28 Apr 2009

Staverton Airport: decision time on Thursday

Well this blog has covered the twists and turns of plans to expand Staverton Airport - we are now reaching the final point. The four planning applications submitted by the Airport in 2006 will be considered by the Tewkesbury Borough Council (TBC) Planning Committee on Thursday, the 30th April 2009.

The good news is that the planning officer handling the applications has recommended that the Committee permit three of the applications and refuse the fourth. It is possible this could still scupper Airport expansion plans.

Campaigners will be there for the big day - Friends of the Earth and the residents group will both be there - I sadly can't be there for this momentous occasion. The discussion about the Airport application will commence at about 13:00, with the Committee visiting the Airport during the meeting. The agenda states that "The Committee will adjourn for a second time at 2.05pm for a site visit by all Members of the Planning Committee to the Gloucestershire Airport sites [Agenda Item 5c, applications 1-4 on the Planning Schedule]. The Committee will then reconvene, not before 3.30pm, to consider applications 1-4 at Agenda Item 5c)."

It has been reported in the Gloucestershire Echo that entry to the meeting will be by ticket only, and that tickets will be available from the Council offices on the morning of the meeting. The appendix containing the officers reports and recommendations for item 5c is currently at this address: http://tinyurl.com/c57fm6

I have emailed every councillor on that planning committee - see my letter below.

Nonsense over Green Policy

The Airport has recently finalised details of its 'Green Policy'. Instead of preventing expansion this will permit the number of aircraft movements to increase significantly:

* Annual total movements could increase from 80,000 (in 2008) to 95,000.
* The number of 'out of hours' movements will be permitted to increase from the current level of 708 to 1425 (1.5% of 95,000).
* The number of 'night time' (23:00-06:00) flights, which are currently fairly infrequent would be permitted to increase dramatically to 100 per year.

All of these figure do not include any of the Police and medical aircraft, which are excluded from the caps.

See my recent letter to press here - it was printed but without the Al Gore mention.

Flawed safety argument

It isn't just the failure to take into account Green issues there are also a host of economic arguments against expanding this airport. However one of the key reasons we continue to get thrown at us is that the expansion is on grounds of safety. This is bit is adapted from work on this by Richard Conibere from Gloucestershire FoE:

The Airport is based on Greenbelt land and to justify their expansion plan they must demonstrate 'very special circumstances'. A desire to expand the business is not enough. Therefore the Airport's planning applications argue that the development is necessary on safety grounds - to meet the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) safety regulations.

Currently the Airport enjoys agreed variations on the CAA rules allowing, for example, a 30
metre reduction in the runway end safety area. These variations are not inherently unsafe -
otherwise they would not be permitted by the CAA. Nor are they unusual - based on
conversations one campaigner had with the CAA. The Chief Executive of Gloucester City Council has stated that many other and larger airports enjoy similar variations. The only noticable effect of the variations is to ensure that larger passenger planes and private jets use the airport only infrequently - this restraint ensures that the variations don't compromise aircraft safety.

The case for the development being a 'safety project' rests on the Airport's insistence that the variations could be withdrawn, reducing the length of the runway and thereby sabotaging the business. Tewksebury Borough Council employed York Aviation as a consultant to look at such claims. Rather than scrutinising the safety claims York simply adopt them unchallenged. The CAA are the final arbiters on airport safety. So the real question is what do they think?

Fortunately the CAA were contacted by Gloucester City Council and their position is documented in various Council reports. The CAA have stated that they are "currently satisfied", "that in the absence of significant changes to the operations at, or any developments of, the airport, they are likely to remain satisfied" and that there is "no immediate time imperative" to remove the variations. In other words, the Airport's contension that the variations may be arbitrarily withdrawn are simply not true. Therefore there are no 'very special circumstances' to justify the Airport's expansion plans. The full CAA position is quoted below:
"14. CAA POSITION 14.1 Discussions with the CAA have confirmed that they are currently satisfied with the airport’s management of the variations to the aerodrome licensing criteria relating to the runway and Code 2 status at Gloucestershire Airport, and that in the absence of significant changes to the operations at, or any developments of the airport, they are likely to remain satisfied. 14.2 The CAA expects the airport company regularly to review the variations in accordance with the current regulations. While they are always keen to see variations removed wherever possible, there is no immediate time imperative in this instance. 14.3 The CAA does not normally remove variations itself but expects the airport management to ensure that variations do not compromise aircraft safety."

So basically a shorter runway means smaller aircraft and fewer types have access. If the status quo is retained it will be just as safe, but with smaller aircraft, or aircraft not going in due to the visability and cloud base minima dictated by the civil aviation authority for that particular airport - if it's not safe to operate today, you simply don't go in or take off - the level of risk of an incident doesn't change.

Noise complaints

These can now be submitted online using the Airport's website. Their home page is at :

If complaints are not made the airport will claim that their operations do not cause a noise nuisance. It only takes a moment to log a complaint, whether it is an out of hours incident, something particularly low or loud, or repeated circuits.

Email to Tewkesbury Development Control Committee members

As a District councillor and former Development Control Committee member I write regarding this application. I have been astonished by the misinformation put out regarding this application. Some factors in deciding whether or not this planning application should proceed are not part of your remit on this committee, but there are several key points that are worth noting:

1. Safety issue. I would urge councillors to see the view of the Civil Aviation Authority. They "are currently satisfied with the airport’s management of the variations to the aerodrome licensing criteria." This expansion is quite clearly not about safety. The Airport is based on Greenbelt land and to justify their expansion they are seeking to demonstrate 'very special circumstances'. However a desire to expand the business should not be enough to develop this site.

2. Business case. This, in the view of many, is flawed. Forecast oil price changes are not included. Responsible businesses are acting to cut emissions and find alternatives to air travel yet this proposal is about supporting expansion? Furthermore the Airport plan to replace the light aircraft that have traditionally used the airport with larger private jets and scheduled aircraft is surely a change of use?

3. Green Policy. Instead of preventing expansion the Airport's Green Policy will permit the number of aircraft movements to increase significantly from 80,000 (in 2008) to 95,000. The number of 'out of hours' movements will more than double plus there will be an increase in 'night time' flights. This means more noise, pollution and traffic. You may recall 21 local environmental groups wrote to all councillors 15 months ago calling for councillors to lead on cutting emissions not expanding them (i). Failure to act decisively now means, that it is no exaggeration to say, that we will face increasingly terrifying choices about who lives, who dies, who eats, who starves, who swims and who sinks. We must reduce emissions. It is unjust that this business should be allowed to expand emissions. What other businesses must cut emissions so that we can reach targets to tackle climate change?

I hope very much that you will reject these planning applications.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr. Philip Booth,
Stroud District councillor for the Randwick, Ruscombe and Whiteshill ward,


(i) Copy of letter sent to all councillors on 8th Jan 2008:

Dear Sir/Madam

The undersigned organisations write this open letter to councillors of Gloucester City, Tewkesbury Borough and Cheltenham Borough in response to the disturbing Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released on the 17th November and the enormous implications it must have on policy making.

The new report evidences an extraordinary position: CO2 levels in the atmosphere are now higher than at any time over the available 650,000 years of ice core records. The report confirms the worst fears of irreversible changes to the environment, such as massive species loss, collapse of the ice sheets and tropical rainforests and rising sea levels. Such horrors and their impact on communities in all countries are hard to contemplate, but must spur us to action.

We need cuts of 90% or more in CO2 emissions to avoid runaway global warming. Councils have taken a lead by signing the Nottingham Declaration to cut emissions, but a significant step change is needed in policies and actions. This year's floods should be wake up call to all of us.

Staverton Airports' plan to intensify operations and increase CO2 emissions is one example which is completely counter to what is needed. If councils support this they will be ignoring one of the most critical and clear warnings that have ever been given on the perils that the planet faces. Furthermore, this will be done in the face of a deteriorating situation where our country will be struggling to handle the combined economic shocks of climate change and significant oil price increases.

We call on councillors to take a lead to significantly cut our emissions and help build the necessary economic and community resilience to cope with the challenges ahead. We urge you not to support the expansion of Staverton airport.

Yours sincerely.

Neil Marshall, Concerned Residents against Staverton Expansion
Richard Conibere, Cheltenham Friends of the Earth,
Robert Irving, Cirencester Friends of the Earth
Martin Rudland, Forest of Dean Friends of the Earth
Sophie Franklin, Gloucestershire Friends of the Earth Network
Steve Goodchild, Tewkesbury Friends of the Earth
Rene Meek, Gloucestershire Greenpeace
Kevin Lister, Camp Hope Organising Committee
Philip Booth, Gloucestershire Airport Action Group
Ian Lander, Cheltenham Environment Forum
Jimmy Garlick, Plane Stupid, Gloucestershire
Roger Creagh-Osborne, South West Air Action
Carol Mathews, Transition Stroud Transport Group
Sue Clarke, Transition Forest of Dean
Sheila Booth - Stroud Valleys Cycle Campaign
John Mallows, Cheltenham Cycling Campaign
James Beecher, Bicycology
Angela Paine, Shut Oldbury Campaign
Julian Jones, Water 21
Cathy Green, One Tonners
Kate Perkins, People and Planet


Joker said...

I understand that Martin Rudland is now the coordinator for Gloucestershire Friends of the Earth Network. But the question remains, why doesn't Gloucester have it's own group, like Cheltenham, Forest of Dean, Stroud..? And don't look at me, I *really* haven't got the time.

This is a comment I've made on an artcile about the 'incinerator' which popped up very briefly on thisisgloucestershire's web page. The comment is appearing briefly too. They have deleted it twice now:

'The plan is to go through the process councillors have agreed on (apparently unanimously). And incineration is apparently the only technology sufficiently tried and tested to be put forward as a sample for the council's PFI bid. That doesn't mean it will be the technology chosen, although in light of their pledge, the Conservatives should be able to give an assurance that it won't be. Perhaps they are content to allow the likes of David Purchase to snap at their heels a while longer, before shooting his fox closer to the elections?

'But can you stand for Quedgeley *and* Grange? I thought Shaun Shute was supposed to be standing for the latter?'

Article: http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/news/Toxic-ash-warning-incinerator/article-944012-detail/article.html

Joker said...

I think the main reason the paper is messing me about is that I reported them to the Press Complaints Commission over their "race 'diversity' targets" story, after they published it on their web site on Saturday, February 19th, and then, in spite of my pointing out to them by email that women benefited from the targets far more than ethnic candidates, printed the story on Monday with the same headline, rather than removing the word 'race'.

In response from the PPC, I had an individual called Stephen Wheeler asking me the most inane and pedantic questions, before he could 'progress the complaint'. After three such mealy mouthed exercises, I emailed the commission to ask for someone, anyone else to deal with my complaint, or just pass it on for adjudication without further delay. Scott Langham emailed back to me: 'Thank you for your email.

This matter will now pass to the Commission – of which Stephen is not a part – for its view under the terms of the Code.

We will be in touch shortly.'

Yesterday, I got another email saying my complaint had been assessed, and the decision was that there had been no breach of the code. The email was from Stephen Wheeler, and the details of the decision still betray fundamental misunderstandings about my complaint.

Jebus wept...

Joker said...

Having come back specifically to look for responses to the airport expansion news, I can see that the above was a little off topic.

As for the expansion, seems to me that they really just want the option of being able accomodate larger aircraft, to claw any bit of business they can as the downturn starts to bite...