16 Apr 2009

Airport's PV light held to ransom

The Citizen covered the story about Kevin Lister taking the PV light - see my previous blog on that here - and my letter last night about Direct Action - I was disappointed to see a whole page of web responses which The Citizen published under the title "They are idiots for taking eco lights." Many of the responses were in someway in favour of the Airport. I've also included below some of Kevin's research into the Airport's claims re safety - I've not yet had time to look at in detail - he has a whole report on the topic - why haven't the Councils been looking at these claims themselves? At times it seems they have taken at face value pretty much anything the Airport has given them....

The Citizen report that campaigner Kevin Lister is holding to ransom the photovoltaic light for Glos Airport's entrance sign (14/04/09). I understand he has resorted to this action to highlight the failures of the democratic process to cut CO2 emissions.

The misleadingly named “Green Management Plan” for the Airport has no sanctions if targets of 95,000 plane movements per year are breached nor does it have targets for reducing CO2. Mr Lister has noted he will return the equipment if such measures are introduced and that targets reflect the latest scientific evidence presented at the recent Copenhagen Conference. Indeed that conference concluded, “Inaction is inexcusable”.

A Guardian poll this week reveals 9 out of 10 climate experts do not consider current political efforts will keep warming below the crucial 2C. James Hansen, NASA climate scientist, says the democratic process is not working and that "peaceful demonstration is not out of order, because we're running out of time."

US Ex-Vice President Al Gore now calls for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants while David Cameron's advisor Zac Goldsmith appeared as a defence witness in the trial of Greenpeace activists charged with causing £30,000 of criminal damage. The jury concluded in that case that a degree of damage to property can be justified when protesting to prevent a greater damage to property from climate change.

Some of the comments in The Citizen have described Mr Lister's actions as stupid and idiotic, yet it is the inaction on climate change that is not just foolish, but criminal. Non-violent direct action is a legitimate form of political activity when traditional forms are blocked - it was used against slavery, for women's right to vote and against apartheid. We face a similar clear moral stand today.

It is a sad reflection on our current political leadership that although the science is clear, and the three main parties say they agree, none have the guts to actually take the action needed.

Cllr. Philip Booth, Stroud District Green Party.

Airport Safety Plan increases risk to residents

Kevin Lister said: “Gloucestershire Airport’s expansion proposals have been repeatedly justified on safety grounds. In the Green Management Plan presentations at both Gloucester and Cheltenham scrutiny committees this fact was reiterated with councillors claiming that they do not want to be held liable in the event that there is a crash at Gloucestershire Airport. However, the airport has submitted no quantified risk assessment and all councillors are unquestioningly taking the airport’s assertion that the proposed works will increase operational safety.

"However, the fact is that the runway extension will move the take off point much closer to the heavily populated residential area in Churchdown which has the effect of moving more of housing into the critical Public Safety Zone. In addition, the airport has constantly stated that the extension works will enable planes to take off with a full fuel load. This is inherently more risky. In the event of an engine failure or other equipment failure, a plane will be less able to recover and be more likely to crash into Churchdown and the heavier fuel load will make the impact much more severe.

"The Green Management plan has demonstrated flight numbers will increase after the extension works, especially from business type jets and other scheduled services. In addition, the airport and council have not agreed that the targets in this document are in any way binding. A significant increase in flights must now be expected with a corresponding increase in risk exposure to the residents in Churchdown.

"This increased risk exposure is significant and should not be underestimated. Recently, a Cessna Citation crashed into a housing estate near Farnborough. A review of the American National Transportation Safety Board Data base shows that in the period from 2000 to present, there were 31 Lear Jets, 4 Cessna Citations and 21 Bombardier Business jets involved in accidents during take off in the US alone. These are all of the class of plane that Gloucestershire Airport is trying to attract with its development. Many of these crashes were fatal.

"As a minimum the airport should comply with the requirements that would be expected in any other safety critical industry such as the rail or oil and gas industries were quantified risk assessments with a detailed Failure Mode and Effect Analysis are demanded by clients so proper consideration can be made of the safety risk exposure. The councils have a duty to ensure that this is prepared and published so the third party risk can be quantified and properly assessed

"Councillors need to recognise that take off is by far the most dangerous part of any flight. Since giving planning permission for the Churchdown housing development knowing that the airport was there, they have a duty to minimise the risk to the residents who moved into this estate.”

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