15 Nov 2009

Latest nonsense on airport from Cheltenham Borough

A local airport campaigner attended this week the Cheltenham scrutiny meeting looking at Staverton Airport and their latest Business Plan - that outrageous meeting is covered in a moment but also below I note more on the latest plans the Airport are putting forward and Cameron on aviation.

Pic adapted by local artist Russ from unknown author - as featured in the latest edition of Flying Green of the Aviation Environment Federation

Well you can read the campaigner, Kevin Lister's letter to the councillors here - and here below is a letter he writes to the press making some fundamental points that councillors have failed to raise:

The Cheltenham scrutiny committee approved Gloucestershire Airport’s business plan last night. This was another example of lies and vested interests triumphing over reason, which has been the pattern of this entire debacle.

Councillor Les Goodwin presented the Airport’s business plan to the committee. He completely omitted the commitments that the airport made only a year ago in their “Green Management” plan to limit CO2 emissions to 4000 tonnes per year. When I challenged Councillor Goodwin at the end of the meeting, he said with a smile, “I did not know this had been left out.” Either he is stupid, or he pretends to be stupid. The CO2 emission target was the most serious restriction to growth and one of the most important factors in the planning application; it stretches the imagination to breaking point to think that he did not check to ensure this was included in the business plan.

His attitude of making a joke out of the legitimate concerns that many people in this area have on climate change and our increasing emissions is reprehensible.

Worse, not one councillor in the scrutiny committee asked the obvious question as to how the huge growth in profits that were predicted in the plan could be managed whilst maintaining the CO2 ceiling.

This ambivalence is made even worse when the main target market for this development is private jets. It comes at a time when we are being told to expect our electricity bills to increase to cover the costs of carbon free electricity and when we see East Africa collapsing because of climate change. There is clearly one world for the rich who have no moral scruples and another for the rest.

However, we should not be surprised. The airport has claimed climate change did not exist, it still claims the development is safety related despite not having producing a single piece of safety evidence, and it claims it has no expansion plans despite previously talking of extending its terminal building. When a project is so evidently based on falsehood, it is time for our councillors to show courage and do the honourable thing in rejecting it.

Kevin Lister

More on the Business Plan

A final decision will be made at full council meetings on Monday, December 14, in Cheltenham, and Thursday, January 7, in Gloucester. So where are we - well The Citizen wrote a week or so ago that "Long-standing plans to boost business at Gloucestershire Airport could be about to take off." It was written without reference to the huge and sustained campaign against the Airport and seemingly ignoring the fact that their plan will increase CO2 emissions.

The article starts: "Leaders of Cheltenham Borough and Gloucester City Councils want to borrow £2.4 million to fund runway improvement plans and attract more corporate jet-setters and professional pilot training programmes. If approved, council chiefs believe the airport would generate about five times its current income, and attract new businesses to the area...Each council owns a 50 per cent stake in the Staverton-based venture, which is operated by a private business...After a decade, each hopes to make at least £123,000 a year from the scheme – significantly more than the existing annual revenue of £25,000."

As regular blog readers will know Tewkesbury Borough Council, which has planning jurisdiction on the site, approved the extension proposals in September.

Well as noted before a central part of the Green Management Plan was a commitment that CO2 emissions would not exceed 4,000 tonnes per annum, but the new business plan deliberately ignores this target. When the Green Management Plan was issued the airport director, Mark Ryan, claimed climate change was their number one agenda item at all board meetings. There was also a commitment to review the Green Management Plan on an annual basis. No review has been carried out.

Here is what Kevin Lister says for the campaign group, Plane Stupid said, “It was clear to any fool the Green Management Plan was Greenwash. It is impossible to expand an airport without increasing greenhouse gas emissions. However, the councillors played along with the airport management the whole way. They are no different to the sheep bleating in support of the pigs in Animal Farm.”

The newly released business management plan claimed that the expansion would, “double the enterprise value.” Neil Marshall of CASE (Campaign against Staverton Expansion) has commented: “This means many more planes flying over head.”

Is this fraud?

Kevin Lister, who recently made headlines for being arrested for holding to ransom the airport's PV lights, also commented to press that he has been investigating a possible fraud: “We have already brought this to the attention of the police and we are working with our solicitors to take a civil action against the airport and councillors for possible fraud. On one hand we are told we must accept higher electricity bills to cover the costs of renewables, then we see our council using our taxes to support an expansion aimed at private jets. This is a case of the poor paying for the rich." He added that he also thought that "the airport had been withholding information about the true nature of the expansion of flights from the Tewkesbury Planning Committee.”

We know that no safety assessment has ever been done looking at the risks of planes over Churchdown - despite this project resulting in more fully laden planes taking off over Churchdown and the airport justifying the work as a safety project. Why?? We don't know, but some might surmise that the extension was more about expansion than safety?

A miss quote from me got to the press while I was away, but fortunately it seems they have not published it - here is what I actually said in response: “The airport even had the audacity to claim that climate change did not exist. The problem was that some councillors in Gloucester and Cheltenham appeared to believe them. After protests, the airport issued a Green Management plan and claimed it would address the environmental issues. This was critical in getting the Councils to approve their plans. It later turned out the plan had no penalties if the ceilings for CO2 emissions and flight numbers were exceeded. Now we see a new business plan for expansion. So what of their promises of a year ago to tackle emissions? It is looking more and more like a deliberate deception to gain approval from Councils. I welcome the civil actions by Kevin Lister of Plane Stupid to get to the bottom of this.”

David Cameron's attitude to aviation growth

I have been angered by the latest noises coming from the Tory party - once again Cameron likes to try to talk "green", but he has no real intention of acting green.

Emissions are dangerous wherever they occur, but for Mr Cameron it seems it depends which city you build your airport next to. He pledges to stop Heathrow's third runway in order to help cut greenhouse gases, while simultaneously promoting the growth of regional airports despite the corresponding increase in greenhouse gases, simply doesn't make sense????!!!!

There is a growing consensus that the world must cut CO2 emissions by a minimum 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. Sooner or later this will translate into a much higher price for carbon, and surely the aviation industry doesn't expect to be forever exempt from paying its way? Indeed the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution pointed out years ago that aviation growth was being driven by artificially low prices, thanks to the huge tax breaks given to the aviation industry.

The effects of climate change are becoming more and more severe - already the UN is saying those effects include 300,000 premature deaths and $125bn worth of economic damage every year - we can expect the international community to become more concerned to keep air transport at a sustainable level. And yes, we can expect the price to go up and demand to fall. So perhaps BAA should move on from its current short-termist wishful thinking about perpetual cheap oil, and start diversifying its business into sustainable alternatives.

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