Howard Davies on 7th October – that a new runway is needed. In his blog James goes through the list of strong arguments why no new runway capacity is needed. These include climate impacts. The CCC guidance suggests the number of air passengers could perhaps rise by 60% over 2005 levels, by 2050. However, this does not take any account of the non-CO2 impacts of air travel. Even allowing for 60% more passengers means the carbon emissions from UK aviation would rise to be a quarter of total UK emissions and require large carbon reductions from other sectors to meet the UK’s 2050 target. And if a runway is built, how do we put the brakes on the aviation industry’s growth? James concludes that Sir Howard is aware of all these arguments, but has made the wrong conclusion. “To show that he really is ‘alive to the climate change problem’, Sir Howard should put the no new runway option back on the table.”   Click here to view full story…


Is there a need for extra airport capacity? No says GACC in their response to Sir Howard Davies

October 17, 2013

In his speech on 7th October, Sir Howard went carefully through a list of reasons why more airport capacity in the south east is not needed, before concluding – in the second part of his speech gave his preliminary conclusion that a new runway would be needed. His speech is out for consultation until 31st October. In their response, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) say there is no need for a new runway. A few of their reasons include deficiencies in forecasts of future numbers of flights and passengers; also that over the past 20 years the number of passengers per aircraft had been increasing by 2% a year but DfT forecasts only assumed a 0.2% annual increase in future. GACC suggests the use of larger aircraft could be encouraged if airports based their landing charges on a per aircraft basis rather than, as at present, on the aircraft size and per passenger. GACC says the environmental disadvantages of each potential runway site may be so great that they should and will influence the decision as to whether or not extra capacity should be provided. There would also be adverse north-south in-migration problems.    Click here to view full story…


Stop Stansted Expansion says of the Airports Commission: A tainted process – a dubious conclusion

October 9, 2013      Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) is disappointed that the Airports Commission has formed the preliminary view that extra runway capacity is needed in the south east of England. In his speech on 7th October 2013, the chairman of the Airports Commission, Sir Howard Davies said that his Commission had not been persuaded by the arguments against expansion. In SSE’s view, the arguments for more runway capacity in the south east are dangerously weak and they will be taking up Sir Howard’s invitation to comment on his preliminary conclusions. SSE believes the UK, as a whole, already has more than enough runway capacity to meet the DfT forecasts to 2050, and well beyond. Regarding the recent resignation of Geoff Muirhead from the Commission, due to ties with MAG, SSE said they are mounting a legal challenge on bias – due to Mr Muirhead’s influence – in formulating the “sift criteria” and there will be more information on that next week.     Click here to view full story…


Gatwick campaign questions Sir Howard’s claim that a new runway is needed

October 8, 2013      At a meeting on 7th October, Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, gave a speech concluding that ‘we will need some additional runway capacity in the south east of England in the coming decades.’ The Chairman of GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, Brendon Sewill said: “That was not surprising – if he had said that no new runway was needed he would have done himself out of a job! What was significant was that he felt the need to answer the growing volume of opinion against any new runway. But his statement is bound to add to the worry of people around Gatwick, [and other possible new runway sites] and to the misery caused by blight.” In his speech, Sir Howard ignored the impact that a new runway would have on the local infrastructure – the need for more houses (in the case of Gatwick around 40,000), great pressure on local schools, on the health service and social services, and overcrowding/congestion on roads. GACC does not find convincing the case Sir Howard made for rejecting strong arguments against a new runway, and will be taking up his invitation to submit comments by the end of October.     Click here to view full story…


Sir Howard Davies speech gives provisional support for a new south east runway – but shows how borderline the decision would be

October 8, 2013         In a speech in central London Sir Howard Davies set out what he described as the Airports Commission’s “emerging thinking” after their first 11 months of work. He said it ” it would be helpful at this stage to set out some of our early thinking on the issue of overall capacity.” He said: “Our provisional view…. is that additional capacity will need to be provided, alongside an overall framework for managing emissions growth, if we are to deliver the best outcomes in both environmental and connectivity terms.” Also that: “…our provisional conclusion from this analysis …is that we will need some net additional runway capacity in the south east of England in the coming decades.” He first went through 4 sets of arguments against a new runway (less future demand for air travel than anticipated; future demand can be met by existing capacity; carbon emissions from growing aviation could breach UK climate commitments; regional airports could take the extra demand). He then gave explanations for each why he believed the optimal solution would be more runway capacity. He said, on the guidance from the CCC on aviation CO2 emissions needing to be restricted that: “We are in the process of updating the Committee on Climate Change’s analysis and will present our findings in our Interim Report”. Comments on the speech are welcomed by the Commission until 31st October.   Click here to view full story…


Geoff Muirhead steps down from his position at the Airports Commission

20.9.2013     .Geoff Muirhead, who has been a commissioner at the Airports Commission, has agreed to step down. This comes in response to the challenge from Stop Stansted Expansion, due to Mr Muirhead’s previous work for the Manchester Airports Group, which now owns Stansted. Mr Muirhead continued to work for MAG in an advisory capacity even when he had accepted his role on the Commission. As MAG owns Stansted, which is one of the sites being seriously considered for expansion and a new runway, there is an obvious conflict of interest. Despite the claim that he was impartial, it has been clear all along that he is very pro-aviation. The problem now remains that Mr Muirhead has been with the Commission for almost a year, and his input may already have influenced the Commission. It will be necessary to establish to what extent the process may have been tainted by his involvement.  SSE included this point in their pre action protocol letter that was sent to the Secretary of State for Transport, and Howard Davies in August.


RSPB email action to write to Sir Howard Davies, to remind him not to forget biodiversity, habitat and climate

The RSPB had an email action, to ask people to write to Sir Howard Davies, the Chairman of the Airports Commission, to remind him of the biodiversity, habitat and climate change implications of his committee’s decisions on airports. Proposals to build new airports or expand existing ones could have devastating impacts on some of our most vulnerable wildlife and habitats, and our ability to tackle climate change. The Thames estuary is under threat from airport development, and is a globally recognised and protected area as it is a vital home for wildlife, including hundreds of thousands of wintering wildfowl and wading birds. Climate change is the greatest threat to wildlife and biodiversity, and carbon emissions from aviation are increasing rapidly. The RSPB believes there should be no further aviation expansion unless the Government can demonstrate how such expansion can take place within the UK’s legally binding climate change limits.   The email action closed at the end of September, at the closing date for submissions.



Airports Commission publishes proposals for short and medium term options for making the best use of existing airport capacity

The Airports Commission has published a paper summarising the range of options received from external submitters for making best use of existing capacity in the short and medium term (meaning measures that do not require new runways or terminals, and could be introduced within under 5 years, or over 5 years).  In February 2013 the Commission asked for submissions on this, with a deadline of 17th May, and some 75 responses were received from organisations and individuals.  They are now inviting anyone who did not comment then to do so now, with a deadline of 27th September. (There is also a deadline of 27th September for comments on the airport capacity proposals).  The Airports Commission will make recommendations to government on short and medium term options in its interim report at the end of 2013. The Commission says it is “now working on analysing the evidence and ideas put forward. This will include detailed consideration of each measure’s impact (both positive and negative) on areas such as the environment, capacity, resilience and connectivity.”


Airports Commission publishes full list of long term proposals to increase UK airport capacity

The Airports Commission has put together the long list of airport proposals, and other proposals including many on surface access, that have been submitted. The majority are for the main contender airports, (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Thames estuary options, Birmingham etc) but with several from small airports or airfields and some in areas not currently airports, such as rural Oxfordshire and the Severn Estuary.  The Commission will now consider all of these, and publish “a shortlist of the most credible long term options, taking into account the Commission’s assessment of the need for additional capacity” in December 2013.  It is possible for anyone to send in further comments on any of the schemes submitted, until 27th September.  The Commission has also published an information note, considering its work programme for Phase 2 – which is after December 2013.  It says:  ”If the Commission reaches a view in its interim report that a significant increase in aviation capacity is needed, the second phase of our work will develop the list of credible long term options into detailed schemes, and subject them to a thorough appraisal process.” 


Airports Commission publishes a discussion paper on its Phase 2 work, January 2014 to summer 2015

Date added: August 7, 2013

The Airports Commission has published a note on how it sees its work over the year and a half after December 2013, which it calls Phase 2. The Commission will make its interim report in December, both on short and medium term measures to boost UK airport capacity, and also on which long term airport expansion schemes merit further, detailed consideration. “If the Commission reaches a view in its interim report that a significant increase in aviation capacity is needed, the second phase of our work will develop the list of credible long term options into detailed schemes, and subject them to a thorough appraisal process. This is likely to include looking not only at individual proposals in isolation, but also at how they might be combined.” They also say: “To support the development of its sustainability assessments framework, the Commission has established a Sustainability Reference Group. This is an advisory group comprising experts from relevant Government Departments and statutory bodies (the Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage).”

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Full list of airport schemes to increase airport capacity, including some weird & wonderful – eg. 7 runways at Heathrow

8th August 2013      The full list of airport proposals for consideration by the Airports Commission, to solve the alleged shortage of airport capacity, has been published. As well as those for the expected airports, (Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, the Thames Estuary,  Birmingham etc) there are some weird and wonderful suggestions. Some are for sites such as rural Oxfordshire, or for RAF bases; there are plans for Fairoaks airport, Manston airport, Cardiff airport, Luton airport,  the Severn estuary and the Goodwin sands. There are also proposals for surface transport improvements, and several from enthusiastic private individuals. One of the more bizarre is for no less than 7 runways at Heathrow.Anyone wishing to make specific comments on the detail contained within any of the proposals published is welcome to do so, to the Commission, before 27th September 2013 at the latest to 


Responses to the Airports Commission’s discussion documents – including links to those from AirportWatch members

Date added: July 31, 2013

The Airports Commission has now published on its website all the responses it has received to its various discussion documents. Stakeholder responses to Airports Commission discussion papers The discussion documents have been on: aviation demand forecasting; on air connectivity and the economy; on aviation and climate change; and on airport operational models. Due to the huge volume of text, the Commission has put the responses in zip files, with links to each response as a pdf document. However, some older computers may have difficulty in opening the zip files. AirportWatch has listed below all the organisations that have responded to each of the discussions. AirportWatch has also given links to submissions from our member organisations, and those not from the aviation industry or the advocates of airport expansion. To see all the submissions, visit the Airports Commission website. It is anticipated that the Commission will shortly – in August – put up all the airport or runway proposals that were submitted by the 19th July deadline.    Click here to view full story…



Transcripts of the Airports Commission’s 2 public evidence sessions and links to presentations

Date added: July 29, 2013

The Airports Commission have now published their verbatim transcripts of their two (and only) public evidence sessions, on 9th and 10th July. The first session on 9th July (held in Manchester) was on climate, at which AEF (Tim Johnson and Cait Hewitt) and WWF (Jean Leston and Tom Vita) gave presentations, followed by the industry group, Sustainable Aviation (Matt Gorman and Jonathan Counsell). The second session on 9th July was on demand and connectivity. SSE (Brian Ross) gave a presentation, followed by the CBI (Nicola Walker). The 10th July session (held in London) was on Airport Operational Models 1. The morning session for BA (Willie Walsh), Heathrow (Colin Matthews), Mayor of London’s office (Daniel Moylan and Richard de Cani, TfL). The second session on 10th July was also on Airport Operational Models 2, with evidence from EasyJet (Carolyn McCall), Birmingham Airport (Paul Kehoe), Gatwick Airport (Sir Roy McNulty) and MAG (Tim Hawkins). Not all 13 organisations giving evidence at the two sessions submitted a visual presentation. There are links to the presentations that were given. The verbatim transcript cover what was said by others, including questions from the floor, and responses given.

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Stop Stansted Expansion calls for resignation of Geoff Muirhead from Airports Commission due to bias

July 28, 2013

Campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion SSE have highlighted the problem of a conflict of interest concerning Geoff Muirhead, who is a member of the government-appointed Airports Commission. Mr Muirhead retired as chief executive of MAG in 2010, and he represented MAG in an “ambassadorial role” until January 2013, several months after he was appointed to the Airports Commission. MAG bought Stansted from BAA in February 2013. Earlier this month MAG published options on where to build a second runway at Stansted and potentially even expand it into a four-runway hub. SSE are calling for Mr Muirhead’s resignation. SSE has written to Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Commission and Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, warning it will mount a legal challenge if Mr Muirhead refuses to step down. The group claims in the letter, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, that there is an issue of “apparent bias”. The letter (26th July) says: “In the circumstances we consider it unacceptable for Mr Muirhead to continue to serve on the Airports Commission and the longer he continues to serve, the more the process risks being tainted.” SSE will start taking legal advice within 14 days if they receive no satisfactory commitment on the matter.

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Deadline for submissions of airport schemes to the Airports Commission was 19th July


Committee on Climate Change reminds Airports Commission of carbon restriction on aviation growth

Lord Deben (John Gummer), who is the Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, has written to Sir Howard Davies and the Airports Commission on the issue of UK aviation and climate change. He reminds the Commission that UK aviation emissions are included in the UK’s target to reduce economy wide CO2 emissions by 80% in 2050 on 1990 levels. This implies a trade off between emissions from aviation and from other sectors: the higher the level of aviation emissions, the deeper the emissions cuts required in other  sectors to meet the economy-wide target. The CCC has illustrated how the 80% target could be achieved through reducing aviation emissions to 2005 levels in 2050 and reducing emissions in other sectors by 85% on 1990 levels. That would mean limiting demand growth to around 60% in 2050 compared to 2005. Unless the rest of the UK economy can cut emissions by over 85% (unlikely) then aviation demand cannot grow by more than 60%. Lord Deben recommends that this should be reflected in the Commission’s economic analysis of alternative investments in airport infrastructure. Each should be assessed in terms of whether it would make sense if demand growth were to be limited to 60% by 2050.


Six local airport campaigns issue unanimous message to Airports Commission – no new south east runways are needed

25.6.2013Sir Howard Davies and two fellow Commissioners (Vivienne Cox and Geoff Muirhead) have had a meeting with 6 representatives of local campaign groups from Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, the Thames Estuary and Birmingham.  The campaign groups are all opposed to new runways or radical expansion plans within their areas and issued a unanimous message to the Airports Commission explaining that there is sufficient capacity within the existing airports to meet UK demand to 2050, possibly longer; therefore there should be no new runways in the south east. They also say demand for air travel can and should be constrained by fairer taxation of aviation, and it is unrealistic to assume future demand will be disproportionately concentrated in the south east. Due to future use of larger aircraft, capacity requirements can be met, even with a larger number of passengers.  The groups urged the Airports Commission to set out the case for ‘no new runway’ and to publish that option alongside the short-list of new runway plans that they are due to publish in December.

Airports Commission unveils new expert panel

3.5.2013The Airports Commission has announced the composition of its new expert panel, the job of which is to ensure the Commission has access to good scientific and technical expertise in its deliberations. Sir Howard Davies said, of the panel: “The experts we have appointed bring a wide range of skills and experience, and will ensure the Commission has access to a broad spectrum of quality scientific and technical expertise as we progress our work.” There are several experts on the panel with environmental expertise; Professor Helen ApSimon – studies Air Pollution; Dr Charlotte Clark works on Environmental and Mental Health Epidemidogy, including noise; Professor Piers Forster; works on Physical Climate Change with interest in forest: Dr Andrew Kempton works on noise for Rolls Royce; Professor Andreas Schäfer works on Energy and Transport; Professor Keith P. Shine  is head of the Atmospheric Radiation and Climate group at Reading University including radiative forcing; and Professor Callum Thomas; Professor of Sustainable Aviation, Manchester Metropolitan University (by training, a bird biologist). There is some biographical detail about all the expert panel members.



Airports Commission under Sir Howard Davies. Membership and terms of reference announced.

2.11.2012The government has today announced the full membership and terms of reference of the Airports Commission, to be chaired by Sir Howard Davies, and to “identify and recommend to Government options for maintaining the UK’s status as a global aviation hub.” The government says it has identified individuals with a range of skills, backgrounds and experience to sit on the committee. The Commission also intends to appoint a panel of expert advisors. Members are: Sir John Armitt, former Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority; Professor Ricky Burdett (LSE); Vivienne Cox (was at BP Alternative Energy); Professor Dame Julia King (a member of the CCC); Geoff Muirhead CBE (former CEO of Manchester Airports Group). The terms of reference are that “The Commission will examine the scale and timing of any requirement for additional capacity to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub; and it will identify and evaluate how any need for additional capacity should be met in the short, medium and long term.”  And it “should engage openly with interested parties and members of the public,”  etc