12 Jan 2009

Challenge to councillors re Staverton Airport's expansion

Below is our latest news release from campaigners re the Airport ahead of Gloucester City Council's meeting on Thursday. Huge thanks especially to Neil and Kevin for putting this together as it is an excellent summary of where we are.

Meanwhile before that I've heard various reports that some campaigners against the Airport have taken to greeting passengers coming off the flights - see here. Plus I was sent a photo of the sign that appears to have had 'CO2' added by tape or perhaps very good photoshop? Anyhow while on Airports do please also sign the new petition against the third runway here.

Plus I've now seen Staverton Airport's supposed 'Green policy' - while I welcome their attempts it is interesting to see that they appear to be using inflated figures and still have not grasped the enormity of the challenge we all face. Clearly the policy needs a closer look but 'greenwash' comes to mind after a quick look at it. Meanwhile while the Airport still deny expansion plans (see more below) we have now numerous examples of where they admit to plans to expand from job adverts, Business Plans and now Nathaniel, Lichfield & Partners, past planning consultants to the airport who note: "Gloucestershire Airport: advised on entitlement to permitted development rights, and promoted expansion of aviation related development at the Local Plan Inquiry."

The flawed case for Gloucestershire Airport – a challenge to councillors

Proposals to develop Gloucestershire airport (owned by Cheltenham and Gloucester Council's) are one of the biggest threats yet to Gloucestershire’s environment and to the wellbeing of people in Gloucester and Cheltenham. Local groups Concerned residents Against Staverton Expansion (CASE) and Gloucestershire Airport Action Group (GAAG) are calling on Gloucester City Councillors to reject the airport’s development proposals at their 15th January meeting.

These groups have issued a checklist to councillors on why the airport plans should not proceed, set out below. The checklist shows why the airport’s case for the developments is without any foundation. The developments are about equipping the airport for intensifying its operations. The campaigners have also issued three challenges to councillors, covering the non-existent housing threat to the airport, the councils’ failure to consider the airport’s environmental and social impacts, and that lack of independent scrutiny of the airport’s business case.

Addressing aviation growth is one of the most crucial environmental issues of our times – it is not something which councillors should shrug off and go through the motions on. Councillors must act responsibly to halt the airport developments, for the sake of local people, Gloucestershire’s environment and the drive to combat climate change.

“We urge councillors to face the real impacts of aviation growth. This will mean more jets and helicopters in particular, with all their impacts. They will be like buzzing insects permanently in your face – only you can’t swat these ones away. If the lid comes off Gloucestershire airport we will all pay a heavy price” said Neil Marshall, of CASE.

“The airport has not indicated how it will manage in the face of the 80% CO2 cut legislated by the climate change bill” said Kevin Lister, of GAAG

Finally, in the words of the Government’s own Sustainable Development Commission, Chaired by Sir Jonathan Porritt, the supposed benefits of airports are played up by aviation proponents: “With so much evidence in dispute, we believe that those who are in favour of increasing the use of flying have not yet sufficiently demonstrated the case”.


Expansion now:

The proposals amount to expansion and intensification of the airport’s current operations. The airport is pushing for a cap that is 22,000 flights per year greater than current levels. The airport has refused to rule out extending opening hours, and have proposed that hours should be 6am until 10.30pm.

Expansion in future:

The developments would equip the airport to take opportunities to expand in future. An airport will seek opportunities to grow and expand. In particular, Gloucestershire Airport will have to grow to pay for the investment needed to implement these plans.

No CAA requirement for the airport’s proposals: Contrary to the airport’s insistence that its plans are needed to comply with CAA requirements, it has now been confirmed that the Civil Aviation Authority is content that the existing runway and infrastructure complies with the airport’s current activities.

No proper scrutiny: The supposed scrutiny of the airport’s case by Cheltenham and Gloucester councils has been superficial and partial. It has amounted to aviation consultants and business consultants asking for the views and clarifications of the airport and airport related businesses. This does not amount to a rounded view on the economic costs and benefits of the airport and it has ignored any consideration of the environmental and social costs.

Sending the wrong signals on fighting climate change: Combating climate change is a political priority. A return flight from Gloucestershire airport amounts to half on a person’s annual carbon balance under the Climate Change Bill. At a time when people are travel planning, car sharing, using public transport, and teleconferencing, our councils must show some responsibility and curb the amount of flying, not permit ever more of it.

No threat of housing: There is no planning context for housing at the airport and the area’s housing allocation is already set. The housing issue is a scare story advanced by the airport. Scaremongering about housing should not be used as a smokescreen for permitting airport developments.

No jobs are at risk: Less that 10% of the jobs based around the airport site are directly related to aviation, corresponding to 0.16% of the Glos economy. There is no evidence that any of these jobs would be threatened if the airport developments are not implemented.


CHALLENGE ONE: Specify the housing threat

Some councillors have stated that houses would be built on the airport if its developments did not go ahead. This is a scare story from the airport lobby with no foundation. It should not influence crucial decisions on whether airport developments go ahead. We challenge the councillors making these claims, who include Jeremy Hilton and Bill Whelan, to substantiate these claims or to retract them.

CHALLENGE TWO: Address the airport’s environmental and social impacts

There has been no review of the airport’s negative impacts on the environment and on people’s wellbeing. The airport’s planning applications are bitterly contested by individuals, Parish Councils and local organisations, but Cheltenham Borough and Gloucester City have taken no action to study the negative effects of the airport. The Green Policy is a toothless set of guidelines which the airport has already asked to be diluted, and which a private owner of the airport would not be bound by. We challenge councillors to point to an assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the airport. In the absence of this, it would be wholly irresponsible to proceed with the developments.

CHALLENGE THREE: Undertake an independent review of the airport’s business case

An assessment of the airport’s business case was presented by CASE to Gloucester City Councillors in December. It was met with stony silence because councillors are not informed about this matter. They have only heard the airport’s special pleading. We challenge the two councils to undertake an independent review of the business case, to proceed without one, and to ignore the worrying evidence on the business plan presented in the CASE presentation, would not be responsible governance.

Notes For Editor: [1] On Thursday 15th January 2009 at 7:30pm Gloucester City Council will meet and appear minded to approve the expansion of Gloucestershire Airport. Protesters from CASE, GAAG and Plane Stupid will be attending the meeting to ask public questions about the development. [2] The Concerned residents Against Staverton Expansion have a website giving an excellent account of their objections to the Airport’s plans. See www.case-online.org.uk

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Oscar-winning actress, TV comedian and Greenpeace tell Hoon, ‘We’ve bought your runway, and you’re not getting it back.’

The land earmarked by the Government for the construction of a third runway at Heathrow airport has been bought from under the noses of ministers by a coalition of celebrities, scientists, politicians and green campaigners.

Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson has been joined by Alistair McGowan, Greenpeace and others from across the political spectrum, who now own the site. They exchanged contracts on the land – a field north of the airport - last week, and now legally own the plot. They say they will never sell it to BAA or allow the airport operator’s bulldozers onto their site.

Emma Thompson said:

“I don't understand how any government remotely serious about committing to reversing climate change can even consider these ridiculous plans. It's laughably hypocritical. That's why we've bought a plot on the runway. We'll stop this from happening even if we have to move in and plant vegetables.”

The deeds to the site - right at the heart of the Government’s proposed plan for Heathrow expansion - were signed on Friday by Thompson, McGowan, Conservative Party green advisor Zac Goldsmith and Greenpeace director John Sauven (PDF of deeds on request). Beneficial owners who’ve also signed-up include local Labour MP John McDonnell, Conservative front bench spokeswoman Justine Greening, Lib Dem MP Susan Kramer and Royal Society Research Fellow Dr Simon Lewis – an acclaimed climate scientist. Greenpeace is inviting members of the public to also become beneficial owners and pledge to do what they can to defend the land from the Government and BAA. The green group hopes to attract thousands of people to take a stake in the land, under the campaign banner AIRPLOT.

At full capacity, an expanded Heathrow would become the biggest single source of C02 emissions in the country. It would emit nearly 27 million tones of CO2 every year - equivalent to the emissions of 57 of the least polluting countries in the world combined(10).

TV impressionist Alistair McGowan said:

“BAA were so confident of getting the Government's go ahead, but we have cunningly bought the land they need to build their runway. Now that we own it, we'll never sell it to them and we're confident that we'll be joined by people from all over the world who will help us defend it. No government which is serious about tackling climate change would ever think of expanding Heathrow, and because we care about our planet’s future and our children's future, we are not going to let them. The Government, by deciding to build this runway, is sticking two fingers up to the environment and the people of this world. By giving this runway the go-ahead Gordon Brown is effectively holding a giant blow torch to the polar ice caps and saying ‘Melt! Melt!’ In the end aviation expansion will have a serious effect on sea levels and will decimate the very countries people feel it is their right to fly to. This isn’t just about the destruction of Sipson but the destruction of the world as we know it.”

Greenpeace campaigners are today creating a message in chalk on the land, visible from the air, which will say ‘OUR CLIMATE – OUR LAND’ (site visits on request, with elevated scaffold position for filming). Alistair McGowan started digging yesterday, and the message will be completed this week. Greenpeace director John Sauven says that the legal owners of the site will block the runway at every stage through the planning process and in the courts. They will never sell the land to Spanish-owned airport operator BAA, and if it comes to it many thousands of people will be prepared to peacefully defend their field in person, standing in front of bulldozers and blocking construction.

Sauven added:

“We’ve thrown a massive spanner in the engine driving Heathrow expansion.As the new owners of the land where the Government wants to build the runway, we’ll resist all attempts at compulsory purchase and represent millions of people from across the world at any planning inquiry. And if it comes to it, Greenpeace will be joined by huge numbers of people to block BAA’s bulldozers from getting onto our land. This site will become a focus for climate campaigners across Britain and the wider world because this new runway cannot and will not be built. People wanting to take a stake in this project should go to the Greenpeace UK website and sign up.”

(Further quotes from beneficial owners in notes below – a map of the position of the site available on request.)

Geoff Hoon is expected to give the green light to a third runway and sixth terminal at the airport this week, claiming the development is important for the economy of the nation. But the BAA/government economic case for a third runway has been comprehensively discredited. On Sunday the Labour-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research stated that the runway would become a white elephant and called the economic case ‘greatly overstated’.

Conservative frontbench spokeswoman Justine Greening, who has signed-up to be a beneficial owner of the site, said:

“At every stage the Government has ignored public opinion and shamelessly ignored the grave environmental risk of expanding Heathrow. At every stage, residents have made their concerns and views against further expansion very clear. The battle to stop Heathrow expansion will continue because preserving our quality of life is so important. I have got involved in buying this land to very actively represent the views of my own constituents. If the Government will not listen in Parliament, then ministers will find they have to listen in the courts.”

Members of the public interested in becoming members of AIRPLOT should go to greenpeace.org.uk. Beneficial owners are included in a legal deed of trust and are represented in any legal fight for the land by the four purchasers of the land. Greenpeace lawyers are looking into all options for using the land and its owners to block the third runway.