Home Page Link Thaxted - under the present flightpath and threatened with quadrupled activity Takeley's 12th century parish church, close to proposed second runway Harcamlow Way, Bamber's Green - much of the long distance path and village would disappear under Runway 2 Clavering - typical of the Uttlesford villages threatened by urbanisation
Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport

image SSE NEWS ARCHIVE - December 2002 to March 2003

31 March 2003

MORE AVIATION SUBSIDIES?
The Financial Times reports: (March 31st)
"No hand-outs, Brussels tells Europe Airlines"

After weeks of speculation and reports of falling airline and holiday bookings due to the effects of a war with Iraq, Europe's aviation industry has been told not to expect "generous" hand-outs because of the war, even though the US is considering a multi-billion-dollar package to help U.S. ailing airlines.

It appears that the meeting of Ministers in Brussels last week agreed with the EU commission's view even though the current Presidency (Greece) opposed it.

However, the Ministers did not agree with the other EU proposal that penalties should be imposed on non-EU airlines that benefited from "unfair subsidies". France, Germany and the UK were all agreed on opposing this measure though why this was so is not clear.

This would still enable some help in meeting extra insurance costs, more flexibility over take-off and landing slots (normally lost if not used to capacity) and some compensation for security measures and loss of air space. The EU commission is anxious to get full agreement, now expected at the next Ministers' meeting in June. It also wishes to negotiate aviation deals with the US after the ruling of the European Court of Justice last year undermined the legality of many current "open skies" agreements.

We would question whether any aviation subsidy - other than compensation for actual loss of air space dues to the effects of war - is justified when other export industries are not offered a similar package. Investors and customers are well aware of the special vulnerability of air traffic and this should be factored into the normal costs, in the same way that we are arguing environmental costs should be treated.

However, this part refusal of subsidies is perhaps the beginning of a dawning realisation that the UK economy is not so dependent on the aviation industry as the Government originally believed. If any other industry had been pampered for such a long period, protests would have been made some time ago. "Pump priming" of developing and necessary commercial activity is often essential for future success, but it has to be tailed off when the enterprise ought to be self sufficient. Aviation has had an easy time for too long. Maybe there are essential services that need subsidies for social and economic reasons, but not the entire UK market.

Pat Dale


24 March 2003

FROM THE HOUSE OF LORDS
Questions about Low Cost Airlines - 20 March

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they were satisfied with the performance of the Civil Aviation Authority in regulating low-cost airlines. He commenced:

"The two most prominent and largest low-cost airlines are Ryanair, which is based mainly at Stansted, as well as Dublin, and EasyJet, which is based at Luton. Ryanair has about 50 aircraft in scheduled flights but plans to buy 150 more within the next few years. EasyJet now seems to have about 60 aircraft but, like Ryanair, plans to buy 150 new aircraft.

These two airlines are highly competitive in the market, especially with each other. They are aggressive in their language and are not above knocking copy and black propaganda. Michael O'Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, and Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the boss of easyGroup, are happy to personalise these rivalries. For example, in a sharp exchange of correspondence in the Financial Times in June last year, Mr Haji-Ioannou was critical about Ryanair for using fully depreciated aircraft "about 23 years old" and, as he put it, on a "few landing strips in the middle of nowhere".

In reply, Mr O'Leary accused the chairman of easyGroup of "nonsense" and writing "whingeing letters". I hope that they have sufficient time to run their companies while swapping such rhetorical flourishes.

Both companies are also rich in publishing press releases, and it is hard to keep track of their bewildering claims. On 8th February, EasyJet reported a surge in passenger numbers for January, and its shares rose to 225 pence. But, on 26th February - less than three weeks later - EasyJet was warning about the need to cut fares to fill its aircraft, and its shares fell to 213 pence. I assume that Ryanair and EasyJet are financially sound, but it is difficult to ascertain their underlying current performance.

A year ago, there were two other well regarded airlines - Go and Buzz. I had flown with both of them. But Go has gone, absorbed into EasyJet, and Buzz has been bought by Ryanair, which announced this week that it was retaining only a limited number of routes and aircraft and sacking three-quarters of its Stansted staff. Given the fate of Buzz, the passengers are being refunded, or so it seems, but the workforce, including the pilots, may still be in dispute."

He continued with an analysis of what low cost air lines offered, and welcomed their growth "because traditional airlines have had their own way for far too long. That has widened the opportunity to travel for leisure including those of limited means". He then expressed concerns over consumer protection and safety. He was a Minister in 1960 and was instrumental in securing a number of improvements in safety. He wished to ask what the role of the CAA is in connection with this low cost revolution? There was no reference to low-cost airlines in the chairman's statement in the 2002 annual review, or in the short history of the CAA, also in the review.

He continued: "The review mentions "an airline's Voluntary Passenger Service Commitment, which sets a range of passenger service standards" that has resulted from an initiative by the European Commission. The Department for Transport has asked the CAA to monitor compliance and the CAA gave a report at the beginning of the year 2002. It was, he said, disappointing as was a further one in November. No low cost carriers were included. He asked if the Minister was happy about the situation. He reported that the Advertising Standards Authority when he was chairman received justified complaints about Ryanair, EasyJet and the late Go and Buzz.

He then spoke about safety:

"The CAA's annual report refers to safety as "the first priority", "the top priority" and the "primary objective" - and quite right too. It states that the United Kingdom has one of the best aviation safety records in the world. I am ready to endorse that - as, I am sure, is the Minister. However, it would be reassuring if the CAA was to state explicitly that low-cost airlines are not under unreasonable strains and pressures, given some disturbing anecdotal remarks." He quoted the report that some pilots are said to be flying to the limits of maximum hours and may be turned around within 20 minutes on an international flight.

He also asked if the Minister was satisfied with the quality of the crew and how the CAA was maintaining its standards. He reminded the Minister that the human factor remains critical in aviation. If air crew are unsettled, tired or preoccupied about their jobs and security, they may be distracted from their professional task.

He then turned to the safety of the aircraft. He said:

"Finally, I turn to aircraft. I understand that low-cost airlines generally utilise their aircraft for up to 13 hours a day, compared with eight or nine hours for traditional airlines. Given that some second-hand, elderly aircraft will continue to be used, I assume that the CAA is monitoring risks and watching for any cutting of corners.

I repeat: I greatly welcome the low-cost revolution of civil aviation, but I hope that the Minister can reassure the public and me that the Civil Aviation Authority is fully alert to any shortcomings in that important, fast-moving sector. He might encourage the Civil Aviation Authority to be more forthcoming about low-cost airlines in its next annual report and review."

There followed a short debate. Lord Clinton Davis, the President of BALPA, expressed his regret over the way in which Ryanair had taken over Buzz, and had failed to follow normal negotiating practices over redundancies. He expressed concern over the conditions of service and, with other contributors to the debate, asked if the Minister was satisfied that the situation with regard to passenger compensation rights, conditions of service for aircrew and safety of aircraft were satisfactorily monitored. He also asked that airport duty should not be raised in the next budget at this testing time for all airlines.

The Minister, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, was full of confidence in the ability of the CAA to regulate the questions of safety - the EU commission was introducing measures to ensure that passengers were fully compensated for delays and cancellations, and the Irish Aviation Authority was acting in respect of Ryanair. Labour negotiations were not the responsubility of the Government and he could not comment on what the budget might introduce. He expressed approval of the low cost carriers in general and reminded the House that the economics of the airlines and the rapid expansion of the low cost lines was a matter for the market.

Our Comments

The noble Lords showed no concern whatsoever about the environmental costs of this sector of air traffic, the sector that has been largely responsible for the rapid growth in air travel - and pollution - in the last few years. Surely they have read the Government's consultation documents and have at least considered the question. Are they not aware that the low cost is only possible because we are all indirectly subsidising these cheap tickets?

We commend the noble Lords for asking essential questions relating to safety and to working conditions for employees, but there are other equally important factors that ought to have been raised. We need to make sure that the House of Lords is fully briefed as well as the House of Commons.

Pat Dale


19 March 2003

FIRST COMMENTS
"Aviation and the Environment - Using Economic Instruments"

It is important to recognize the status of this Green Paper. It is not a proposal to introduce "green taxes". The document is intended to form the basis for discussions that the Department for Transport will hold with stakeholders to find "the most effective economic instruments for ensuring that the industry is encouraged to take account of, and where appropriate reduce, its contribution to global warming, local air and noise pollution".

It is easy to be cynical and suggest that the Green Paper has been produced by the DfT as a sop to those who claim that environmental and other issues are being ignored, and to see it as the DfT employing attack as the best form of defence. We are nervous that the Green Paper is an attempt to limit discussion on demand management only to the environmental impacts that can be evaluated, and to exclude discussion of economic, social and other reasons for constraining growth.

The paper includes an analysis of aviation's environmental impact and "provides evidence of market failure because full environmental costs are not currently factored into the prices paid by those who benefit from aviation. Hence there is a case for the Government to intervene" [to improve the environment through the use of economic instruments such as taxes]. We see this as a most encouraging starting point.

The paper also includes some open ended questions for discussion with stakeholders. These are:

- What would be the advantages in including international aviation in national totals for the Kyoto commitment period commencing 2012?
It is most disappointing that there is no suggestion that the critical omission of international aviation from the present Kyoto targets might be tackled any earlier.

- What other measures might be effective at tackling climate change?
This hopefully leaves open the opportunity to argue for changes in the 1944 Chicago Convention that protects international aviation from taxation.

There is no suggestion that any Government income from economic instruments might be recycled, for example, to improve noise insulation grants, etc.

The fact that this Green Paper on environmental taxation was produced by the Department for Transport (rather than the Treasury or the Department for Environment) is apparent from some of the familiar clichés. One DfT phrase that also appears in the SERAS consultation is the objective "to maximise the significant social and economic benefits, whilst seeking to minimise the environmental impacts".

The DfT persists in promoting this as the core of the debate, but it is an over-simplified and misleading statement. The implication that aviation is good for the economy, good for society and only bad for the environment is far from the truth. In reality the aviation industry is responsible for causing enormous harm to the UK economy. Any claim that it brings net economic benefits ignores the yawning trade deficit in tourism that has grown out of the cheap flights industry, which itself has blossomed due to the absence of Duty on fuel and VAT on flights. You can add to that the cost of importing aeroplanes and the acceleration of the UK's move from being an oil exporter towards becoming an oil importer. As for social benefits, the increasing accessibility of overseas destinations has to be offset against the permanent spoiling of our own country and destruction of the rural communities that make England so special. Let us not forget the social costs of urbanisation, increased congestion and mass migration that would arise if Stansted were expanded further.

There is an implication (in paragraph 1.3) that discussions may be restricted to the use of economic instruments only in the context of encouraging use of cleaner & quieter aircraft. There does not appear to be any recognition of the case for using such instruments to constrain growth for wider environmental, economic or social reasons.

Whatever the DfT's motivation in introducing the Green Paper, we must seek to influence the discussions. We may not be allowed to do this directly, and may have to make representations through AirportWatch, the national campaign group. At the same time, we will not be tempted to allow this DfT-led discussion to be the only hope for the introduction of demand management measures. We will continue to press for measures to constrain the growth of aviation.

I view the paper as a positive move. We can expect support from Gordon Brown for a tax that is politically acceptable and from Margaret Beckett for a move that demonstrates the Government's "green" credentials. However, we may have to wait some time before any "environmental tax" is imposed on aviation. The Government will consider the various proposals that come out of this mini consultation and will include its views in the Aviation White Paper at the end of this year. Only then will the Government consult on the design and implementation of the preferred options.

Ken McDonald


18 March 2003

MORE FROM THE PAPERS

Historic departures
Daily Telegraph - Property Section
15 March 2003

The headlong rush to develop Britain's airports will destroy scores of buildings - and the countryside around them - that are part of our glorious heritage. Lucinda Lambton raises a howl of protest.

For a despairing glimpse of our country's future if the Government goes ahead with its insanely short-sighted airport development policy - ruining the very country that the projected millions will be flying in to see - go to Lowfield Heath in Surrey, within spitting distance of Gatwick's perimeter.

She goes on to describe in detail the hideousness of some of the industrial building near to Gatwick Airport, in an area that was once unspoilt countryside. She visits Charlwood, the mediaeval village that after expansion would lie between two runways and which would become uninhabitable if these are built.

She then describes the destruction that will occur in one of the last historic parts of Harmondsworth, where the 3rd runway at Heathrow is planned.

She continues:

"As with Middlesex, so too with Essex, where Stansted's proposed new runways threaten to destroy a quantity of historic gems. No fewer than 64 listed buildings, two of them ancient monuments, would be demolished to make way for 26km of airport development. The thatched, 15th- to 17th-century Three Horseshoes pub would be smashed, as would umpteen cottages dating from the 15th century. Some have Gothic windows, others Tudor beams; many are elaborately thatched; others yet are timber framed, and some are richly pargeted, with encrustations of fleurs-de-lys, circles, squares, triangles and flowers. All these quintessentially English buildings would be destroyed if the Government's axe falls their way.

Nor are such decorative fancies reserved only for the cottages. Never, to my dying day, will I forget the sight of Mrs Helme standing in front of Muscombs, the richly pargeted 16th-century house where she and her husband have lived for 46 years. As the sun was setting, we looked out over the gently interwoven hills and fields, planted with trees as if by an 18th-century landscape gardener, with a multitude of shining gold sheep casting their long black shadows. On mournful cue, a lone dog barked in the distance. Here was the England famed the world over - yet five years hence, it could be crushed by the car park and the aircraft maintenance area.

The cherry on the rich rural cake of Essex is the church of St Mary the Virgin at Tilty, which admittedly will only be grazed by jets, rather than crushed by concrete, but would nevertheless be ruined by being but feet from Stansted's new perimeter.

It is an extraordinary building: a beamed gothic nave of 1220, with a slender bell tower and cupola of the 1700s, keeping strange company with the magnificent and disproportionately large flint-chequered chancel of 1330. Its vast east window, rising the full height of the building, is as fine an example of stone tracery as any that can be found in the United Kingdom."

She continues her journey at Cliffe, with it's marshes and bird life. She describes the ancient castle of Cooley, threatened by the airport proposals. She comments:

"This ancient pile would undoubtedly crumble if jets were to take off and land but feet from its towers. Today it is loved and looked after by my brother-in-common-law, Jools Holland, who is as bewildered as I am that the Government should be giving such scant attention to the historic fabric of our land.

It has not always been thus. Even at the height of the Second World War, in 1943, resistance to the Civil Aviation Authority's original plan to buy up historic swathes of rich horticultural land around Heathrow was so irresistibly strong that it could only be overcome by deceiving the Government.

In his autobiography, published in the 1970s, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, the wartime Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Air, tells how he lied to Churchill's cabinet by pretending that the land was urgently needed by the RAF to defend London - which was wholly untrue. But only by claiming that national survival was at stake could he hope to get the necessary requisition order through.

What is the justification being put forward today? Nothing as important as national survival: merely that runways are needed to cater for the extra demand for air travel created by the existence of all the latest bargain flights. Better the wartime lie, however detestable, than this shoddy parody of a huckster's excuse. How can such self-destructive schemes be allowed to continue?

There is some slight hope in the fact that no final decisions have yet been taken - a White Paper is due by the end of this year - but I fear the worst. The only decent solution is an offshore airport - only that will prevent the accelerating despoliation of our small jewel of an island".


More cheap flights

These have been reported in both the Nationals and the local papers.

Low budget airline Ryanair has announced that there will be seven new destinations across Europe and the UK from Stansted Airport from May 1. The new routes include services to Ostend in Belgium, Groningen in Holland, Leipzig in Germany, Palermo in Sicily, Bergerac and Rodez in France, and Blackpool.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary said: "Ryanair expects to carry up to 24m passengers across the UK and Europe over the coming year.

"These new routes will add 105 flights per week to our extensive network, and will bring Ryanair up to 115 routes across 16 countries."

Yesterday (16th) Ryanair announced that there would be a fare promotion of one million seats at £10 (one way). This is designed to keep people flying in spite of a war with Iraq.! At what price to the environment ?


Ryanair settles with BUZZ employees

It appears from reports in several papers and from local sources that Ryanair's purchase of BUZZ has incurred the Unions' wrath over the way in which Ryanair has handled the question of redundancies and the plans for the future of the airline. 400 employees were to have been made redundant and 170 offered jobs with new contracts. Not all those offered new terms have accepted them and the vacancies will be offered to those who are on the redundancy list. Flights will be resumed on the 1st May but only to 13 of the previous 24 destinations. The Union claims that employees have been put under duress to sign new deals and there is talk of legal action over employment contracts which, it is claimed, have not been honoured by Ryanair.


BAA reports record numbers of passengers use Stansted Airport

Apparently annual passenger numbers are now up to 16.5 million, the first jump towards the new maximum of 25 mppa. February numbers were up by 24% compared to last year. Business passengers were marginally increased, forming 21% of the total, though of course, most are UK tourists. BAA claims that a third of these were visiting friends and families, though quite how this figure is arrived at is not explained. Perhaps they carried out a spot check. When is a tourist not a tourist? February is school holiday time, many go for winter sports, as a family. Others may stay with family members for a weeks holiday.

Pat Dale


17 March 2003

AVIATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Using Economic Instruments

The new consultation paper from the Treasury and the DfT is now available on www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media//8E752/Aviation.Environment.pdf

As we have previously described, from the information given in the original press release, it is intended to initiate discussions on the most effective economic instruments for "ensuring that the industry is encouraged to take account of, and where appropriate reduce, its contribution to global warming, local air and noise pollution".

It follows the statement made in the 2002 Pre-Budget Report. The discussions will contribute to the coming White Paper on Air Transport.

The Government's Objectives for Aviation

Once again it is stated that "The development of aviation should be sustainable". This, as usual is followed by reiterating the need to maintain a balance between economic, environmental and social considerations; to maximise social and economic benefits while seeking to minimise environmental impacts. (This, as we know, is the core of the argument - which is the most important?)

Other objectives:

*  The polluter should pay and aviation should meet its external costs, including environmental costs.

*  Economic instruments can be a useful way to reduce the environmental impact of aviation by encouraging the use of cleaner and quieter aircraft.

*  Such instruments have to be "appropriate and practical" and take account of international obligations and legislation, including the Kyoto protocol.

*  Regulation may be appropriate.

*  The extent which increased demand should be met is the subject of the current main SERAS consultation.

Policy Appraisal

This study and discussion is part of the government's strategic framework on environmental taxation. It is intended that:

*  There must be a rationale for intervention.

*  The costs and benefits of intervention need to be evaluated, including "value for money" and the effectiveness of internalising external environmental costs.

*  Regulation may be one tool that can be used, voluntary agreements and possibly a trading scheme.

*  An important question is "Is it essential to bring pollution down to a set quantity or is the aim to internalise a known externality?"

(Note: The first document on the subject, "Valuing the External Costs of Aviation 2000" can be downloaded at www.aviation.dft.gov.uk/atwp/exvalue/index.htm)

Section 3 describes Aviation's Environmental Impact

Only the direct effects are considered, Climate Change, Noise and Local Air Quality. Other effects associated with airports and their development are "addressed in the main consultation document".

Climate Change

Costs are based on the aircraft emissions that contribute to climate change. These are primarily carbon dioxide but account is taken of nitrogen oxides, the secondary formation of ozone at lower levels, the formation of contrails and the depletion of stratospheric ozone. The concept of "radiative forcing" is accepted as a measure of the additional effects of these other emissions and effects. To allow for these additional effects, the amount of carbon dioxide that is assessed to be produced by the UK aircraft movements is multiplied by a figure of 2.7 , an index developed by the IPPC and other authorities. From this the amount of carbon released per year is calculated and costed at £70 per tonne per year rising by £1 a tonne every year. The Annex C to the report gives a full analysis as to how these figures are arrived at.

They were calculated by QinetiQ, but, as might be expected, their predictions for 2030 do not agree in every respect with other forecasters such as "NETCEN" (National Environmental Technology Centre) who produce higher levels of CO2 production than the SPASM computer programme produced for SERAS. (There is still room for argument!)

Aviation's share of CO2 emissions (presumably based on the lower SPASM forecasts) is predicted to rise from 5% (30 million tonnes) in 2000 to 10 - 12% in 2020 (55 million tonnes).

The report repeats the claim in the main consultation document that meeting the cost of climate change would have the effect of reducing demand by 10% but that supply side effects, demand response and technological improvements could change this estimate.

Overall the national cost of global warming from aviation CO2 is £1.4 billion in 2000 rising to £4.8 billion in 2030, assuming more air traffic and a higher cost of carbon.

Noise

Costs of noise annoyance are based entirely on the fall in the value of house prices, setting the base level at 57dB and producing a figure of a reduction of 0.5 - 1% per decibel rise. At Heathrow this amounts to 36 - 40p per passenger, but elsewhere only 5p.

The rationale is further explained in ANNEX E but, of course, no effects are considered outside the 57dB contour, (a situation known to be unsatisfactory by all those living under a flight path). The estimate for 2000 is £25 million!

Local Air Quality

It is admitted that exceedances of EU Directive levels is likely to occur at Heathrow, but there is no mention of Gatwick or Stansted! (Evidently law breaking does not matter unless a few thousand people are involved.) An attempt is made, as in the main document, to estimate the costs to the NHS of respiratory illness and the results were too low to be expressed in any tax. A paper is, though, quoted by CE Delft on the External Costs of Aviation which puts a figure of £1.2 per passenger on combined health and environmental effects - a total of £119 - 236 million for all UK passengers. This is available at www.cedelft.nl - (this clearly needs further study).

Further considerations are to be found in ANNEX F but there is no reference to the considerable body of research that has been published on the health effects of engine emissions. It is made clear that there are and will be EU limits to meet but the report persists in the assumption that the predictions that the limits will be breached is only a problem at Heathrow.

Nothing is said about the effects on plant life or on the harmful effects of nitrogen deposition. Odour and deposits of unburned fuel are dismissed as there is no evidence of any health effects from ambient concentrations of kerosene vapour round airports. (Who has measured them?) Deposition of unburned fuel is a very real source of damage and should have been given more attention.

There are a list of questions for discussion and while it is said that the Government welcomes contributions it appears that the intention is to invite "key representative groups" to attend discussion sessions. Organisations wishing to contribute are told to contact groups that represent them.

SSE needs to establish its position at an early stage! Environmental charges are a vital weapon of demand management and must not be used only as part of a mitigation umbrella that could be used to justify high levels of future capacity.

Pat Dale


17 March 2003

WHAT THE PAPERS SAY

BAA deal saves air traffic control (Guardian 14 March)

It seems that BAA has acted as a guardian angel and rescued Nats from its financial difficulties. Not only have they invested £65million in return for 2 seats on the Board, but the government have provided an equivalent amount. BAA is reported as saying that "it was always an advantage to please the government". (We can say that again!)

Nats has been in financial difficulties since part privatisation. The consortium owning the 46% private part is now virtually entirely composed of representatives of the aviation industry (BA, Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic, and now, BAA). Is this a desirable state of affairs? Now the CAA has to decide on the prices that Nats can charge airlines. We learn that the agreement at the time of privatisation was that charges should be lowered by 4% but that the CAA will probably opt for only a 2% reduction. More subsidies!

SSE's concern has been the failure of Nats to give any realistic forecast over the air safety consequences of the suggested air traffic expansion. Will the skies, like Railtrack, or the motorways, be able to cope? You can't park in the sky!

War fears plunges airlines into crisis (Guardian 12 March)

Further reports from airlines around the world continue to cast a shadow over airlines, report Andrew Clark and David Teather. Iberia and Japan's JAL warned of weak bookings, American carriers fear job cuts and airline shares fell further. Boeing reported a dwindling demand for aircraft with only one third as many commercial aircraft sold in February compared with last year. Iberia is cutting capacity by 3%, anticipating an overall fall this year.

All these reports might be expected in view of the current situation. Air travel is very susceptible to international disturbances. (This is yet another reason why SSE questions the Government's excessive demand forecasts.)

However, yet another budget airline has been launched (Guardian 12 March)

"Now" has been set up by a former Virgin airlines pilot. He will be offering cheap fares (more subsidised flights!) with his two aircraft, operating out of Luton to seven European airports. He will, though, operate a straightforward fare system - every seat at the same price, not as other Budget airlines do, varying the price according to the demand and to the length of time before the flight. An example would be £35 to Manchester, £75 to Tenerife. This is certainly an improvement on the other cheap air fare systems - everyone knows exactly how they stand.

Guardian 11 March

The Consumers' Association 'Holiday Which' has carried out a survey of their readers views on their latest flight. The top of the customer satisfaction table was the Bournemouth operator Palmair, another two airplane budget airline, with 85% of its passengers recommending it. Singapore Airlines and Emirates were second and third at 80% and 77%. However, the other budget airlines were not so successful with Go only at 56%, Easyjet (54%), Buzz (54%), and bmibaby (50%). Bottom was Air Scandic (6%) and JMC (8%).

It is clearly not a guaranteed comfortable journey when you save money on the fare! In spite of these rather poor results, the editor of 'Holiday Which' commented "No-frills airlines have changed the way many of us think about travel. Special deals for peanuts mean weekends in Europe can be a spontaneous purchase, in addition to our main break". Does anyone feel like complaining to Which? Surely a responsible consumers' organisation should at least consider some of the adverse effects of "tickets for peanuts" - and, just for the weekend - on many of their members and, ultimately, if we are all encouraged to demand such a service, on most of their members.

Pat Dale


16 March 2003

IS THERE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

Airlines "must pay for damage to the Environment"

A surprise consultation paper has just been produced by the Treasury and the Department for Transport on the environmental costs of air travel. The government estimates that this amounts to £1.4 billion in 2000, and could rise to £4.8 billion in 2030.

It is not clear from the press release exactly what these costs include. Greenhouse gas emissions from civil airliners are referred to. It appears that no account is taken of the effects on local air quality or noise pollution.

However, it is a beginning. The paper says clearly that air lines should pay the full cost of their environmental effects. "The analysis provides evidence of market failure because full environmental costs are not currently factored into the prices paid by those who benefit from aviation. Hence the case for the government to intervene."

No specific proposals are put forward, only the general suggestion that the costs could be met through a combination of economic instruments (taxes) and regulation. Taxes are said to be a "useful way" to reduce the environmental impact of aviation by encouraging the development of cleaner and quieter aircraft.

We shall need to see the whole report, which hopefully will be available after the weekend.

The argument that will now arise, in which SSE must join is, firstly, how were these figures calculated and, secondly, why are the local effects round the airports not included?

Brendon Sewill has calculated that the present annual subsidy is £9.2 billion a year. This is not, of course, the same as an estimated cost of environmental damage. In the main SERAS consultation document, costs are calculated of the carbon dioxide emissions, not of the other polluting gases such as nitrogen oxides and PM10 and 2.5 (or the volatile organic compounds and the ozone produced from the mix).

There it is said that if the calculated costs of CO2 emissions are put into the equation, ticket prices would need to rise by 10 to 12%. The costs are based on a DEFRA calculation of the "social costs" of carbon being currently £75 a tonne increasing by £1 per tonne per annum.

Warning

The SERAS consultation document foretells that a rise in aviation taxes would result in the development of more fuel efficient aircraft engines. The long term effects would therefore lead to lower costs and would have "some effect in stimulating demand".

It is very important that this apparent change of heart by the government is not seen also as an admission that with higher prices demand will fall. It must also be remembered that no one has as yet invented an aircraft engine that is both more fuel efficient and less polluting. Carbon dioxide reduction is an essential part of reducing the effects of climate change, but the other polluting gases are also greenhouse gases, and are the ones that are responsible NOW for polluting the air we breathe. We need reductions in ALL polluting gases as well as noise.

Pat Dale


12 March 2003

PASSENGERS TO SUFFER CLIPPED WINGS
Financial Times - March 11th

Fewer flights to fewer destinations are likely to be a long-term effect as passengers cancel travel plans, writes Amon Cohen.

We are told in this article that business passengers are disappearing! Numbers dropped after the dotcom bubble burst 2 years ago and fell further after September 11th. There was some recovery last year but now with the threat of war there is an increasing reluctance to fly, especially amongst Americans.

A US survey of travel buyers found that 32% of companies had cut travel in anticipation of a war. Advance bookings are said to be down. The travel buyers are worried. Airlines are cutting frequencies and destinations. Swiss Airlines is withdrawing 20 aircraft and curtailing about 50 routes. BA has cut services to the Middle East and is said to be contemplating the future of its Concorde service. In addition, business travellers are going economy class, especially on short haul flights.

In the USA, United and US Airways are fighting bankruptcy and American Airlines says it must make substantial cost savings this year. The article finishes by quoting the somewhat gloomy views of a travel management consultant - he believes that US businesses have permanently reduced their travel by 10-15% since September 11th and may reduce further if there is a war. Unilever's European Travel director agrees. He does not see travel volumes coming back. With the threat of terrorism the marketplace has changed and his firm is finding other ways of communicating.

This commentary refers to business travel and short haul tourist traffic may not be so affected. However, it raises yet again the flimsiness of the demand predictions accepted by the Government.

Pat Dale


10 March 2003

THE HIDDEN COST OF FLYING

The latest report from the Aviation Environment Federation examines the economic case made in the consultation document for the expansion of aviation. It is written by Brendon Sewill, an economist and former adviser to the Treasury. He is now the Chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign GACC, which has recently launched its campaign against Gatwick expansion with the slogan "Say no way/Gatwick runway". The Report can be downloaded from the AirportWatch website.

The economic arguments are already familiar to SSE members. They have been fully analysed and criticised by SSE, both in the Response document and in countless briefings, press notices, letters from members sent to Alistair Darling and to the press, and on this website. However, Brendon's analysis is very comprehensive and gives a new angle on the arguments. He also describes "SPASM" and draws costing conclusions that the government will have to take seriously and answer before they take any decision about future expansion.

Have you heard about the SPASM experiment?

The predictions of future demand for air travel were produced by a study for the DfT into the economic benefits of aviation carried out by the Oxford Economic Forecasting (90% paid for by the UK Airlines). Most of the figures in the consultation documents have been produced by a computer programme called SPASM. Late last year the AEF, together with CPRE and Friends of the Earth asked the DfT to rerun the SPASM programme using a different set of assumptions. These were that aviation fuel was taxed at the same rate as motor vehicle fuel, and that VAT was imposed on all flights departing from the UK.

The results were a justification of all our criticisms about hidden costs and showed that the growth in air traffic would be only 2-3% per year and there would be no need for new runways. The surprise was that ticket prices would not rise. £9 billion would be raised in taxes. The Tax subsidy received by the aviation industry is calculated as:

Fuel Tax = £5.7 billion per year
VAT = £4.0 billion per year
Duty Free = £0.4 billion per year
Deduct APD = £0.9 billion per year
Net Tax subsidy = £9.2billion per year
(It is assumed that external environmental costs are included in the fuel costs)

Only Fuel Tax and VAT imposed on all flights leaving UK airports were included in the new SPASM programme assumptions. The fuel tax was assumed to increase at 5 yearly intervals to reach the same level as motor fuel duty in 2025. The imposition of VAT was treated in the same way, reaching 17.5% in 2025. Air Passenger duty was assumed to be removed in 2020. The resulting demand was spread around all the London airports and not all concentrated on Heathrow.

Results of the exercise

*  The number of passengers using UK airports would rise to 315 million in 2030
*  Heathrow would handle 85 mppa, Gatwick 41, Stansted 26 and Luton 26
*  Regional airports would increase marginally - Birmingham to 30 mppa and Manchester 51 mppa

Conclusion

No new runways required!

Various objections were raised to these conclusions by the SPASM minders, varying in plausability. For instance, if you tax aviation fuel then manufacturers respond by designing more fuel efficient planes. BUT, such improvements have already been made and the problem is that noise and air pollution then increase - is technology likely to be capable of meeting such competing demands? At the moment no one knows the answer, though it is considered possible that pollution reducing improvements might be able to neutralise the effects of a 2% annual growth.

Air Fares

What would the effect be on fares? These would rise by about 34%. However, over the same period the forecasts are that the price of air travel will fall by 1% a year. Result - No change from today's price.

It has been stated by Ministers that if no new runways were built fares would rise by about £100. This was based on a SPASM calculation that such a rise would be needed to rein back demand to the capacity of today's runways. It appears that this calculation did not allow for the expected fall in prices over the next 30 years, which on today's £300 ticket would leave it exactly the same!

These conflicting figures suggest that the secret lies in the assumptions fed in to the computer programme, a situation that we have long suspected! The question is now, who makes the assumptions?

Practical difficulties and solutions

Brendon Sewill points out that there are difficulties in imposing any fuel tax - the EU might fail to agree to introduce a tax in the EU (it has been considered for some time), the ICAO will never agree, the airlines will fight it to the last gasp.

He comments that it makes no sense to build new runways to satisfy a demand that is artificially subsidised. He suggests that there are other ways of imposing the same level of taxes. An example is to auction slots, a policy that would have many other benefits. SPASM calculates this could raise over £11 billion a year if no new runways were built. Unfortunately, the UK has agreed that slot auctions have to be agreed with the EU. What has the Government done about this? To date, virtually nothing. Why not?

What then can be done by the UK alone without any undue delay? These include:

*  The abolition of Duty Free goods
*  Increases in Air passenger duty
*  VAT on domestic flights
*  Fuel tax on domestic flights
*  Taxes on local noise and air pollution

Economic Benefits

A last report from SPASM. The computer was also asked to recalculate the much vaunted economic benefits of aviation expansion - up to £15 billion according to the original forecasts. The results were as expected. A small benefit with a new runway at Heathrow, but a loss of £0.4 billion at Stansted. There was no answer for Gatwick ! (Instructions from Alistair Darling to the computer?)

Now we know, using the same computer programme, that if the hidden costs are included in the calculations, building new runways will not provide billions of pounds to the UK economy. Neither are they necessary to meet a managed demand.

Pat Dale


7 March 2003

PIE IN THE SKY
Private Eye March 7th

The Government's new consultation paper on aviation expansion - republished because the original omitted Gatwick as an option - shows all the same signs of being researched and approved by airport giants BAA plc. And BAA already enjoys a virtual monopoly of London's airports - 93% of passengers.

Despite the disbelief and criticism of residents and environmentalists which greeted the first version published last year, no attempt has been made to adjust dodgy travel projections - even though the airline industry is in crisis and numbers of people flying are likely to decrease further in the event of war.

The new series of green papers - seven, covering each region - repeats the dubious assertion that demand for air travel will leap from the current level of around 181 million to 500 million by 2030. Supposedly based on independent analysis it bears an uncanny similarity to figures produced by BAA last year. The South East accounts for 60% of UK air travel.

Transport ministers suggest demand will rise by 3.7% to 301 million in 2030. BAA's annual report contains an almost identical assumption. Hardly surprising since the Transport Department's forecast is based on a regional study prepared by BAA - and submitted to the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions in April 2001.

Happily for BAA, the favoured options, ranging from a third runway at Heathrow to two new ones each for Stansted and Gatwick, require massive expansion of its airports.

Despite its unparalleled monopoly, BAA gets an easy ride in Parliament. Could this be in any way related to the free parking it offers all politicians? Such 'rover' tickets would normally cost more than £1,300. Over £1.1 million worth of parking permits a year have been given to 475 MPs, 313 Lords and 77 MEPs - representing about half of all gifts declared in the members' register. BAA does not declare these as a political donation because it says its favours are offered to members of all political parties.


6 March 2003

"FLIGHT OF FANCY"
Guardian Society March 5th

John Vidal asks the same question that we asked last week - can Tony Blair's promise to cut greenhouse gases by 60% by 2050 be kept if airport expansion continues unhindered?

He refers to "Green Monday" on February 24th when the Government's Energy White Paper officially launched Britain into an era of renewables and an aspirant low carbon economy.

Tony Blair's proposal to raise the stakes and reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 was prompted by the forecasts that the Earth's temperature would rise by 6 degrees C by the end of the century, a rise that would have disastrous climatic consequences.

However, John Vidal then points out that transport watchers were very sceptical. The Department of Transport was at the time preparing to relaunch the Government's consultation paper on new and expanded airports which, he says, is widely expected to lead to a new generation of developments designed to massively stimulate aviation. He considers that the aviation industry is too close to the Department for Transport, it is clear that the industry wants more runways, more terminals and new airports and all that goes with airports.

It argues that aviation drives the British economy and supports half a million jobs, it would damage UK plc if expansion were curtailed, and it expects to get what it wants.

Green Monday was clearly not welcome at the DfT. The White Paper actually called for the aviation industry to reduce its contribution to global warming and then demonstrated that aviation was now the fastest growing source of carbon emissions. By 2030 they would form 83% of the total emissions that Tony Blair proposed to cut. To expand air traffic would be to neutralise all the reductions achieved by other parts of the economy.

The sums do not add up!

John Vidal concludes by suggesting that the aviation industry has had its way for too long with fuel and tax subsidies of about £500 per person per year. The DfT needs to embrace the environmental message. If the DTI, DEFRA and even the Treasury can do so, why not the DfT? The rules have changed, and unlimited increases in aviation cannot be sanctioned.

Pat Dale


5 March 2003

PARLIAMENTARY TRANSPORT COMMITTTEE MEETINGS

AVIATION

The Transport Committee will be hearing oral evidence for its inquiry into Aviation as follows:

Wednesday 12 March
at 4.00 pm  BA and BA Citiexpress
at 4.40 pm  bmi; Virgin Atlantic and BAR UK
at 5.20 pm  The Charter Group

Wednesday 19 March
at 4.00 pm  BAA
at 4.40 pm  The Manchester Airport Group
at 5.20 pm  London Luton Airport/TBI and Leeds Bradford International Airport

Further evidence sessions will be announced in due course.

The evidence sessions will take place in public, unless otherwise decided by the Committee. Because the meetings may be moved from the Palace of Westminster to Portcullis House, those wishing to attend the meetings should check the venue by contacting the Committee Office Information Line on 020 7219 2033 on the day before the hearings.


4 March 2003

MORE FROM THE PAPERS

The Financial Times reports (3 March) on a leaked draft of a Report on Aviation, to be published by the Institute of Public Policy Research.

It is reputed to urge that aviation should be taxed much more heavily to constrain growth in air travel, and to avoid the need for more airport capacity. The government should apply the concept of congestion charging to airports, to encourage "a better quality, premium service over a cheap and increasingly uncomfortable one". It describes flying as a "non-essential activity that is mainly the preserve of the better-off" - excepting flights providing access to remote regions. "Over 80% of low cost and scheduled leisure flights are by 40% of the population from the three most privileged social classes. As a consequence, any environmental charges would be progressive, paid for in the main by those who can most afford it."

It recommends an auction system for airport take-off and landing slots every 5 years, an end to the subsidisation of landing charges through the profits of airport shops and the end to airport duty free shops (or a windfall tax on them). It is fiercely critical of airlines being exempt globally from fuel tax and of passengers not paying value added tax on tickets.

The Freedom to Fly lobby group, a curious alliance between former print trade unionist Brenda Dean, and others from the aviation industry, expressed the view that the idea that low income groups did not benefit from cheap fares was ludicrous. (They seem to forget that the costs of a holiday abroad go far beyond the air fares.)

The Financial Times then comments in their Leader - "The Noise over UK airports".

They comment that the usual market rule when a commodity is scarce is to restrict demand and increase supply, but in the case of the "very limited airport capacity in the South East of England the answer is not so simple". It goes on to describe the decision by the CAA to increase landing charges at Heathrow, now subsidised by profits from the airport's retail operations, and the subsequent fury of the airlines, referred to in the original article as "struggling to emerge from their worst financial crisis and facing weakened demand".

The Leader goes on to comment that such increases will be too small to have any effect on demand which is forecast to triple over the next 30 years. Aviation provides 180,000 jobs, sustains tourism and helps the export of high price goods. But, the Leader says, air travel has an increasing effect on noise and environmental pollution. It dismisses a fuel tax as almost impossible for the UK to act unilaterally and so concludes that some expansion is inevitable, but asks where? After suggesting that it would be "nice" to make more use of regional airports, it then considers that nothing should be done that interferes with the need for UK to have an international hub airport to compete with Charles de Gaulle, Schiphol and Frankfurt. (This leaves us back in the South-East again!) The Leader ends with the comment that if the UK has no large hub airport to rival other European ones, then UK aviation may be fated to "relative international decline".

We find this analysis somewhat contradictory. Firstly, the "commodity" is not in short supply, even BAA admit that this state of affairs will not be arrived at for another 10 years, and this forecast uses the government's and the aviation industry's own demand predictions, which many dispute as being excessive. And, we are now seeing a decline in demand, used by the airlines to resist paying extra landing charges. They cannot have it both ways! In addition, to claim that the industry sustains tourism is correct, but the bulk of this tourism is of UK tourists travelling out of the country, already creating a deficit of over £11billion in the "tourism accounts". Is it good for UK plc to subsidise not only the airline costs but also to facilitate this loss to the balance of payments?

The question of the need to compete with EU airports is more complex. Does it stimulate the UK economy to actively encourage world wide travellers to change from long haul to short haul in the UK? Does it entice visitors to stop in the UK or do they simply to fly on to Paris or elsewhere? Does it facilitate business travellers visiting the UK? With regard to internal UK flights, then it would be better to spend the money on the rail and coach links rather than promote a larger hub simply so the regional airports can "feed into a big international hub" as suggested in the Leader. There is a need for far more information about the real advantages of a true hub airport as opposed to a large one that offers a reasonable variety of services.

The next day, the Chairman of the South East Chambers of Commerce in a letter to the Editor adds a plea for further airport expansion in the South East - "in order to ensure the South East retains its position as the economic locomotive of the UK economy." He goes on to say that the role of the South East as a gateway depends on having airports, able to expand, and so support trade, investment and jobs. Businesses realise the importance of getting their goods to market and being able to reach their customers quickly and effectively. The airports must develop in order to drive forward future growth, or competitors will go elsewhere to Paris or Amsterdam.

This belief in the ability of unlimited airport facilities to act as an economic driver is never backed by facts. It could be dangerous - excessive investment in one means of communication at the expense of others could unbalance the local economy. The near hysteria over a projected need 20 years away should have been backed by a far better economic case. Is it wise to promote the South East as a major economic driver in the UK when other areas need regeneration? Are most businesses really so reliant on air travel facilities and, if they are, do they have problems today? Do they foresee that they will need greatly increased facilities by 2010 bearing in mind expansion on existing runways is already in the pipeline? Or, as the official forecasts tell us, will the projected demand be largely from UK tourists?

Pat Dale


2 March 2003

WHAT THE PAPERS SAID
Comments by the press on the new Consultation Document

All the "quality" papers described the new proposals for Gatwick, mostly providing a fair amount of detail and comparing the projected passenger numbers to other international airports latest figures. Unfortunately, they did not all include the predictions of the options for Stansted, Cliffe and Heathrow which would have made it clearer that we are all trapped in the same threat - a significant number of those living in the south-east of England.

The Times paid particular attention to the position of Charlwood, a mediaeval village already near the airport boundary, but doomed to a future life halfway between the present runway, a parallel second runway and a new third runway. A situation as impossible as Broxted or Great Easton near Stansted.

Anthony Browne, the Times columnist, used the occasion to declaim that "Britain is full". He rightly said that the simple fact is that the Government cannot find anywhere to put a new runway without destroying lives or nature. He then said that the same applies to house building, new motorways, and new railways - in spite of efforts to crowd more houses into every site, and plans to make it easier to force unpopular planning developments through against local opposition. However, this somewhat over-simplistic account is then used to deride the recently announced plans to attract and give work permits to up to 150,000 immigrants a year. He should have remembered that it is new runways that will fuel the demand for more roads, houses and people to work at the airports!

The Daily Telegraph reported that the Government view was that the best value option was an extra runway at Heathrow and two extra at Gatwick. We have not yet traced the origin of this statement - it may be an assumption from the projected costs of all the options. (We know that not all costs have been included in the other options' estimates - we shall study the figures for Gatwick.)

The Financial Times added just a little bias into their account, a headline "Airport Growth set for take-off" and a comment from Mike Clasoer, the Chief Executive designate of BAA - he said that existing runways were expected to be at capacity in 10 years time. Well, he would say that!

Only the Guardian gave a dispassionate judgement. In the Leader column they commented:

Darling's Dilemma
More flights or clean up the skies
Guardian 28 February 2003

"We need to reduce the emissions from aviation", said the Government's energy white paper on Monday. Has anyone told Alistair Darling? The secretary of state for transport was yesterday sketching out plans to build a super-airport on the edge of London, which with 3 runways could handle 115m passengers. This fits a pattern. Mr Darling, as part of his aviation policy, is preparing to give the green light for up to half a dozen new landing strips - saying not to act would ruin UK plc. Britain may need new runways, but Mr Darling has failed to resolve the tension between economic gain and environmental cost. The reason for this shortcoming is that he is not prepared to "price people off planes" or limit the growth in air travel. If the Government is to have a credible green policy, Mr Darling will have to alter course.

Britain might want an airport economy bent to its domestic needs, but it has global obligations. If the Prime Minister wants a cleaner, greener world, then his transport secretary will need to recognise airplanes are not environmentally friendly. In fact, they are an increasingly large cause of climate change. Just consider the government forecast for passenger numbers. A half billion holiday-makers and business people by 2030 in the UK would send an extra 60m tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year. This is not far short of the amount of greenhouse gas that Britain needs to cut from its output under self-imposed Kyoto targets. Instead of catering for the demand to fly, ministers should realise they can use policy instruments to shape it. The airline industry likes to style itself as the epitome of private enterprise success over state failure. In fact taxpayers heavily subsidise flight schedules. Airlines pay no fuel tax, a handout worth £6bn. Many former national carriers have been given landing rights for free to land at some of the most-wanted destinations in the world. There is no VAT on tickets.

To compensate the Treasury, there is already a small levy of up to £10 a flight. This is not enough. A recent paper for the European commission calculated that to pay for the environmental damage caused by flights passengers would face a charge of £30 per 1000km travelled. Because the aviation industry crosses borders, it can avoid the reach of nations. A new fuel tax across Europe might just see airlines fill up outside the continent.

There are ways of forcing change - one is an emissions toll which could be charged via Europe's air traffic control network. The cost would be passed on to passengers. Another would be an emissions trading regime, rewarding airlines with clean fleets and penalising those with polluting ones. Both measures are being considered. But to effect such change requires political leadership to make society understand that present trends cannot continue. Mr Darling has conspicuously failed in this regard. His mistake echoes blunders over road pricing, which he pointedly refused to back. Now charges have cut congestion in London and the principle has been patronised by Tony Blair and John Redwood. Mr Darling has replaced his earlier scepticism with praise. Mr Darling ought to realise that what worked on the roads will help in the skies.

We have one point to make, - the commentary seems to assume that the predictions of the future demand to fly are correct. The news this week suggests that, as with so many other "success" stories, continued rapid expansion is a myth. The market reaches a maximum, and then settles down into more normal behaviour.

"Airlines attack planned rise in landing fees at Heathrow"
Financial Times 1 March 2003

The news is that the Civil Aviation Authority have now authorised BAA to increase landing charges at the airport by up to 50% over the next 5 years. They consider it is necessary to support the £7.4 bn 10 year investment programme planned by BAA. There have been immediate protests from British Airways and other airlines, notably Virgin Atlantic, who is threatening to ask for a judicial review. Richard Branson declared it was madness, with oil up to $40 a barrel! (forget the subsidy!). BA expressed sorrow that the travelling public would have to pay higher fares - it was "bad news for an industry already in financial distress".

All this about an annual rise per passenger from £6.48 up to £8.28 in 2007. At Gatwick and Stansted rises will be only at the rate of inflation, they are at present £4.32 and £4.89.

When one considers the "subsidies" that are received by both sides these figures look paltry. When one adds the human and environmental costs the question must arise, why is the provision of ever increasing air traffic necessary to the well-being of UK plc? We have airlines failing to make an adequate profit, both BA itself and low cost carriers such as Buzz, EasyJet having to reduce prices to fill seats, and failing to proceed as promised with an offer to buy the German arm of BA's fleet (also losing money). Now Virgin Atlantic considers that a small increase in landing charges spells disaster! None of these events seem to indicate a healthy airline situation. Where is the predicted huge passenger demand going to come from?

Pat Dale


27 February 2003

THE LONG AWAITED NEW DEAL - NO REAL CHANGE

The New Consultation Document is the same as before, with options for Gatwick added on. SSE's press statement makes it clear what we think about it!

Gatwick Campaigners are dismayed, which is hardly surprising. The options are for 2 runways - which would increase passengers from 32 mppa to 115 - or one runway. A single new runway could be built close parallel to the existing one, allowing 60 mppa, or 1km away, also parallel, which would allow 80 mppa.

With 2 runways the situation would be similar to Stansted, the loss of 430 homes, listed buildings, and hundreds of acres of agricultural land and green belt lost. There would be widespread air and noise pollution and, of course, the inevitable influx of employees needing houses, more infrastructure, more concrete, just the same effects as in Essex.

Alistair Darling said on BBC's 'Today' programme: "Air Transport is critical to the future success of the economy. Reaching the right decisions on air capacity is essential."

We need to remind him that lots of essential services are critical to the future success of the economy. As Gordon Brown keeps telling us, investment has to be managed in the interests of all, and that includes the environment, our health, and the effects of climate change.

We are told that all those who sent in a response will shortly receive an acknowledgement, a summary of the new consultation document - and a new questionnaire (presumably to replace the biased original!) with a letter explaining that they can submit a new response, add another, or simply leave their original unchanged. Organisations and some major responders will receive the whole document. Free copies will be available to all at the original number - 0845 100 5554.


The Agonies of the "Cheap Travel" Airlines

It is appropriate that the problems of cheap air travel should arise at this time. KLM's "Buzz" airline, a Stansted user, after losing money, is bought up by Ryanair, another Stansted user. Now we learn that not only do Ryanair intend to drastically cut Buzz staff and Buzz services, but they are arbitrarily stopping all April Buzz flights in order to retrain the remaining staff. This kind of action is, of course, inevitable when a company takes over from a rival but Ryanair's plans seem somewhat drastic, and their treatment of their employees far from what is expected of good employers.

The Unions are protesting and we hope that a reasonable solution can be found. The fact that we oppose further airport expansion does not mean we wish to see a loss of existing business and a loss of jobs. We have, though, questioned the ability of any airline to prosper indefinitely on a too cheap fare policy. We learn that Easyjet is having to fill up its planes by reducing some fares to ridiculous levels. Cut price policy, in the long term, is not good for employees, passengers or profits, neither is it good for the environment, and when we all subsidise air traffic through cheap fuel....

Pat Dale


27 February 2003

LOCAL COUNCIL SLAMS "CHAOTIC" GOVERNMENT AIRPORT CONSULTATION
Uttlesford District Council Press Release

"The Government's airports policy is in a state of chaos," Uttlesford District Council said today. "It's a missed opportunity. There is nothing new; it only includes options at Gatwick."

As Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced a new consultation on possible sites for airport expansion in the South East, the Leaders of Uttlesford District Council which covers the area around Stansted Airport called on him to rule out any new runways at the Essex airport.

The Leaders of the four political groups on the Council said:

"Today's announcement offers no crumb of comfort to the people of Uttlesford whose lives are being blighted by Alistair Darling."

"This consultation is supposed to address "the Future Development of Air Transport" in the UK. But it remains simply a further effort at selecting sites for new runways in the South East of England."

"The Government has failed to demonstrate the need for new runways. Even as this new document was being drafted the low-cost airlines were cutting their fares to fill empty seats."

"The Government is also ignoring the views of leading airlines. British Airways has already described plans for new runways at Stansted as "a recipe for disaster."

"We are dismayed that the Government has ignored possible offshore sites despite the interest of potential developers.

"When will Alistair Darling see sense that there is no case for further runways at Stansted."

Uttlesford District Council will continue its campaign on this issue and will be submitting a further report to the Government's Consultation process demonstrating why Stansted would be a disastrous site for any new runways.


27 February 2003

HOUSE OF COMMONS WRITTEN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT & PRESS RELEASE - AIRPORTS CONSULTATION

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Alistair Darling)

Last summer the Government published a set of seven consultation papers on The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom.

On 26 November the High Court upheld a challenge against the exclusion of options for additional runways at Gatwick Airport. On 28 November I told the House (Official Report, Cols 474-487) that I would not appeal against the judgment, because an appeal would result in an extensive period of uncertainty for people up and down the country. I therefore announced that I was keeping open the consultation, which had been due to end on 30 November, and that I would publish a further consultation paper including runway options at Gatwick.

I am today publishing the further consultation material. I have decided that it would be easier for consultees to publish it in the form of second editions of the full South East consultation paper, the summary South East paper and the questionnaires for both the South East and other areas of the UK. Consultees can easily see the text added as a result of including the Gatwick options.

The new documents include the original consultation material on options at Heathrow, Stansted, Luton and other South East airports, and the option for a new airport at Cliffe. In addition, in accordance with the High Court decision, the papers now include options for additional runways at Gatwick.

As for options on the other South East airports published last July, the papers now set out for Gatwick all the options which were appraised in detail in the later stages of the South East and East of England Regional Air Services (SERAS) study. Accordingly, there are two options for a single new runway at Gatwick and one option for two new runways there. The papers also set out alternative assumptions on the timing of these Gatwick options.

The consultation, for all parts of the UK, will now close on 30 June. We will consider carefully all responses received by that date, including proposals for options other than those which have been included in the Government's consultation documents. As I told the House on 28 November, this is an opportunity for anyone to express their views on all the options in the consultation, as well as to put forward any reasonable alternatives.

Copies of all the new documents are available in the Vote Office and in the Library. My officials are writing to everyone on the original consultation list, and to all those who have responded to the consultations so far, to alert them to the new documents and to the 30 June deadline, and explaining that people who have already submitted responses can choose either to let their response stand, or to add to, or amend, or withdraw their response in the light of the new material.

Department for Transport
27 February 2003


News Release 2003/0026:
27 February 2003

AIRPORT CONSULTATION IN THE SOUTH EAST - REVISED DOCUMENT PUBLISHED TODAY

A revised consultation document on the future of air transport in the South East was published today by Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling.

The document was announced in a parliamentary statement by Mr Darling and forms part of the Government's nationwide consultation on the development of aviation strategy to 2030.

Mr Darling said:

"Air transport is crucial to the future success of the economy. Reaching the right decisions on air capacity is essential. As promised I am publishing a revised consultation document, including options for Gatwick, to take account of the High Court's decision last November. We remain on track to reach a decision on airport capacity in a White Paper later this year."

The consultation, originally launched last summer and due to end in November 2002, has been extended for a further four months until 30 June 2003. This will allow further time to respond to the consultation, taking account of all the options, including those published today.

Revised Consultation Statement

Notes to Editors
1. In October last year, Kent County Council and Medway Council applied for a judicial review of the Government's decision not to include any options for new runways at Gatwick airport in the consultation on airport capacity.

2. On 26 November 2002 , Mr Justice Maurice Kay found the decision to exclude Gatwick options from the consultation unlawful. The Government did not appeal the decision. As a result the Government has today published a revised consultation paper for the South East including options for development at Gatwick airport. Inevitably and regrettably the publication of the White Paper will be delayed until at least the autumn of this year.

3. The Department will be writing to those throughout the UK who have so far responded to or expressed an interest in the consultation or been sent consultation documents, to inform them of the extended consultation. The revised documents will be made widely available. As part of the consultation the Department will be organising a public exhibition in the Gatwick area. This will be widely advertised in the Gatwick area and details placed on the website www.airconsult.gov.uk .

4. Information about the consultation process and copies of all the consultation documents and some main background documents are available at www.airconsult.gov.uk .The telephone number for public enquiries about the consultation is 0845 100 5554.


26 February 2003

BLAIR SPEAKS GREEN WORDS AND THEN PLANS "RUNWAY UK"
Press Release from AirportWatch

The expected new consultation will come just days after Tony Blair committed the UK to cutting climate changing emissions of carbon dioxide by 60 per cent by 2050. Yet aviation is the fastest rising cause of man-made climate change. If aviation is allowed to grow as currently planned, the rest of UK industry and society would have to make deep cuts in energy use - average cuts would be at least 20 per cent more than already planned.

Ministers' airport expansion plans have already been slammed by their own advisers, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Sustainable Development Commission.

AirportWatch believes the new consultation will be as flawed as the first launched in July 2002. This is because:

- the Government's consultation documents are biased. They exaggerate the claimed economic gains of more airport and air travel growth, while downplaying the adverse effects;

- the true extent of the effects of expansion was not revealed to the public. For example in proposing a third runway at Heathrow, ministers said just a few hundred homes would be lost yet the detailed background documents showed that up to 10,000 homes might have to be lost if a third runway was built, because of poor air quality;

- Ministers have used flawed forecasts for future air travel demand based on information which does not reflect stated Government policy (e.g. no account taken of removing aviation's tax free fuel status); and,

- independent experts commissioned by AirportWatch members have stated that the public consultation breaks the Government's own Code of Practice on written consultations and is likely to lead to "biased" responses because of the presentation and nature of questions asked.

Andrew Critchell, aviation campaigner at CPRE, said:

"Including Gatwick in the consultation this time does not change the critical need for the demand for air travel to be managed, and for the industry to pay its full social and environmental costs. We already know, courtesy of the Government's own computers, that with fair taxation of aviation fuel and the introduction of VAT, the case for new runways collapses. This new consultation is a chance for ministers to show commitment to a sustainable air transport policy, rather than to deliver lots more concrete, noise, air pollution and climate change."

Paul de Zylva, aviation campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

"Tony Blair talks tough on climate change on one day. The next day his ministers plan massive airport expansion. Building more runways is the first thing to do if you want to speed up climate change and make the future uncertain for everyone in the UK. Ministers' plane crazy plans have been slammed by their own advisers. But instead of listening ministers seem hell bent on letting airlines and airport operators dictate public policy for private profit."

John Stewart of Hacan ClearSkies said:

"There is no need for new runways. Ministers know this because their own computer model tells them so. This second consultation cannot get away from this. Ministers must stop conning the public into believing that more airports are inevitable. Take away aviation's privildged tax free staus and the demand to fly drops to a reasonable level which could be coped with using existing airport space."

Jeff Gazzard of AirportWatch said:

"This consultation is as flawed as the first one which has angered communities the length and breadth of Britain. Ministers are still obsessed by fanciful forecasts and don't seem to realise the true effects of allowing more runways and airport growth to be unleashed across the nation."


23 February 2003

TWO LETTERS TO THE SUNDAY EXPRESS
23 February 2003

In response to your article in last week's paper ("Fly boy", Sunday Express, February 16), Jamie Oliver is echoing the views of many people throughout the country who are saying that if ever-bigger and ever-busier airports are needed, then it's time the Government started thinking about building them offshore. He is not arguing that Stansted or any other airport should be closed, or that people should not have the freedom to fly. Surely it is better to build airports in our estuaries, rather than bulldozing more and more villages and countryside and destroying the quality of life for those who live under the flightpaths.

Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea have already built their new airports offshore. Aircraft land and take-off over the sea, so there is almost no disruption to people's lives. Jamie supports the freedom to fly - and also the freedom for those who don't.

Brian Ross
Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire


I was heartened to read of Jamie Oliver's determined stance against the Government's ridiculously over inflated airport expansion proposals. At last we have a celebrity who is prepared to stick his head above the parapet and speak out.

In this day and age celebrities with attitude are the most effective opposition to a Government that considers itself infallible and omnipotent.

Long may Jamie Oliver show us that celebrities are capable of thought-provoking statements.

Nichola Marshall
Manuden, Hertfordshire


18 February 2003

POP! THE BUBBLE MUST BURST FOR CHEAP FLIGHTS
by Libby Purves - THE TIMES 18 Feb 2003

One of the great spectator sports of recent years has been watching bubbles burst. Share prices, dotcoms, house values, political reputations, oversold technologies, Anthea Turner, boy bands, microscooters, quadrophonic speakers, Furbies: they swell, they shimmer, wobbling in a thousand colours like wonderful iridescent mirages. They fill the horizon, they hold the common gaze. Then pop! They vanish, splattering the onlooker with soapy, stinging droplets of dismay.

Because we live in an age of fast media and hyperbole, because a shrill stream of news has made us junkies for excitement, it is always relatively easy to persuade us that something is the new black. Anybody who makes do and mends, or sticks to the old ways is regarded as eccentric. We sway with the wind and follow the latest received wisdom of our tribe. What is more, with our worship of all things new-minted we can be far more easily persuaded to listen to an unreliable wunderkind than to some old codger who has seen it all before.

In any case, the nature of the growing bubble is to dazzle. I have a vivid memory of a dinner-party in the early Eighties. Everyone was agreeing that after years of steady growth in house "values" and a recent spurt, the sensible thing was to borrow as much as you possibly could, buy as expensive a property as possible, and watch its value soar. Your mortgage payments did not matter; they would grow ever smaller in real terms because of inflation and rising wages. And you could always have an endowment mortgage and bring the payments down that way, with the comfortable certainty of paying off the lump sum and taking away a bonus, because shares always went up too, didn't they?

"But," I asked rather nervously, "suppose there wasn't much inflation and house prices went down?" I did not know the expression "negative equity" for the very good reason that nobody else did. I was howled down. Rubbish, nonsense, economic illiteracy, silly girl - house prices only go up! It's their nature! I subsided. A few years later repossessions peaked and thousands of families faced ruin. We ourselves just survived: we bought a farm at the top of the market, saw its value halve in the first two years, and after a full decade sold it for exactly what we had paid a decade earlier. No profit whatsoever, and keeping up the mortgage payments was somewhat awkward, since we had locked ourselves into an 8 per cent rate with huge exit penalties after yet another confident and knowledgeable man of the world told us that mortgage rates would never go lower than 8 per cent. Ho hum.

That particular bubble is about to burst once more, and you'd better believe it: houses are lunatically overvalued, and just as the stock market had to tumble from its puffed-up peak, the housing market will correct itself with varying degrees of human pain. But the bubble I am watching with most interest right now is the chimera of cheap air travel. EasyJet has swallowed Go, Ryanair has buzz, and now the pair of them strut the stage with the same Toad-like confidence we remember from the dotcom boom and the bad old days of chaps in red braces earning telephone number bonuses. They think it can last. It can't.

Airline customers, myself included, happily make hay while the sun shines. I am as much of a sucker for 15-quid fares to Venice as the next man. I hold at this moment no fewer than three advance reservations to tantalising European destinations at silly prices, although experience has taught me that I may not get there on time, that it would be deeply imprudent to check in any baggage, that it takes nearly an hour to get through the queue to Stansted airside, and that my flight back may be cavalierly cancelled for no reason other than that it is not full enough, and they don't give a damn if we have to hang around for eight hours at an airport miles from anywhere, because we're just cheapskate scum who won't bother barracking for a refund because we paid only 11 quid in the first place.

But it can't last. Air travel is growing globally at about 5 per cent a year, but faster in Britain. The cheap carriers claim that they just sop up passengers from other airlines, but I doubt it: in June easyJet numbers were up 50 per cent on last June, Ryanair and Go by 34 and 72 per cent. Don't tell me these were all serious travellers moving across from BA and Lufthansa: they were people like me, going "ooh, Prague, 30 quid!" Three quarters of all airline passengers are holidaymakers: that is, people who don't actually need to fly but want to. Moreover, the short-break culture - fuelled by an increasing number of contract workers and small entrepreneurs who daren't be away for long - means that instead of one big holiday people are lured by low fares to take multiple short breaks.

It can't last, and it mustn't; for the evidence of damage to the environment is overwhelming. The historic anomaly of airlines not paying fuel tax, brought in to shelter a fragile new industry after the war, will inevitably be ended. Green groups point to the absurdity of government giving a hidden subsidy of £9 billion a year to airlines by not charging them tax on fuel or VAT on fares, while down here on the ground they torment motorists and underfund the railways. Every passenger, even on a full plane, pollutes far more than a passenger on a half-empty train. Your share of a return flight to Florida pumps more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than your whole year's driving, not to mention nitrogen and sulphur oxides in those pretty vapour trails.

The impact of airports on the land is another thing which will push this small island in the direction of taxing air travel. Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, opposes it, but he is probably just a bubble himself. The tide of history runs against him. The calculation outlined in The Times yesterday is that if fuel were taxed at 46p a litre and VAT phased in, passenger numbers would rise so much more slowly that existing runways could cope till 2030 and beyond. Much countryside would be saved, and enough tax raised to sort out the other transport problems which bedevil our daily, necessary journeys. Efficiency gains could keep normal air fares at or near 2000 levels, but bargain budget fares would vanish. Goodbye, bubble.

I think it will happen. The United States probably won't do it, which is hard luck on the ozone layer, but the US has a different relationship with planes: they are the cords which bind a nation sprawling across half a continent. Britain won't do it unilaterally, because it would wreck our airline industry and let continental rivals scoop up our long-haul passengers at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. But I think that the whole EU will do it - the fuel tax, if not the VAT - sooner rather than later.

I cannot be sorry. It was fun while it lasted; but our airspace grows ever more crowded and dangerous, our airports threaten to sprawl and pollute and deafen us more every year, and cheap fares are not worth the environmental cost. In the summer, I had a moment of revelation on the ground at Brest, flying buzz back to the UK. Some paperwork problem delayed take-off, and then we lost our air traffic slot: we sat on the ground for more than an hour, and the engines were kept running all that time. So there was another delay while the fuel bowser came and filled us up again. If they had been paying tax on that fuel, I doubt this would have happened; the palpable heat, visible haze and heavy petrochemical smell around our static aeroplane all that evening bore witness to the fact that fuel's too damn cheap, so they don't much care.

The bubble has to burst. We, the three quarters of airline passengers who do it purely for fun, must save up a little longer for our flights, spread them out more, and consider using the excellent European rail systems which take you right to the heart of cities and do not involve prolonged check-ins, the confiscation of nail-scissors, the breathing of foul recycled air and the need to blank your mind temporarily to the existence of al-Qaeda. We'll still fly long-haul, still fly on special holidays and on business. But I think - no, I am sure - that another short-lived phenomenon has now swelled almost to the point where it must vanish. It will be goodbye to the odd, amusing, but strictly temporary phenomenon of frivolous flying.


17 February 2003

VALENTINES FOR DARLING

Maggie Sutton from Stop Stansted Expansion travelled to Glasgow last weekend to attract the attention of Alistair Darling with a giant Valentine's Card for display at the Labour Party Spring Conference Hot on the heels of the visits to Stansted by Shadow Aviation Ministers Tom Brake (Lib Dem) and Tim Collins (Con) last week, Maggie Sutton from Stop Stansted Expansion travelled to Glasgow at the weekend to attract the attention of Alistair Darling with a giant Valentine's Card for display at the Labour Party Spring Conference.

The card, measuring a massive 3m x 6 m was put on show outside the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre where MPs, Ministers and Labour Party officials were meeting. It complemented hundreds of Valentine's Cards containing the words 'Don't go breaking our heart, Darling' and 'Make our Valentine's Day - No new runways at Stansted' which had been sent to the Secretary of State earlier in the week.

Similarly, every politician and special advisor staying at the conference hotel also received a special miniature version the card - including Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Aviation Minister John Spellar, Alistair Darling's right hand man, to make sure that opposition to the plans for Stansted hit home.

The card is now coming back to Uttlesford and campaigners hope to present it to Alistair Darling in person if he ever accepts the standing invitation to the area. Norman Mead, chairman of Stop Stansted Expansion, has again written to Alistair Darling this week calling on him to visit and to see for himself what is under threat from the government's plans.


17 February 2003

SNOWDROPS TREASURE TRAIL A HUGE SUCCESS

The Snowdrops treasure trail and nature quiz organized by Stop Stansted Expansion at the Gardens of Easton Lodge last Saturday (15 February) was a knock-out success with hundreds of adults and children braving the cold to tackle the plague of gnomes which threatened the gardens!

Said Nichola Marshall from Stop Stansted Expansion who set up the fundraising event following an invitation from Brian Creasey whose beautiful gardens are threatened by the government's expansion plans for Stansted airport: "It was very gratifying to see how much everyone enjoyed themselves, and especially to hear the squeals of excitement from the hordes of children desperate to chant the final spell to keep the gnomes at bay. Would that it were that simple to ward off unwanted extra runways!"

Nichola and friend Pauline Burnard both dressed as witches for the occasion and were aided by campaign volunteers including Gill Ringrose and Ray Woodcock plus Diane and Tony Roberts. A total of £440 was raised for Stop Stansted Expansion.


17 February 2003

CLAVERING JAZZ EVENING RIVALS RONNIE SCOTT'S

The unlikely setting of Clavering Village Hall was the venue for an enjoyable evening of Smooth Jazz last Saturday (15 February) when husband and wife team Wendy and Pete Upson organized a highly successful fundraising event in aid of Stop Stansted Expansion.

Soft lighting, small tables and excellent buffet food transformed the hall into a suitably atmospheric setting, filled to capacity with over 100 people. A total of £800 was raised towards the campaign.


17 February 2003

AIRPORT EXPANSION AND THE THREAT TO CHILDREN

Wendy and Peter Morffew of Birchanger have been busy researching the Internet for information on how their daughters' health and academic ability might be affected by airport expansion and want to share access to this. Pete has therefore put together a website full of links to the various resources he has found. You might want to check it out - and send the link to friends and neighbours. It's at www.btinternet.com/~wendy_peter/aircraftpollution/index.htm


17 February 2003

AT LAST, A SENSIBLE VIEW ON DEMAND MANAGEMENT

The Times newspaper today (www.thetimes.co.uk) prints some powerful arguments in an article and numerous letters in favour of demand management - and highlights Alistair Darling's ulterior motive in trying not to make the aviation industry pay its way: votes! Do a search on 'aviation' and you'll find the three main links - they're definitely worth a look:

*  Fuel tax emerges as new weapon to curb air travel: no new runways would be needed in Britain if aviation fuel was taxed at the same rate as motor vehicle fuel and air tickets were subject to VAT, government figures say

*  Rejection of green tax on air travel: the Secretary of State for Transport appears to have his head in the clouds if he thinks the Government will be able to meet climate change targets without managing the huge forecast growth in air travel

*  The environmental cost of flying: Alistair Darling thinks the proposed green tax on plane tickets would be deeply unpopular


17 February 2003

CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR APPOINTED

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has appointed Carol Barbone as campaign director following her extensive involvement with media, communications and planning activities for SSE since September 2002 when she first joined the campaign as an independent consultant.

She brings with her valuable knowledge of environmental issues, pressure groups and corporate social responsibility campaigning gained from her work for clients including ICI, The Body Shop, Railtrack, the European Commission, Business in the Community and several UK government departments.

Carol has over 18 years experience of campaign planning and implementation at local, national and international level. This will stand her in excellent stead during the coming months as the campaign steps up the pace to challenge the government's plans for expanding Stansted Airport with the addition of up to three more runways.

Until recently, Carol ran a Stansted-based public relations consultancy, before which she worked as a specialist consultant to several of the UK's top PR firms including Hill & Knowlton, GCI and Rowland. She previously headed the Corporation of London's public relations team and led UK communications for the European Year of the Environment.

Said Norman Mead, Stop Stansted Expansion chairman: "Carol's dynamism and skills are a great asset to our campaign. Her appointment as Campaign Director will give us a powerful advantage in averting the threat of extra runways and the accompanying threat of mass urbanisation."


10 February 2003

JAMIE'S MESSAGE TO THE SSE CONFERENCE

Jamie Oliver sent the following message to yesterday's SSE Community Conference:

I'd like to express my support for the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign, with congratulations on what has been achieved so far.

Living near Stansted airport, we expect to bear our fair share, but on this scale it just isn't fair to the people of this area and nor would it be fair to the people of any area.

The government has been advised that these new plans would increase global warming, but if they are still determined to go ahead, then an offshore airport must be seriously considered - something really cutting edge - where aircraft take off and land on runways out at sea, so that aircraft noise and pollution is kept well away from inhabited and environmentally sensitive areas.

I really hope that we can persuade the government to include this idea in the next proposals. I know you'll do a great job in the next few months!

All the best
Jamie Oliver

See also the Community Conference Press Release and the Highlights from the Conference


9 February 2003

STANSTED PLAN A "RECIPE FOR DISASTER"

Last week the London Evening Standard highlighted a report said to be an internal British Airways dossier evaluating the Stansted expansion options. It condemned the ambitious plans to create an "Essex Heathrow" at Stansted Airport as a disaster for the airline that could destroy London's status as Europe's leading aviation hub. It warned that a huge expansion of Stansted would saddle the airline with crippling costs.

The document goes on to say "six key conditions would have to be satisfied to make this a commercially viable proposition for BA and to overcome Stansted's intrinsic disadvantages. yet BA is not confident that any of them can be met." It concludes that the costs would be great, as would the risks that would be run, and it is very unlikely that the UK could maintain a globally competitive hub at Stansted. It is also suggested that BAA would not be able to build adequate airport facilities to meet the needs of a greatly expanded Stansted. Many passengers are said to prefer Heathrow and "dislike" Stansted, so might change to foreign airlines if BA was obliged to move its main operations to Stansted.

Support for SSE's opposition to Stansted expansion comes from many quarters, though there is no doubt that BA would not agree with SSE that the predicted air traffic demand should be "managed" and that the aviation industry should meet all its real costs, fuel and environmental. BA and BAA have been arguing fiercely about increased charges at Heathrow and at other BAA airports, including Stansted. Who carries the most weight, the airline that carries the passengers, or the airport that services them? As yet we do not know what BAA's views are...

Pat Dale


6 February 2003

JOHN PRESCOTT FINALLY ANNOUNCES HOUSING PLANS

Much anxiety has been generated over the fear that plans to build thousands of houses in the south east would target the M11 corridor and we should be back fighting against a new settlement at Stansted, houses that would be available for employees at an expanded Stansted Airport.

It is with some relief that we learn that the much publicised Housing Plan covers the whole country, it was launched today as "An Action Plan for Sustainable Communities" and £22 billion will be made available. £5 billion is intended for affordable housing and £2.8 billion to improve social housing, £201 million for improving the environment.

John Prescott also reiterated his commitment to using recycled brownfield land for 60% of new housing development and that his intention is to continue to continue to protect greenfields and green belt.

Also published today are more detailed reports on plans for each region. The Report "Sustainable Communities in the East of England" is now available on the website www.odpm.gov.uk and from the free publications DTLR at 0870 1226236. It covers the whole Region and quotes from the recent Regional consultation document describing some of the problems, especially transport, as well as a falling number of new houses for a larger number of new population, with high house prices and a shortage of affordable houses.

An East of England Housing Board will be set up and will prepare a Regional Housing Strategy. It will have representatives from the Housing Corporation, East of England Regional Assembly, English Partnerships, and EEDA. It will share in the £4.736 billion housing investment being provided for the 3 south-eastern regions over the next 3 years. The Plan will include the regeneration of such areas as the Thames Gateway. Development will be "accelerated" in both the Thames Gateway, Milton Keynes-South Midlands Ashford and London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor.

The statement is made that London and the growth areas have the potential to accommodate an additional 200,000 houses. New cross regional partnerships will be set up in 2003 for the London-Stansted-Cambridge area. Further details relating to our concerns are that in this area studies have identified four growth options, the Upper Lea Valley, Harlow, Cambridge, and, in the long-tem, new settlements in North Essex or South of Cambridge.

Significant improvements in Transport infrastructure would be required and it is said that "Planning for this area is at an earlier stage than for the other growth areas". Also, "The Government's recent consultation on airport capacity in the South-East inevitably affects the work necessary to develop the broad options into more detailed spatial and local plans".

This statement clarifies our concerns. The 200,000 houses are spread over several chosen areas. The number that might be directed to the Stansted area will clearly depend partly on the decision on Stansted Airport if, as is claimed, they are to be accompanied by job opportunities and become "sustainable communities". The next few months and the coming new consultation will be vital as will the new response that SSE will have to prepare.

Pat Dale


31 January 2003

FLYING GREEN

The January issue of The Aviation Environmental Federation journal has just been delivered. It has several items of interesting news relevant to Stansted and the SERAS consultation. They are:

  • They expect the new consultation document to have two new options as well as Gatwick, in the Severn and Thames estuaries, and a change in the length of the second runway proposed for Birmingham. If this is the case then it is unlikely that there will be another document published before late spring. In fact it is difficult to see how a proper environmental statement of any kind could be prepared in a few months for entirely new estuarial options. We are definitely promised a further 4 months to respond and the DfT will be writing to all those who have sent in a response very shortly explaining what is happening.
  • Further details of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution¹s Response are given. They make the following points:
    1. They are most concerned about the effects of aircraft emissions on climate change. The total radiative forcing due to aviation is probably 3 times that due to carbon dioxide emissions alone. Any significant growth in air travel will mean that aviation will become one of the major contributors.
    2. Significant technical improvements in emissions control cannot realistically be expected for ³decades².
    3. Short haul flights make a ³disproportionately large contribution² to the environmental impacts and are compared unfavourably to rail.
    4. Air Freight is similarly compared with rail and ship transport. They suggest that air freight should be reserved for high value and perishable goods.
    5. They suggest climate protection charges for all aircraft taking off and landing in the EU plus pressure for this to be extended elsewhere.
    6. Restrict airport development and raise the price of take-off and landing slots optimising the use of slots for long haul flights rather than short haul.
    7. Develop major airports as land-air hubs with a good rail network and encourage the use of rail rather than short haul air travel.
    8. Support technical improvements.
    9. Push for international air travel to be included in the Kyoto Treaty.

  • The Commission for Sustainable Development are just as forthright. They draw attention to the assumption that the economic benefits of expansion are so great that the disbenefits have to be overcome or reduced by selecting "suitable" places for expanding airports, improving operational use and engine technology. The concept of sustainable development is forgotten in the perception that "Predict and Provide" is the only option.

    They suggest that it is time that air traffic growth is managed, and while this may be difficult it must be done now because of the adverse effects of aircraft emissions. Four measures will be required, fiscal, regulatory, capacity constraints and measures to encourage alternative forms of travel. They also believe that it is time that the planning system fully considered the question of sustainability when individual airports applied to expand. Decisions should not be dominated by a supposedly over-riding imperative to accommodate economic growth at the expense of other objectives. It is time that a generally agreed methodology was developed as a practical working tool for assessing the sustainability of developments. The aviation sector could be a prime test for such an approach.

  • The EU Directive on Noise is now in force.
    It is not yet clear how much difference this will make to Stansted. There are unlikely to be any regulatory changes before 2004. The measurement of noise will change a little for the better, day noise will include a weighting to give more importance to evening noise, and night noise will be measured separately. The countries will be able to set their own limits and the averaging of results will still continue, though there is a provision for using actual maximum measurements in sensitive areas, such as the open countryside.

    It is time to press hard for a reduction in accepted "annoyance" levels. This Directive applies to all noise and noise maps are to be drawn up for all major towns.

Stansted charges are subsidised by Heathrow!

The Civil Aviation Authority wants to even out airport charges and stop cross subsidies. Heathrow charges have always been much greater than those at Stansted. BAA has been able to subsidise Stansted's operations and so help to attract more airlines to the airport. The DfT's economic adviser has apparently objected to the plan. He considers that Stansted's rapid success has been due to the lower landing charges and the ability of BAA to subsidise them from Heathrow profits. To move away from this system might make it difficult to finance investment in a new runway at that airport.

The CAA had not long agreed to allow higher charges at Heathrow with a freeze at Stansted and Gatwick, with proposals for a long term uniform charge.

Bad News?


26 January 2003

POLITICIANS TO VISIT STANSTED AREA

At last, two senior politicians are visiting Stansted intending to judge for themselves the likely impact of an expanded Airport on the surrounding countryside and villages. We hope that they can exercise their imagination and visualise an urban sprawl from Harlow to Cambridge, with all the associated traffic, noise and pollution. We also hope that they will be able to stop awhile in the villages under the flight paths and experience part of a normal noisy day when at times the sky above reverberates from overflying planes every 2 ­ 3 minutes, with a decibel level of 70 to 85 and even higher with some planes. Conversation is impossible and many people experience a feeling of pressure as the plane passes over. The experience might help to demonstrate the failings of the present noise contour maps which show "average" noise levels for the year. It would also explain why so many people feel so strongly about airport noise, as well as increasing air pollution and odours, and deposits of partly burned fuel on the surrounding land.

The Conservative Shadow Minister, Tim Collins, is visiting on February 14th (St. Valentine's Day, a good omen) and the Lib Dem Tom Brake on February 13th. A mini party political war of words has erupted in the local press over the dates, which are so close. Was it a coincidence? Or, did the Lib Dems gazump the Conservatives? Does it matter? Could they not join forces? You can read all about it in last and next weeks papers.

We in the environmental movement have "no Party Politics" enshrined in our constitutions. This means we can carry on attacking the Government of the day with a clear conscience. Most Governments forget many of their election green promises when they take power. SSE, at the time of its formation announced that it would not take part in Party Politics and, all credit to the members, so far all shades of opinion have joined in united opposition to the Government¹s proposals. So, we hope that St. Valentine¹s day will see the mini war of words resolve into mutual affection again. We suggest that the local Labour Party members might also invite a suitable politician to visit Stansted. We can understand that a Minister has to visit all sites or none, or he will be accused of favouritism or worse. However there are many other worthy MPs to choose from.

Whatever your political views make sure your poster is on display and your car badge as well. Far too many have been washed away over Xmas and have not been replaced. The visiting politicians will be travelling all round the area. Individual house and car posters are a good indication of how strongly local people feel.


21 January 2003

BBC SELECTS STOP STANSTED EXPANSION AS MODEL CAMPAIGN

BBC Online has chosen Stop Stansted Expansion from more than 70 campaigns across Britain to take part in a pilot project to explore new ways of covering grassroots campaigning through the media and has this week launched a collection of web pages to highlight the campaign's work. Norman and Maggie are featured complete with portraits.

Do visit the site as it develops and register your views: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2653237.stm.

Over the coming twelve weeks, Stop Stansted Expansion will contribute articles and diaries, post campaign pictures and update visitors on campaign progress, encouraging feedback wherever possible, including comments, questions and suggestions. There will also be opportunities for the campaign to be introduced to other parts of the BBC as part of the initiative which wants to bring campaign activities and stories to a wider audience.

The aim of the pilot is to work closely with campaign groups to identify new opportunities for spreading the word about their activities through the broader BBC, with the aim of implementing a longer term platform based on the experiences of the next three months.

The other projects being profiled are Gower Save Our Sands, Partners of Prisoners Support Group, JAM 74 and the Black Londoners Forum.


20 January 2003

East of England Development Agency Supports the Expansion of both Stansted & Luton Airports

They want:

  • One extra runway at Stansted.
  • Growth at Luton up to 29 mppa.
  • A further short haul runway at Heathrow
  • Maximum utlilisation of Southend and Norwich airports.
  • A maintenance & Aviation facility at Alconbury.

It seems that they want as much development as possible in the Eastern Region! At least they have not asked for three new runways at Stansted, but, as the land take for one extra runway is nearly as large as for three, and the resulting capacity would exceed that of today's Heathrow, the consequences of one runway could be just as disastrous for local residents and still lead to massive urbanisation from Cambridge to Harlow.

It appears that they have not properly considered the effects on either the traffic situation or the effects on the housing requirements or on small businesses around some of the chosen airports. Neither have they looked at the combined effects of noise and air pollution, this would extend right across the region affecting a swathe of countryside including numerous tourist areas All airports except Southend, are inland and the coast round Southend is visited for its chain of seaside resorts, it is not an "offshore" site.

Many of these areas do not have alternative employment opportunities. Is it wise for the Region to support the creation of so many additional jobs all dependent on aviation?

We suggest that those who have views on these proposals write to Bill Samuel, the Chief Executive of EEDA at The Business Centre, Station Road, Histon, Cambridge, CB4 9LQ. Send a copy to member of the Agency Board Richard Powell, who as a long time supporter of the RSPB is a member interested in environmental matters.

With the likely publication of development plans for the Thames Gateway, supported by the Government and endorsed by EEDA, it is very important that Stansted is not identified as a necessary airport for these regeneration plans, - in spite of the very poor road access from the east and south east. Rail access is, of course, non existent!

Pat Dale


Oxford Economic Forecasting Survey of the Views of London Businesses on Airport Expansion

So far, we have not seen any headlines describing this survey. Be prepared to read that London businessmen want more runways in the South East! This is the interpretation put upon responses to the O E F's questionnaire, and echoed by the City of London Corporation for whom the Report was commissioned.

However, the facts give a different picture. The majority of respondents were well satisfied with the frequency of services and destinations served. The main concerns were the inadequacies of surface access, especially by rail, and to the delays experienced at the terminals. A significant number (22%) were concerned that it was cheaper and easier to fly to internal UK destinations than to take the train, although Eurostar was the preferred method of travel to and from Paris and Brussels. (This suggests that if a viable rail alternative was available for short haul journeys, it would be taken).

So where does the support for more runways come from? ­ It comes from the question "How well would additions to airport capacity in the South East meet the needs of your organisation:- Very well, quite well, not well, no response². Try answering that meaningfully with the range of responses allowed. "Not well" suggests there would be unmet needs, so little wonder that the majority plumped for "quite well" or "very well", although significantly there were 25% "no responses" to this question.

A further question "Should the Government seek to encourage a second hub airport after Heathrow in the South East" produced a 60% "yes" answer, but when asked "why?" 66% gave no response and 34% suggested easier surface access as their reason.

This is scarcely a compelling reason to bury the South East in concrete!

Nevertheless the Corporation of London¹s Economic Development Office claim in their covering letter to the Report that "The survey strongly suggests that the Government should make improvements in our services in the South East one of its priorities".

We suggest that an improvement in rail services should be a top priority, but to interpret the results as showing a need for an increase in air services is a misrepresentation of the responses.

Paul Gardner


19 January 2003

Response of SSE to the Government's Consultation Document

All members should, by now, have received a copy of the summary of this response. The whole document can be read on this website, as well as the summary and the press notice sent out at the same time.

This Response has been prepared by the Response Committee, almost entirely without the help of commissioned consultants. Many SSE members with expert knowledge have provided their time free of charge.

We must give very special credit to the chairman of the Committee, Peter Sanders, who acted as editor, part writer, organiser and tactful manager of any disagreements. It is due to his efforts that the full response was ready by the original date at the end of the consultation period.

There will be more to add after the Gatwick case is published. Meantime, we hope that all visitors to the website will read it. We are also publishing other responses that are sent to us, whatever their views.


The Application from BAA for the expansion of Stansted Airport from 15 to 25 million passengers per annum (mppa)

Our Views

This Application was finally approved at an all day extraordinary meeting of Uttlesford Development Control Committee on Thursday 9th January. Several accounts have already been published in the local press including BAA¹s version. Here follows our comments.

The application had been approved before Xmas subject to a long list of conditions being agreed by BAA. On both occasions the vote was very close. All members were unhappy about approval, but, in the end, the majority took the advice of the officers that if the Application were turned down, the Council would be faced with an expensive Public Inquiry that they were unlikely to win. Whether that advice was correct we shall never know. BAA would certainly have appealed. The Secretary of State had already been advised by the Regional Government Office not to call in the Application but it is possible that this advice might have been changed. It has been possible for SSE to draft an excellent case against runway expansion without spending huge sums of money but it is not possible for Local Authorities to operate so informally. Barristers have to be retained and consultants brought in as witnesses. It would also have been more difficult to show the adverse environmental effects with an increase of 10 mppa, even though this could create an additional 60,000 flights a year with all the implications for increased noise and pollution.

The Councillors had a difficult decision to make. What did they gain from the conditions that have at last been agreed? The value of these has been assessed in the local press this week and opinion varies from BAA's Manager Terry Morgan's optimistic account to the pessimistic views of those affected by night flights.

In our view there have been a few positive gains. Money, for a start. £2.2 million for a Trust Fund for the provision of affordable housing. It is though doubtful whether as many as 200 houses can be built according to the figures quoted. In relation to the present waiting list in Uttlesford of 1000 it is small. With at least 6000 additional employees required for the expansion will it even help with applications from new BAA staff? However, very few employers offer any help with this problem.

More money is also offered for a Community Fund (£700,000), a Visitor Centre, for archaeological needs, for further landscaping and tree planting, for a new bus and coach station, and, most important, for the necessary work on the WAGN Liverpool Street line to accommodate the planned for 12 coach trains. (This will help local commuters).

BAA have undertaken to:

  • To take steps to monitor air quality and carry out an odour survey. The monitoring will not be all the year round initially and there is no undertaking to do anything about exceedances other than what is required by law and what is reasonably practicable.
  • To monitor the effects of pollution on the flora and fauna of Hatfield Forest, East End Wood and the Fen Site.
  • To carry out a study of the effects on public health, if agreed with the Primary Care Trust and the UDC.
  • To monitor traffic, both main road and local. To provide funds to ameliorate problems if they are found to be necessary up to £2 million. To provide direct links onto the M11.
  • To continue and enhance the work of the Surface Access Strategy Group and so increase the proportion of passengers and staff using public transport.
  • To monitor off site parking and act accordingly.
  • To continue with the Employment and Business Forums.

Much of this should be carried out by any employer who recognised their responsibilities to the surrounding community.

What about Noise?

Little has been achieved that could not have been put into action as part of a "Best Practice" initiative without the need for signing up to conditions. However, those promises that can be enforced are more likely to be kept. They are:

  • Most important, the provision of a noise wall and other measures to reduce ground noise.
  • To procure the consent of the DfT to carry out the consultation on the noise insulation scheme and when a statutory scheme is introduced to provide the necessary funds which might be sufficient to include local schools and community buildings.
  • Not to seek any relaxation of the present Government night flight restrictions (soon to be reviewed).
  • Not to allow the noisiest aircraft to take off or land during the extended night period.
  • To promote a number of operational flight procedures designed to reduce noise levels. (BAA have maintained for some time that they already do this)
  • To use fines to help enforce such measures "when it is lawful". To pay the fines into the Community Fund.

The fact is that, apart from ground noise, there is little that BAA can do to reduce noise levels. Real advances are dependent on engine technology and legislation to oblige airlines to purchase the new planes. There have been advances and planes are quieter but there is a danger that this results in more polluting emissions. At the moment it is very difficult to achieve all round improvements. This is why we believe that every airport should have its own environmental limits. Both noise and air pollution are directly related to the number of flights and effective local mitigation is virtually impossible.

The expansion of Stansted to handle 25 mppa has nothing to do with the proposals to expand to a 3 runway airport and all that this implies. Our fight against these continues. Come to the Community Conference at the Hilton Hotel on Sunday 9th February, 2 - 5.30 p.m. and discuss the future strategy for SSE. Tickets £5 from info@stopstanstedexpansion.comor 01279 870558.


16 January 2003

Ministers Consider Thames Airport

From the Daily Telegraph

By Paul Marston, Transport Correspondent
(Filed: 15/01/2003)

The option of a £30 billion offshore airport in the Thames Estuary is being considered by the Government to avert further legal delays to its plans for aviation expansion.

Ministers are concerned that if they do not have consultations about the possibility of a brand-new hub on reclaimed land, they will suffer a similar court defeat to the setback sustained over Gatwick in November.

The Sussex airport was originally excluded from the candidate sites for extra runways, but the High Court upheld a claim from groups opposed to development elsewhere that the omission was "irrational and unfair".

Campaigners against the plan for up to three additional runways at Stansted say they will bring an action on the same grounds if no offshore scheme appears in a second consultation paper currently being prepared.

A marine location is generally popular with residents' groups as it would ensure that aircraft noise was kept away from inhabited areas, and could be used 24 hours a day.

Large international offshore airports have been built with great success for Hong Kong and the Japanese city of Osaka.

The advantages of an estuarial site were first recognised in the 1960s, and the Conservative Government in 1971 approved construction of an airport at Maplin Sands, off the south Essex coast. The project was cancelled by Labour three years later.

The only existing equivalent scheme is the privately-promoted "Marinair" plan. This envisages a four-runway hub built on an artificial island in the Thames about three miles north-east of Minster on the Isle of Sheppey.

The airport, about 45 miles from central London, would be connected to the mainland by a four-track rail tunnel, joining the Channel Tunnel high-speed link.

The Department for Transport has made a preliminary assessment of the scheme, but omitted it from the options in last summer's consultation paper.

The promoters, the Thames Estuary Airport Company, maintain that the £30 billion investment could be financed from private sources. They insist their scheme offers a way round the "massive public opposition" to expansion of existing airports, and the opportunity for "flexible" development.

The Government wants to publish its supplementary consultation paper next month, so that it can produce a White Paper containing decisions on runway locations by the end of the year.


15 January 2003

Stansted Poised for £250 million Take-off

From the East Anglian Daily Times
15 January 2003

By James Hore

HOLIDAY makers and businesses look set to benefit as Stansted Airport revealed details of a massive £250 million expansion plan which will see an extra 56,000 flights coming and going from East Anglia per year.

BAA Stansted now has permission to serve as many as 25 million passengers per annum with travellers enjoying increased routes and improved facilities.

The scheme, unveiled in full at the airport yesterday, will be carried out during the next eight years with passengers getting improved parking and better rail and coach connections for their flights.

The changes planned will take place within the current boundaries of the airport and are separate to controversial proposals for up to three more runways.

Managing director of the airport, Terry Morgan, emphasised it would not mean runway expansion or a relaxation of the laws governing the number of night flights over the Essex and Suffolk.

He said: "It was a very real business requirement to put this application in now and one of the reasons why we said to Uttlesford District Council that we could not wait any longer for a decision."

He said it was unlikely the trans-Atlantic routes will be up and running again because of the weak strength of that area at the moment.

The plans follow a lengthy and, according to the British Airports Authority, "difficult" consultation process, between the airport and representatives from Uttlesford's council, which last week voted in favour of a revised version of the planning draft.

The agreement of the councillors to the expansion details meant a lengthy public enquiry, led by the Government, has been avoided.

About 185,000 flights come and go from Stansted currently, but the planning permission means up to 241,000 flights will take place each year, an increase of about 153 flights per day over the region.

The increased quota of flights include cargo hauls which will be limited to 22,500 per year.

The airport will see a number of changes in the coming years, starting with changes to the car-parking.

Yesterday, Chris Bush, planning director of BAA Stansted, unveiled funds of £2.2 million to be spent on affordable housing, with the airport providing more than 200 homes within its boundaries.

Mr Bush said the homes would be available to workers and support staff at the airport and to "key workers" in the community such as nurses.

The increased rail capacity under the plan will be catered for within the existing timetable by using longer trains holding more passengers.

The change means the platforms at Stansted Mountfichet and Broxbourne will be extended to enable access to the 12-carriage trains.

More than £1 million will be provided in the budget for a new bus and coach station, to be built within the next 4 years, as the airport attempts to hit key Government targets on public transportation.

It is hoped by 2010, more than 37% of people flying from Stansted will use public transport to and from the airport.

Last night, Norman Mead, from the Stop Stansted Expansion Campaign, a group primarily opposed to the runway expansion proposals, said had reluctantly accepted the expansion of passenger numbers.

He said: We wait with interest to see how BAA implements the plans. There are quite enough flights at the moment with the current air traffic levels.

"The much maligned councillors at Uttlesford have done very well to negotiate the conditions they have from BAA, although it is my feeling that it would have been better to go to a public enquiry.

"However that costs a great deal of public money and there was pressure to accept this plan."

A spokeswoman for budget airline Easyjet, which flies out of Stansted, said it welcomed the news.

She said: "We look forward to continuing our expansion of new routes and growth of 25% year on year, and we also look forward to benefits the expansion plans out of the airport in the coming years."

Other aspects of yesterday's plan included:

  • Funding will be provided
  • BAA will create a charitable trust to receive £100,000 per year as a good-will gesture, to be distributed by the trustees.
  • The effects of illegal off-airport parking will be monitored.
  • A second "noise pen" to reduce sound from aircraft which are having their engines tested will be put in place by 2004.
  • Attempts will be made to establish regular monitoring of air quality in the area surrounding the airport.
  • A visitor centre to allow people to view planes and archaeological discoveries from Stansted's grounds will be opened.
Bob Feltwell, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "The business community of Suffolk want more and more access to international air travel because of the state of the M25 and the congestion involved in travelling to Heathrow and Gatwick.

"Stansted Airport is their first choice, and if these new flights include a greater variety of locations then the expansion will be of great benefit. It will stop us having to drive to the other airports, although there needs to be improvement to the A120 so we can get there reliably, and not get held up in traffic."

Giles Goyder, tourism officer for Suffolk County Council, also called for improved transport links to other parts of East Anglia, rather than London.

"There is a basic feeling the expansion so far has been to our benefit. There are a vast number of different parts of Europe that have direct flights to Stansted. The potential is much greater for holiday makers to visit East Anglia and it is much easier to leave the region.

"On the down side, Stansted is promoted as London's third airport, and the most improved access has been that to London. The links into East Anglia, and particularly to Suffolk, are still relatively poor."


14 January 2003

Former Aviation Minister Opposes Expansion

From the Evening Standard
14 January 2003

Government and Airlines

By Chris Mullin, Labour MP and Former Aviation Minister

The news that a third runway at Heathrow could expose 200,000 more people than previously thought to unacceptable levels of noise will come as no surprise to students of the aviation industry.

There is a long history of undertakings being given in return for controversial airport expansions which are either quietly forgotten or cynically abandoned once they become inconvenient.

During my 18 undistinguished months as a minister whose responsibilities included aviation, I learned two things. First, that the demands of the aviation industry are insatiable. Second, that successive governments have usually given way to them.

Although nowadays the industry pays lip service to the notion of sustainability, its demands are essentially unchanged. It wants more of everything - airports, runways, terminals.

The industry is not even prepared to negotiate seriously on such relatively resolvable problems as the 16 night flights which daily disrupt the sleep of several hundred thousand Londoners and are a source of continual complaint.

During my time as aviation minister I had difficulty persuading representatives of the offending airlines even to sit around a table with MPs whose constituents are affected, let alone contemplate the slightest change to their night flight schedules.

It is too easily assumed that the national interest and that of the aviation industry are synonymous. This is not necessarily so. To take one obvious example, encouraging people who might otherwise holiday in this country to go on artificially cheap foreign holidays has obvious implications for our domestic tourist industry.

So far as London and the South East are concerned, I question whether the jobs created by the building of new airports and the expansion of existing ones are either beneficial or necessary. Given that much of the South East already enjoys full employment, the effect of creating more jobs is surely to continue fuelling an already overheated economy.

The main problems in the South East are a deteriorating quality of life caused by an overheated housing market, growing congestion, loss of habitats, increasing noise and other forms of pollution.

In what way will any of these be mitigated by building yet more airports or by expanding existing ones? As to the environmental impact of continuous expansion, this has been set out starkly by the government's own advisers.

Sir Tom Blundell, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, recently said that if the growth of air travel were not curtailed, aircraft would have a "very significant" effect on global warming.

The Government's Sustainable Development Commission has drawn attention to what it described as a " fundamental contradiction" between the demands of the aviation industry and the Government's goal of sustainable development.

What is the point of maintaining such bodies if we propose to take no notice of the advice they offer? Sooner or later the bullet is going to have to be bitten and, given that the outcome of the Government's present consultation will determine the direction of policy for the next 30 years, the moment has surely come.

Those who argue for indefinite expansion appear to take for granted the notion that cheap air travel is a basic human right. I beg to differ. I believe that the undoubted benefits have to be balanced against the environmental impact to a far greater extent than is already the case.

Despite ministerial assertions to the contrary, the philosophy that underlies the present consultation appears to be that of predict and provide. Predict and provide did not work for housing. It did not work for roads (although we now appear to be drifting back in that direction) and it will not work for aviation.

The White Paper very fairly sets out the consequences of unlimited expansion and they are horrendous. A new runway at Heathrow would cost another 260 homes (and a lot more would presumably be blighted) along with 228 hectares of green belt land, a church and a grade one listed building ( the Harmondsworth Tithe Barn).

At Stansted there are forecasts, if the industry gets the two new runways it would like, of passenger numbers increasing by 2030 from the present level of around 12 million a year to a mind-boggling 122 million. If that, or anything resembling it, were to come to pass, the impact on surrounding communities would be devastating.

A new airport at Cliffe, were it ever built, would cost 1,100 homes, 2,000 hectares of farmland, a grade one listed church and untold damage to local wild life habitats, some of which are of international importance.

The damage Cliffe would do doesn't bear thinking about and, to be fair to ministers, the signs are they are not thinking about it. Cliffe is the nightmare scenario, included in the hope of making other less unpalatable options seem more attractive.

There are parts of the Government's strategy with which I agree. It makes perfect sense to encourage, within reasonable limits, the expansion of regional airports.

It makes sense to reduce the pressure on the South East by encouraging the growth of regional hub airports. The Government is also right to insist upon improved access by public transport to airports. This should continue to be a condition of expansion and any commitments entered into by the industry should be carefully monitored to make sure they are delivered.

For the rest, however, I favour a strategy of demand management. That will mean large increases in landing fees and other charges at the most congested airports. In the longer term it also means devising, along with our European partners, a workable tax on aviation fuel.

Any further concessions to the industry should be conditional on an end to night flights and, in any case, there should be no further significant expansion of airports in the South East.


More on this issue

ES comment: Airport expansion

Airport expansion
Evening Standard comment 14 January 2003

If ever those woken at night by aircraft noise wanted a reason to rage out loud against the airline industry, Chris Mullin, former Aviation Minister, has given them all the ammunition they need.

He has confirms our worst fears about the aviation business's ability to grind opponents into the runway tarmac. At a time when the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, must decide on whether to expand Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick, or build a new airport at Cliffe in Kent, we have been reminded both of the airlines' lobbying clout and, also, the unreliability of the forecasts involved.

A total of 333,000 people in west London and beyond, already lamentably high, were expected to suffer aircraft noise pollution by 2015, if a new runway is built at Heathrow. Now it turns out that the worst-case scenario is above half a million. So much for forecasts. The airline industry, with everything to gain, and the government, led by the nose, predict that air travel could double in two decades.

But there is nothing inevitable about this predicted growth; everything depends on what the flights cost. Plane tickets are artificially cheap because they are VAT-exempt and because airline fuel, unlike other fuels, is untaxed, an anomaly EU governments must end. Putting the airline industry on a level playing field with competitors would make relatively "green?ail travel, and Britain's own holiday destinations, look more attractive on price, without forcing people to abandon business or leisure flights if they really want them.

If air travel grows slowly, existing airport capacity, plus some regional expansion, could be enough. Certainly for Mr Darling tamely to assume he must provide an already tax-favoured industry with yet more airports, regardless of the human and environmental cost in noise, congestion and air pollution, would be a disaster.


11 January 2003

Germaine Greer is not going to support SSE

Headlines in all the local papers!

Councillor Alan Dean decided to recruit new members for Stop Stansted Expansion. He called on local resident Germaine Greer, no doubt hoping that our campaign might benefit from her somewhat forthright way of expressing herself. To date, Ms Greer has not become involved in local issues and her neighbours generally learn of her usually robust views in print, or on TV and these have not been views on local matters. Alan Dean soon discovered that not only had he failed to notice the traditional bell pull, but he had disturbed her Sunday leisure activities. So much so that the unwelcome visit was written up for her Country Notebook in the Daily Telegraph, last week.

This is what Ms Greer wrote:

DAILY TELEGRAPH
Country notebook: Stansted
(Filed: 04/01/2003)

Germaine Greer explains why she doesn't mind a bigger airport on her doorstep.

"People who come to my front door are of two species: those who ring the doorbell and those who hammer on the door. The doorbell ringers know enough to recognise an old-fashioned bell-pull and to understand Sonnez S.V.P. as telling them what to do with it.

The hammerers don't. The hammerers are also likely to have parked in the drive, where they prevent anyone getting in or out, and in a position where anyone turning in will find his way blocked and his car suddenly immobilized in the path of speeding traffic. A hammerer is therefore likely to find the door snatched open by a furibund me and to be told to move his car before he causes an accident.

If he is truly stupid and truly frightened by my clenched teeth and staring eyes he will back his car out of the drive into the path of oncoming traffic and disappear.

So when I heard the fist pounding on the front door that Sunday afternoon, and had to grab a towel to wipe the mud off my half-washed hands and skate across the polished floor in my damp socks, to snatch the door away from its abuser before he put his fist right through it, I was definitely in wrathful mode and readier to bark than to speak. The fool on the doorstep introduced himself as a local functionary who had come to enlist my support in the struggle against the expansion of Stansted Airport. Did I realise that Stansted could grow to be three times bigger than Heathrow? "So?" barked I.

"If the Queen doesn't complain about living six miles west of Heathrow why would I complain about living 16 miles north of Stansted? Runways run east west; the Queen has to have aircraft taking off and coming in to land right over her head but I wouldn't even see them."

The man on the mat dropped his jaw and gazed at me. It had never occurred to him that I could be more annoyed by his intrusion, which was delaying a much-needed cup of tea and a sit on the rail of the Aga so that my buns could defrost, than I was by a threatened increase in air-traffic.

I took a deep breath, reconciled myself to thirst and cold, and began to explain that I am someone who has to travel a good deal. Every time I need to take a plane to anywhere I have to drive or be driven 80 miles or so through some of the most congested roads in the country, where accidents are a daily occurrence, so that I can't be sure whether I will ever arrive at the airport, let alone when. I am more likely to be able to time my journey correctly if I take a series of trains, but then I have to drag my luggage up and down flights of stairs, and there will be nowhere on any of the trains where I can stow it safely out of the way of the other passengers.

"If Stansted expansion means I never have to drive the M25 ever again," said I, "I'm for it." The man hugged his clipboard to his chest, as if to quell the pounding of his heart. "But Uttlesford District Council is against it," he said. I had not understood when I exercised my vote that I was voting against the extension of Stansted. How democratic could that be, I wondered.

"But the noise", shouted the man on the mat over the roar of a passing lorry. "If I minded noise as badly as all that I wouldn't live on the B184", I howled back.

In its present half-developed condition, Stansted is a bucket-shop airport, which sends most of its 15 million passengers to low-cost and package-tour destinations. A business passenger can't fly from Stansted to New York, Sydney or Budapest, Manchester or Cardiff. You can't avoid the M25 even by flying from Stansted to Heathrow or Gatwick.

So the advantages of having an airport not quite on my doorstep have not materialised. I would rather not have to drive to my speaking engagements in the UK, but there is no other option, unless it be to drive part of the way, leave my car in a station car-park which costs a fortune and has no security whatever, and trust to a motley collection of trains and routes to get me where I need to go at the time when I'm expected, with no chance of returning till the next day. It seems obvious to me that if there is never to be a usable train service and if no more roads are to be built, the British will have to take to the air. Roll on, Stansted expansion."

Our "Local Functionary" Councillor Dean, was, naturally, not very happy about the lady's broadside, which was in typical Greerian style. He has responded:

The Editor
"The Daily Telegraph"

"Sir

As Germaine Greer's "foolish local functionary" (countrynotebook January 4), may I be permitted to complete the story?

My attempt to enlist Ms Greer's support to prevent much of the north Essex and Hertfordshire countryside being buried under a massive airport and attendant urbanisation clearly failed. Though we are apparently at one in wanting better UK rail services.

It was not this functionary who incurred Ms Greer's wrath for parking his car in her drive. It was a team of window cleaners who followed me but were scared off by her acerbic tongue. Of course, if she fails to clean her windows she will not be concerned at the sight of planes overhead every minute should she achieve her "airport on my doorstep".

You may wish to consider moving Ms Greer's column to an "urban notebook".

Yours truly

Councillor Alan Dean
Member for Stansted Mountfitchet
Uttlesford District Council"

What are our comments?

We too are glad that Ms Greer wants a better rail service and it is a short sighted Government that subsidises cheap holiday air travel while tolerating poor rail services. However Ms Greer cannot expect all her destinations to be provided with a rail station and does she realise that she would have to travel to a new expanded Stansted hub airport by car, along an M11 and A 120 that will certainly become as congested as the M 25, though the distance will admittedly be less than a journey to Heathrow. Does she realise that the section of the M11 she lives near will certainly be widened to accommodate this extra traffic. Has she thought of using the good rail service from Cambridge, and the Heathrow Express, or even the old fashioned coach? Or, why not move near to Heathrow or Gatwick and let us locals continue in our present way of life?

Further reactions from Alan Dean:

"I am disappointed that Ms Greer takes such a selfish view of air transport and is prepared to see the area in which she lives destroyed and the quality of life of her neighbours degraded by air pollution, noise and road traffic congestion. Her later comment to the BBC that Uttlesford is "low grade suburbia masquerading as rural England" shows a degree of contempt for her home area. It is likely that the area where Ms Greer lives at Stump Cross, near the M11/A11 interchange, would become an true urban and industrial sprawl if extra runways come to Stansted. I hope she will be prepared to defend her strident approach on a local public platform soon. I have issued an invitation to Ms Greer. The Daily Telegraph really should rename her Saturday Country Notebook column Urban Notebook or she should transfer to the journal of the Freedom to Fly lobby group."


8 January 2003

New Labour's favourite Think Tank comes out against runway expansion!

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), which has the ear of Ministers, has, in a final draft report leaked to 'The Observer', criticised the Government for being 'in hock' to the airline industry, and challenges the need for more runways. It says that airlines should pay tax on fuel and VAT on tickets, and foot the bill for aviation's contribution to climate change through an EU emission charge to tackle greenhouse gases.

Measures to utilise existing capacity more efficiently should take priority over land-hungry new developments and any new capacity found necessary after all these constraint measures should be in the North rather than the S.E. to help cure regional imbalances.

(Source: Nick Mathiason, The Observer, 5.1.03)

Paul Garland


18 December 2002

Uttlesford District Council Backs SSE

At a full Council meeting last night, Uttlesford District Council unanimously passed the following motion:

'That this Council recognises the value of the campaign being carried out by SSE against the Government's proposals to enlarge Stansted Airport by up to 3 further runways.

Furthermore, whilst recognising the difficulties in establishing the legal status of NWEEHPA and SSE, Council acknowledges the real financial difficulties of SSE.

Mindful of the decision taken by Council on the 13 August and reinforced by the meeting on the 28 November 'to work with...local and national action groups' and 'work together with SSE and provide funds....' this Council resolves to:

1  To allocate £15,000 towards the costs of 3 projects, namely i) to research and explore offshore options and press for their inclusion, ii) to reinvigorate the broader campaign and motivate the local community by means of a local conference open to all and iii) to continue to lead the debate by organising a major conference involving participants from all other affected areas. Invoices relating to these 3 projects (up to the proposed amount) to be sent to UDC for settlement.

2  Encourage officers and senior councillors to meet regularly with representatives of SSE.

3  Discussions be held on whether it would be possible for Uttlesford Councillors to serve on the Management Committee of NWEEPHA.'


18 December 2002

COMMONS AIR MINISTER HITS BACK AT AIRPORT EXPANSION REPORT
Based on a report by Joe Churcher of PA News

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling yesterday hit out at the recent high-profile report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution which attacked the Government's airport expansion plans. He told MPs the report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution had not been as thorough or in-depth as he would have liked.

Mr Darling was responding to concerns raised by Labour backbenchers over the potential growth of air travel in the UK.

At Commons question time, Anthony Wright (Cannock Chase) pointed out that the title of the report was Flying to Warmer Climes - because aviation was expected to account for 10% of all man-made global warming within 15 years.

He asked: "Given that, isn't it daft that travel by train gets ever more expensive while travel by air gets ever cheaper? Isn't it daft that we have no tax on aircraft fuel? And are we sure it's sensible to develop ever-more airport capacity to meet demand without raising questions about the nature of that demand?''

The report called for airlines to pay for their pollution and said investment should be switched from air to rail.

The Secretary of State said: "I did think that the report wasn't perhaps as thorough and perhaps as in depth as I might have liked. They had not given due credit to the fact that the Government made it very clear in the consultation document that we do believe that the air industry ought to pay for the environmental cost that is caused.''

The report had also ignored the improvements being made to the west coast main line which would encourage more people to swap planes for trains, he added.

But he said it was necessary to consider airport expansions because most people wanted to fly abroad.

Chris Mullin (Sunderland S) said: "There is a flat contradiction between your department's plans for an indefinite expansion of air travel and the Government's commitment to the environment. Have you consulted your colleagues in the environment department? Are they happy?''

Mr Darling told him the Government's policy was to consult with the public over the extent to which it should meet future demand for air travel.

OUR COMMENTS

We find it somewhat naive of the Secretary of State to refer to the Royal Commission's Response to his airport's consultation document as not being as "thorough or in-depth as he would have wished". Is he seriously expecting such a response in the short period allowed? (The extension of 6 months was only granted at the last moment.)

Is he satisfied that the reports accompanying his consultation document, produced by consultants on Environmental Pollution, are themselves very thorough in relation to the effects of aviation on environmental pollution? We regard them, in some respects, little more than computer aided guesswork and many forward predictions are hedged by reservations from the consultants themselves.

We also suggest that the most important point at issue is not that the Aviation industry should be required to pay for any environmental damage caused, but whether our environment and our quality of life can survive this damage that will be caused by unconstrained air traffic expansion. Price rationing by making such charges is one method of constraint but it does not deter the wealthy.

Air Pollution, local and global, is a very serious problem and it is for the Government to give the lead in the interests of our health now and in the future. This applies to air and to road transport - complete freedom to act as we wish whenever we wish can only lead to intolerable living conditions. Creating congestion in the skies as well as on the roads is not the answer. Neither is increasing outward tourist traffic the answer to economic growth.

We suggest that the Government give the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution the time and money to provide a more thorough Report, and meantime perhaps study the recent Qinetiq Report, a wide ranging study of the effects of aviation on our Air Quality and on climate change.

Pat Dale


16 December 2002

ROYAL COMMISSION ON ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION RECOMMENDATIONS

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution is an independent standing body established in 1970 to advise the Queen, government, Parliament and the public on environmental issues.

Special Report - The Environmental Effects of Civil Aircraft in Flight
(Download from http://www.rcep.org.uk/avreport.html)

Conclusions and Recommendations

6.1 The Commission has expressed deep concerns about the environmental consequences of the growth in air transport on a number of occasions. In this Report we have examined the larger-scale impacts of aviation, both on surface UV radiation through changes in atmospheric ozone and on climate.

6.2 The Commission has particular concerns about the contribution that aircraft emissions will make to climate change if this growth goes unchecked. The total radiative forcing due to aviation is probably some three times that due to the carbon dioxide emissions alone. This contrasts with factors generally in the range 1-1.5 for most other human activities.

6.3 The ambitious targets for technological improvement in some industry announcements are clearly aspirations rather than projections; IPCC's projections are already optimistic. Despite the considerable opportunities for incremental improvements to the environmental performance of individual aircraft, these will not offset the effects of growth. Kerosene will continue to be the industry fuel for the foreseeable future. A non-incremental change could result from radically new airframe designs, with improved fuel efficiency and possibly lower noise and emissions, but this change will not affect the industry for decades and even then will only affect large long-haul aircraft.

6.4 Short-haul passenger flights, such as UK domestic and European journeys, make a disproportionately large contribution to the global environmental impacts of air transport. These impacts are very much larger than those from rail transport over the same point-to-point journey.

6.5 We are also concerned by the growth in air freight. Carbon dioxide emissions and fuel use per tonnekilometre for rail freight are a factor of 20-100 lower than for air. For marine freight, fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions are a factor of 2 or more lower again. Air freight is so much more environmentally damaging than other transport modes that it must be reserved for very high value, and usually perishable, goods. Any proposal to expand air freight movements must be examined with particular care.

6.6 If the reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from ground-level activities recommended in the Commission's Twenty-second Report are achieved, and the growth in air transport projected by IPCC materialises, then air travel will become one of the major sources of anthropogenic climate change by 2050. The Commission fears that the government shows little sign of having recognised these problems, but regards further substantial growth in aviation as inevitable. We recognise that the problems of reducing the impact of air transport are more challenging than action in some other sectors contributing to climate change. But it is imperative that environmental priorities are not simply sidelined as being too difficult.

6.7 We have made recommendations in this Report which encompass a wide range of measures that the government ought to be taking to reduce demand for air travel and to moderate the damage caused by the future growth that does take place:

. impose climate protection charges for aircraft taking off and landing within the EU, and press for such charges to be adopted beyond Europe

. restrict airport development to encourage greater competition for, and raise the implicit price of, the available take-off and landing slots, in order to optimise the use of those slots towards longer-haul flights and to increase the prospects for a modal shift to rail for domestic journeys

. encourage a modal shift to more environmentally benign methods of transport for short-haul flights, including the development of major airports into land-air hubs integrated with an enhanced rail network

. support technological development to lessen the damage done by air travel, continuing airframe improvements and optimising aircraft routeing

. include international aviation in the emissions trading scheme that is envisaged as one of the Kyoto Protocol's implementing mechanisms.

6.8 We urge the government to seize the opportunity presented by its forthcoming White Paper to implement our recommendations at the domestic level, and to argue for their adoption by the EU, and globally, where necessary and appropriate. We believe that the arguments put forward in this Report are sufficient to show that if no limiting action is taken, the rapid growth in air transport will proceed in fundamental contradiction to the government's stated goal of sustainable development.


12 December 2002

CANADA TO JOIN THE KYOTO PROTOCOL

The Canadian House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly in support of the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The 195-77 vote was non-binding, but Prime Minister Jean Chretien had already signalled his intention to ratify the agreement by the end of the year if it was approved by parliament. That now only leaves the US, Japan and Australia outside the Protocol.

For more see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2564723.stm

Comment: The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has advocated a freeze on airport expansion (see our news item) because of climate change worries. Stop Stansted Expansion is also urging the Government to accept the very serious link between flying and climate change.


9 December 2002

MAKE A DATE WITH THE STOP STANSTED EXPANSION COMMUNITY CALENDAR 2003

When Stop Stansted Expansion supporter Kevin Adams decided to raise funds for the campaign, he didn't do things by halves - or hang around. Within little more than a week of his original idea, 3000 beautiful full colour calendars featuring around 30 pictures of the area under threat from expansion of Stansted airport had been designed, printed and delivered ready for sale.

Kevin, who coordinated the project with fellow supporters Ken McDonald, John Murphy and Doug Fry, put together a portfolio of pictures old and new - including many taken especially for the calendar - to create the perfect gift for those committed to saving the local environment from disappearing under concrete or suffering the effects of noise and atmospheric pollution caused by both increased air and road traffic.

Photo
L to R: Mark Prisk MP, Bryan Steward (Pearsons Store Director) and Sir Alan Haselhurst MP at the launch of the Stop Stansted Expansion Community Calendar 2003 in North Street, Bishop's Stortford on Saturday 8 December

The Stop Stansted Expansion Community Calendar 2003 retails at £5 and all profits will go directly to the campaign.

See the Calendar page for details of locations featured and sales locations.

Anyone wishing to offer the calendars for sale in their shop, pub or other appropriate venue is invited to contact the campaign office on 01279 870558 or email info@stopstanstedexpansion.com

Stop Stansted Expansion acknowledges the support of The National Trust, Uttlesford District Council and the photographers who allowed their material to be used free of charge in the production of the calendars.


4 December 2002

REFERENDUM RESULT DELIVERED TO NO. 10

Photo In the recent referendum, nine out of ten Uttlesford District Council electors voted against any proposals to expand Stansted.

On 28 November, Councillors, campaigners and the local Member of Parliament, Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, delivered the referendum result to Number 10 Downing Street and also the Department for Transport.

Leader of the Council, Cllr. Robert Chambers said:

"We call on Tony Blair and Alistair Darling to listen to the people of Uttlesford, when they say 'NO' to any new runways at Stansted."

"The referendum result shows how deep hostility runs within the local community. Furthermore, to achieve a higher turnout than at the General Election demonstrates just how strongly the local people feel about the threat posed to their quality of life by such proposals. In short, local people feel that they would decimate Uttlesford."

"The Government need to think again about how they intend to cater for any future growth in demand for air travel."

"The people have spoken. Now we are hoping that the Prime Minister will listen."

Source: UDC Press Release


2 December 2002

"THE CAMPAIGN AIN'T OVER 'TILL THE MINISTER SINGS"

Stop Stansted Expansion is taking to the streets again in Dunmow with a stall in next week's Late Night Shopping and Christmas Fayre (Friday, 13 December).

Its stall will include a fundraising Tombola, a "Where's that Wally Alistair Darling?" competition and a chance to prove you can drown out the noise of the jets with a high tech noise-o-meter.

The stall is being organised by local SSE supporters to raise awareness in the town and to raise badly needed cash to keep the campaign running up to the new deadline for consultation in May next year.

Supporters are being asked to donate prizes for the Tombola and competitions as well as helping out on the night.

Dunmow Support Group spokesman John Murphy said: "The campaign is on a roll following the Judicial Review but it does not mean the war is over. It has simply given us more time to get our arguments across. But if we are going to do that we need to raise money, lots of it, and have some fun at the same time. Please support the cause on the night and donate a prize if you can."

Anyone interested in helping or donating a prize please call 01371 876340 or email johnpmurphy@tesco.net


1 December 2002

AIR TRAFFIC POLLUTION - IT MUST BE CONTAINED

"Your Policy is deeply flawed" says the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution to Alistair Darling

Events have moved fast during the last week. After the Judicial Review victory, followed by Alistair Darling's announcement of a 6 month's extension, what next?

Today we read that the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has advocated a freeze on airport expansion, suggesting a charge of between £40 and £100 a ticket to discourage people from flying. In other words, do not subsidise air travel. They point out that if the suggested expansion goes ahead it will have a serious effect on climate change with more unpredictable weather, storms and flooding. They remind the Government that the effects of air traffic are not restricted to producing more greenhouse gases. The vapour trails from aircraft also have similar effects and lead to the formation of more cloud cover. Nitrogen dioxide emissions will lead to ever more air pollution. They select the short haul journeys as the worst offenders, partly because of their inefficient use of fuel. Flying between London and Manchester was described by one scientist as "daft"!

The usual chorus of protest has quickly followed - damage to the UK economy, the tourism industry, and the consumer etc, etc. (How about a new caption: "Freedom to Fly now, as much as you like - let your grandchildren pay")

On another page of today's press is the news that there is to be an international conference on December 9th in London to commemorate the anniversary of the Great London SMOG in 1952, when 4000 people died in 5 days. It was due to the chronic state of air pollution from coal fires, aggravated by a blanket of cold air from the continent settling over London for several days. The Government had been warned and tried to blame the deaths on an imaginary epidemic of flu', but it did lead to action and an inquiry was set up which lead to the Clean Air Act in 1956. Smogs are now an event of the past but, as the article points out, we now have another, more hidden pollution problem, the internal combustion engine. The growth of vehicle traffic on the ground is leading to a similar situation, but without the warning fogs. It is believed that as many as 24,000 people a year may suffer from the effects of pollutants, particles (PM10, PM2.5 and even smaller) and nitrogen dioxide. We now have both a European Directive and UK regulations designed to remedy the situation but it continues to worsen.

The Government needs to pause and reflect. History showed us what air pollution can do, history is repeating itself. More positive action is needed on the ground, and above us, in the air as well. They now have extra time to reconsider the question again. Let's have a Clean Air Tax for all who pollute, not just a carbon tax on industry.

We all need clean air, and so do animals, trees and plants. Much has been said about the local effects of air pollution on Hatfield Forest, but the long term effects on crop growth may be even more serious.


A FOOTNOTE

The CAA have granted BAA at Heathrow permission to raise airport charges by 40% over the next 5 years, but not at Stansted or Gatwick, where they may only be raised by the rate of inflation. It is suggested that each airport should pay its way and there should not be a cross subsidy. Does anyone other than BAA know if there was a cross subsidy in operation? Where does Stansted come in this heirarchy?

Pat Dale


1 December 2002

VISIT BY SHADOW SECRETARY OF STATE FOR TRANSPORT

Tim Collins MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, has accepted an invitation from Sir Alan Haselhurst MP and Mark Prisk MP to come to North West Essex and East Hertfordshire on Friday, 14 February to see for himself the implications of the proposed airport expansion at Stansted.


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