Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Evidence Supporting Airport Expansion is Flawed

Flaws abound it seems in the quest for aviation expansion and it appears to be endemic across the sector, could this be simply because the truth is too painful and damaging? Seems like it's time to bin it and start all over again with something that could be regarded as remotely reliable. It's the call for 'real facts' that keeps emerging, just as it does for the objectors to LCA's application to expand.

For London City Airport, the flaws look to be on their inability to collect actual noise data for 7 years, and instead estimate figures and effects on the communities in their application to expand. But lets not forget their 'economic benefit' claims which are equally as shaky and hard to see, even after 20 years of operating. Of course there's that little issue of wider environmental pollution that they had their head buried in the sand over for a time, until pressed to address their contribution to pollution by other objectors. We should remind you that the GLA objected to LCA expansion on the lack of consideration of the full impacts on the environment and communities - FTF are clearly not alone in their concerns.

It seems we can find a lot of common themes, which we have raised as concerns, in the following article, written by our colleague from HACAN - John Stewart:

Will the Government listen this time round? Its own adviser, the Sustainable Development Commission, is calling for a moratorium on airport expansion until stronger economic evidence is produced and until there is greater certainty about the level of emissions that will result.

This comes on top of calls from many other sources for a rethink. Bob Ayling, the former chief executive of British Airways, says the plans to expand Heathrow do not add up in economic terms. All the opposition parties are against the expansion plans for Heathrow as they stand.
The Government is on incredibly shaky ground in claiming that the expansion can go ahead within the agreed emissions levels, and its economic claims for expansion are equally weak.
A report produced by the independent Dutch consultancy CE Delft found that while Heathrow has been important to the UK in financial terms, its expansion would have a negligible effect on the economy because businesses are coming to London anyway.

The CE Delft report challenged the economic arguments of the Transport Secretary, Ruth Kelly, and others that, if Heathrow were not expanded, businesses would go to other European cities where airports are expanding, particularly Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris.
The report found there was little evidence that businesses would relocate because of the other attractions of London: it is a thriving financial centre with a relatively low tax economy compared with other European countries.

The expansion of Heathrow may well be in theinterests of BA and BAA,but that is not the same as saying it is essential for the health of the wider economy. Businesses outside the aviation industry say they are not desperate for a bigger Heathrow: where they are losing money is where thechief executives of top companies are held up for hours, and that's what they want BAA and the Government to sort out.

It is highly significant that the report challenges the Government so directly on emissions. The report's call on the Government to quantify the emissions from its expansion programme for aviation comes close to being a damning indictment of the Government's claims that it can go ahead and still meet the UK's emissions targets.

It is now time for the Government to address the recommendations in this report and commission a truly independent study into the economic case for its expansion plans for Heathrow and elsewhere. Equally, an independent study should be commissioned into the real impact of expansion on noise, air pollution and emissions. Until that is done, it makes no sense at all to go ahead with this programme of aggressive expansion of aviation. What we need is a moratorium on aviation expansion until we have the real facts.

John Stewart is chairman of the campaign group Hacan Clear Skies