Below are news items relating to specific airports
Stansted Airport Watch submits response to CMA consultation on greenwash; examples from Stansted and Ryanair
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which regulates business behaviour, has finally stepped in to try to end 'greenwashing' and has asked for evidence. Greenwashing is where businesses make dubious claims in an attempt to boost their environmental credentials, and thus sell more product. The CMA consultation ended on 16th July. Greenwashing is all too common in the aviation industry and Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) submitted detailed evidence to the CMA relating to both Stansted Airport and Ryanair. Some of the examples of dubious claims by the airport are that it claims to be "carbon neutral", but this conveniently ignores the carbon emissions from the aircraft (hugely higher than emissions by the airport itself). It also relies of "offsetting", so making payments to some carbon reduction activity elsewhere, while itself continuing to emit. Ryanair has made a number of claims about being "green", such as claims to be Europe's "cleanest, greenest airline" but this has been ruled against by the Advertising Standards Authority, for being misleading (February 2020).
Start of Inquiry into refusal by North Somerset Council of Bristol Airport plans to expand by 2mppa
The public inquiry into Bristol Airport's expansion proposal began on 20th July with the airport hoping to overturn North Somerset Council's decision to refuse the expansion plans in February 2020. The inquiry is overseen by the Planning Inspectorate, and is scheduled to run until mid-October with three independent inspectors appointed to consider the airport's appeal. The airport wants to be allowed to have an extra 2 million annual passengers, from 10 million to 12 million. In its recently-published Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP), the DfT committed itself to achieving net zero within the aviation sector by 2050. Allowing airport expansion scheme is not going to help with that - quite the reverse. The worry is that, though the various expansion schemes for Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Bristol, Leeds Bradford and Southampton - taken separately - look relatively small, collectively (and including Heathrow) the increase in carbon would be huge. The recent TDP does not follow the recommendation from its official advisors, the CCC, that any airport expansion should be offset by reducing flights elsewhere.
Gatwick campaigners dismayed by government’s failure to limit night flights
The Department for Transport has published its decision document on the first part of its recent consultation on night flights at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted. The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) is dismayed that although numerous responses to the consultation showed strong and wide opposition to night flights at Gatwick and elsewhere, the Government has decided to extend current night flight numbers and noise limits for a further three years. DfT’s decision is a kick in the teeth for all those negatively affected by the noise and disturbance caused by aircraft flying at night. It entirely ignores the views of local communities, and groups representing them - and the negative effects on health caused by sleep disturbance. GACC had called on the government to ban all commercial night flights at all UK airports for a full 8-hour period each night. GACC also argued that any flights allowed should be far more strictly regulated. Unfortunately the government has not taken the opportunity, to make positive changes after the Covid hiatus. GACC says: "Instead the DfT continues to neglect its regulatory responsibilities and to see its role as serving the interests of the industry, not overflown communities.”
DfT decides to roll over the night flights regime for 3 more years (not 2) for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted
The government consulted, in December 2020, on its night flights regime (closed 3rd March 2021). Part of the consultation was whether to "roll over" the current regime for the three designated airports, (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) for another 3 years, and it closed on 3rd March 2021. The second part is about wider night flights issues for all issues, and that closes on 3rd September 2021. The DfT has now published its "Decision Document" on the night flights regime and the designated airports. It has decided - despite pleas from numerous groups and individuals for change - not only to roll over the existing scheme, but to set this for THREE years more, rather than the two years originally proposed. The DfT says: "The restrictions will be reassessed in time for a new regime to commence in October 2025..." Airport groups at the designated airports are upset and furious. Night flight noise is probably the most hated, and the most damaging element of aircraft noise. The justifications given for night flights, about their economic necessity, are unconvincing. Sadly, people living with night flight noise from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will be stuck with the problem, at least until 2025
No 3rd Runway Coalition: “Heathrow expansion stopping UK from jet zero dreams”
The government hopes all international flights from the UK can be made "net zero" for carbon emissions by 2050. Its new consultation, called "Jet Zero" sets out what the DfT is hoping for, with the remarkable reduction in carbon emissions largely being brought about by "sustainable aviation fuels." The DfT is not keen on doing anything that would deliberately restrict air travel demand. Campaigners at Heathrow, the No 3rd Runway Coalition, point out that it would be hard enough to get anywhere near net zero for aviation emissions, even without airport expansion plans being allowed. And it would be completely impossible, if a 3rd Heathrow runway was allowed, adding perhaps up to another 9 million more tons of CO2 per year to be emitted. Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “It has long been clear that Heathrow’s 3rd runway is incompatible with the UK climate targets and would take up the vast majority of aviation’s residual emissions in 2050."
Local Authorities must question if it is justifiable, or a financial asset, to own an airport
There is a glaring logical inconsistency between the declaration of "climate emergencies" by councils, and the backing of local airports. That is particularly the case where the airport owns, or partly owns, the airport. The Local Government Chronicle has written that "councils’ declarations of climate emergency will be mere weasel words unless they lead to painful but necessary decisions being made." To achieve action on climate, councils need to take urgent and significant action. Helping an airport expand and increase its number of passengers, flights and CO2 emissions should no longer be happening. And while some airports were useful sources of income for councils in pre-Covid years, there is no certainty at all that will continue. Instead airports have been a sink for public money over the past year. Councils should not attempt to confuse the situation, by claims that airports are cutting carbon, becoming carbon neutral etc. That is only for their buildings, conveniently ignoring the carbon from the flights the airport facilitates. Councils need to accept that the restoration of passenger numbers to previous levels is not desirable.
Teeside Airport bottomless pit for council cash – given another £10 million by TVCA
Teeside Airport is to get an extra £10m from the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), hoping to keep it afloat after Covid impacts. TVCA spent more than £40m buying the loss-making airport in 2019 following a previous election pledge by Mr Houchen to take it back from previous owner Peel. TVCA has also provided a further £19.4m to support operational expenditure, along with £15m towards capital expenditure, which has helped pay for a multi-million pound terminal redevelopment, new passenger lounges, bars etc. The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) said in November 2020 that the airport made a £2.6m loss in the previous 12 months. Its advocates say it could be profitable in about 6 years. Teeside Airport Ltd is governed financially by TVCA via another limited company, Goosepool, both being subsidiaries of TVCA, a structure which has been criticised by some for its apparent lack of transparency. Stobart Aviation, which operates Teesside Airport, has a 25% shareholding in Goosepool. Opponents of the handouts to the airport say too much is being spent on the airport and “The time for vanity projects is at an end – it’s time he started to deliver on the real needs of our people.”
Uttlesford Council applies for judicial review of Stansted airport expansion plans
In May, the Planning Inspectorate (PI) approved plans by Stansted airport to expand its maximum number of annual passengers from 35 to 43 million. This had been opposed by Uttlesford Council, but the decision was challenged by the airport. Now Uttlesford District Council UDC) is trying to get this PI decision reversed, as it goes against the decision by a democratically elected council. UDC submitted its application to the court for a JR one day before its submission deadline, and the UDC leader John Lodge said the decision to apply for Judicial Review was taken after seeking legal advice. Local campaign, Stansted Airport Watch, had asked for a JR, so the decision is taken by the Secretary of State for Transport, not the PI. Since the PI decision, the government enshrined a new "Carbon Budget" into legislation. The Sixth Carbon Budget now aims to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, and for the first time, the carbon emissions of international aviation will be included in UK totals. That should mean the collective increases in carbon of all the airport expansion plans will have to be considered together, and none of the airports seeking expansion should be considered in isolation.
Bristol Airport expansion (for 2 mppa more) public inquiry to will start on July 20th, for 10 weeks
The expansion plans would see passenger numbers grow from 10 million to 12 million a year. The public inquiry into the expansion plans is due to start on July 20 and last 10 weeks. The airport appealed against a decision by North Somerset Council last year to reject its expansion plans. Bristol City Council has also opposed the expansion with North Somerset Council saying it will ‘robustly defend’ the appeal. The inquiry will be held in person and online, via Teams, though requests had been made for it to be online only, due to Covid. Campaigners say any expansion of the airport would lead to higher carbon emissions, congested roads and more plane noise. A number of campaign groups including the Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) , the Parish Councils Airport Association and Stop Bristol Airport Expansion (SBAE) are all set to give evidence at the inquiry. The Planning Inspectorate team will be led by Philip Ware.
Heathrow at risk of defaulting on its £15bn debt as UK-US flights not returning soon
Heathrow has now made a loss of at least £3 billion, due to the pandemic. It is now at risk of defaulting on its huge £15bn debt, after talks stalled over the return of flights between Britain and America. Heathrow had been depending on lucrative trans-Atlantic flights resuming by the start of July. At the end of June, Heathrow warned its bondholders that if its profits are £66m or more lower than expected by December 2021, then it will breach the strict rules governing its complex portfolio of loans. It does not look likely that flights to the US will return to anything approaching 2019 levels for a long time. Up to 2019, North America was Heathrow’s single biggest market making up almost 19m of its 81m passengers in 2019. Heathrow is believed to have the support of its lenders despite the prospect of a potential breach of its banking covenants, the rules that govern loans. Shareholders, which include Spain’s Ferrovial and the state of Qatar, injected £600m into the business when it faced the prospect of a similar breach last year.