14 Oct 2008

Even Tories now oppose Stansted expansion

The Conservative party has urged BAA to abandon a £160m planning application for a second runway at Stansted Airport - they also warned that the project would be scrapped by a Tory government. Great news that they are seeing sense - a pity they can't come out against all airport expansions - although see their latest statement added to a comment below re Heathrow.

Photos: air travel over Ruscombe a couple of weeks ago when balloons came across in waves

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon's support for expansion plans at Stansted Airport is environmental and economic madness. This post is rambling look at that decision - still suffering from the flu.......

Green party leader Caroline Lucas writes: "This irresponsible act of climate vandalism shows that our new Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon is more than willing to brush aside the huge public opposition to such a scheme, not to mention the wishes of the local authorities. Increasing Stansted's capacity by 10 million passengers a year will exert immense pressure on the local infrastructure, leading to more traffic on the roads and more planes in our skies. The effects of this expansion on those living in local area and in the South East, let alone the toll on the environment, is clearly less important to this Government than meeting the expressed needs of the aviation sector.

Hoon also seems to have forgotten the aviation industry is mired in instability - indeed there is no economic sense in increasing airport capacity. Climate emissions from air travel at an all time high, the Government is living in a fantasy land if it thinks it can allow aviation to grow at such an alarming rate, while also committing to huge cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government’s outdated policy on aviation has been further exposed when, less than 12 hours before the Stansted decision was announced, the Labour dominated Newham Council gave permission for a 50% increase in flights at London ’s City Airport .

Yesterday evening to commemorate the centenary of the Rush on Parliament by the Suffragettes, another Rush has been organised by new Suffragettes. Folk like Tamsin Omand (see inspiring piece here) joined Caroline Lucas, Rosie Boycott, Joy Greasley, Baroness Jenny Tonge and more - hopefully more here on the Rush website - and hopefully more in the press as we need more than ever to highlight the absurdity of decisions like Stansted - especially as the Government seem set on leaving aviation emissions out of the five-yearly budgets in the Climate Bill - so it seems aviation can grow as long as some other sector makes cuts in emissions on its behalf.

On Stansted, the action group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) say that BAA and its Spanish owners Ferrovial should not to assume the matter is settled since initial readings of the Inspector's report and Government decision letter indicate that there may well be scope for legal challenge. Many groups have lined up to condemn the Government's decision but I liked The Woodland Trust's comment:

The new Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has wasted little time in making his contribution to the incoherent Government approach to climate change and environmental protection. Today Mr Hoon and Hazel Blears, Communities Secretary, have approved BAA’s plans to increase the cap in passenger numbers at Stansted Airport. This is an odd move given that the Government’s advisors on climate change raised concerns earlier this week about the climate change impacts of aviation. It sounds like the climate change issue doesn’t apply to the Department for Transport. Indeed there is one standout sentence in the decision letter, paragraph 23 where it actually states: “The Secretaries of State note that neither the Planning Bill nor Climate Change Bill have been enacted, and afford them little weight, as they might be subject to change. “

The Climate Change Bill may well be subject to change but it won’t be in a way which makes it OK to continue to ignore the need for emissions reductions - it will be, if anything, more stringent in its targets. The idea of affording the Government’s climate change policy which is being pursued through the climate change bill “little weight” is bizarre. It’s worth remembering that one of the reasons Uttlesford District Council initially turned down the planning application was due to the impacts on climate change - the local council understood the conflicts with climate change policy, but the Transport Secretary doesn’t. Perhaps Mr Hoon hasn’t quite grasped the urgency of addressing climate change or perhaps his head has been turned by a flawed economic argument, but whatever the reason this is a bad move environmentally.

Aside from the climate change impacts, we’re concerned that this gives BAA encouragement to press ahead with its other planning application for a new second runway at the airport - a second runway which would destroy five irreplaceable ancient woods. The plans to expand permitted passenger numbers simply increases the pressure on decision makers to roll over and let BAA go ahead with it’s destructive plans for a second runway. This will all come to a head at a public inquiry next year and anyone who cares about climate change and environmental protection will have to be ready to make their voices heard then.

1 comment:

Philip Booth said...

Conservatives firm up opposition to Heathrow expansion as six trade unions come out against third runway

Conservative Transport Spokeswoman Theresa Villiers has warned any firm considering working on the proposed third runway at Heathrow to be “very, very careful” about signing contracts. She has said the Conservatives will not consider themselves bound by any decision taken by the current Government. She also said that the Conservatives would scrap a second runway at Stansted.

Further opposition to a third runway emerged today when, for the first time, six trade unions called for it to scrapped. In a full page advert in today’s Times UNISON, TSSA, ASLEF, the RMT, PCS and Connect called for investment in improved rail instead.

John Stewart, Chair of the campaign group HACAN, said, “These are two very significant developments. The Conservatives could not have made it clearer to business that they will not proceed with a third runway. And it is now obvious that trade union support for a third runway is nowhere near as strong as pro-expansion groups such as Future Heathrow and Flying Matters like to make out. The announcements heap the pressure on the Government to abandon its plans for Heathrow expansion.”

Geraldine Nicholson, the Chair of the No Third Runway Action Group, said, “The tide is turning against the Government. Organisations from both the right and left are saying that the third runway makes no sense in economic or environmental terms.”