| CAMPAIGN UPDATE - AT A GLANCE
A summary of current events in SSE's campaign against expansion of Stansted Airport
and other recent news related to the expansion of airports and aviation - as at 28 October 2013
SSE's High Court challenge over Airport Commission bias
Stop Stansted Expansion has applied to the High Court for a Judicial Review on the grounds of apparent bias arising from the way the Airports Commission is going about determining the future of airport capacity in the UK. In its latest high-profile action, which has attracted widespread media coverage, SSE asked the High Court to order the Commission to delay the publication of its shortlist of options until the selection criteria for assessing those options have been re-determined. The High Court will hold a hearing on 22 November to consider the case.
SSE's challenge concerns the role played by Geoff Muirhead who resigned from the Airports Commission after intervention by SSE's lawyers. Mr Muirhead was the former chief executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which now owns Stansted Airport. SSE says that for almost a year Mr Muirhead, the only commissioner with first hand experience of the aviation industry, was in a powerful position to shape decisions of the Commission to favour MAG's interests. Brian Ross, SSE economics adviser, said: "With proposals on the table from MAG to make Stansted the world's busiest airport with four runways handling up to 160 million passengers a year, there is far too much at stake to allow the issue of apparent bias to go unchallenged." See the SSE Press Release.
Commission chairman hints at two more runways
Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, while saying he won't be drawn on his likely conclusions, has confirmed to The Independent newspaper that it was possible he could propose both a second runway at Gatwick and a third at Heathrow as part of a single recommendation. He said that to manage the predicted growth of aviation with only the existing facilities would be bad for passengers, connectivity and the economy - and could also damage the environment more than increasing capacity would do, writes the paper's travel correspondent, Simon Calder. Ruling out the prospect of "mixed mode" at Heathrow as a short-term fix, the Commission will instead make interim recommendations on improving surface access to secondary airports, involving better rail and road links, says the paper.
Airport capacity arguments "dangerously weak"
SSE has stated that Sir Howard Davies' view that extra airport runway capacity is needed in the South East is based on arguments that are dangerously weak. SSE will be taking up Sir Howard's invitation to comment on his preliminary conclusions, continuing to argue the case that the UK, as a whole, already has more than enough runway capacity to meet the Department for Transport forecasts to 2050, and well beyond.
UDC reaffirms more runways unjustified…
Uttlesford District Council has reaffirmed that it is "wholly opposed" to more runways at Stansted Airport. In its submission to the Airports Commission, the council says additional runways would impact the environment and people's lives and that there is "no evidence which indicates additional runways are justified to meet the anticipated passenger demand in 2050". Cllr Jackie Cheetham, deputy leader of UDC, said: "It is unclear whether the practicalities of this expansion have been fully considered and therefore we will continue to push for more clarity and certainty of the plans." See Saffron Walden Reporter report.
…but Essex County gives qualified yes to second runway
Essex County Council has given qualified support for a second runway at Stansted Airport. While dismissing Boris Johnson's idea of a mega airport at Stansted as "fanciful" and one that would take an unacceptable environmental toll, council leader David Finch said the county would not stand in the way of a second Stansted runway "to boost aviation capacity". In evidence to the Airports Commission, the council said a second runway at Stansted would require more Government investment in motorways and the West Anglia railway to cut times from central London from 50 to 30 minutes. Cllr Finch, quoted in the London Evening Standard, noted that Stansted already had the capacity to double passenger numbers to 35 million a year. However, a third runway at Heathrow was "the most viable, affordable and practical option to improve UK aviation capacity".
Airport noise increases heart disease risk
A study reported in the British Medical Journal said that tens of thousands of people living in the loudest areas near Heathrow had a 10-20 per cent increased risk of suffering and dying from heart disease and stroke, reports The Times. A US study found a similar link, giving the firmest evidence yet that plane noise contributes to death from heart problems, says the paper's health correspondent. Researchers cautioned that they could not yet be certain that aircraft noise caused heart disease, but said policymakers needed to consider the link in deliberations about a third runway at Heathrow. "For those keen to see expansion, particularly at Heathrow, the report will prove more than an unwelcome irritation; if the findings are sustained and augmented, the airport expansion debate takes on a new character," says Simon Calder, the Independent's travel correspondent.
Yet another proposal added to the new airports wish list
Sir Howard says he has received "fifty-eight proposals ranging from runway extensions to green field or blue water sites", prompting accusations that the Airports Commission has opened a Pandora's box by inviting all and sundry to submit their ideas for new runways and new airports. The latest is a proposal to build an £18bn four-runway international airport with capacity for 125 million passengers near Abingdon. Unsurprisingly, the plans for 'London Oxford International', submitted by a firm of Bristol-based architects, have been attacked by the local MP and West Berkshire Council. See the Newbury Today report.
More passengers per flight at Stansted
The number of flights at Stansted Airport in the year to September 2013 fell to the lowest level since 1998 while the number of passengers handled nudged upwards by 0.5% compared with the same month last year. This is explained by an increase in the number of passengers per plane, which reached an average of 146.6, the highest ever. Nonetheless, the number of monthly passengers in September was still down 25% compared with the peak in September 2007. A total of 17.7 million passengers were carried in the 12 months to September 2013. The number of flights in the 12 months to September 2013 was 130,729 - less than half the permitted 264,000. The 12 months to September 2013 saw a 3.3% increase in cargo tonnage over the 12 months to September 2012.
Business funds pro-expansion campaign
A campaign in support of airport expansion is being funded by London businesses. London First says it will put pressure on political parties to take note of the recommendations of the Airports Commission when its full report comes out after the 2025 election. The "Let Britain Fly" campaign will cost £250,000 and London First is seeking £25,000 each from businesses, trade unions and London boroughs, reports the London Evening Standard. The cash will be used to fund academic studies and advertising. The lobby group insists it will not campaign in favour of one particular airport. It believes extra flights can be put on at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick in the next five years regardless of the outcome of a decision on runways.
Stansted needs to attract local businesses
An online survey among 100 local businesses showed that 88 per cent would like the opportunity to work with Stansted's owners, Manchester Airports Group. The results showed that only 20 per cent of companies have ever had the opportunity to work with the owners of Stansted and that the company needs to do more to work with local firms. See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
New Suffolk flight paths for high-flying jets
A 14-week consultation on plans to alter flight paths above Suffolk has started. Unlike earlier proposals to create new holding areas for planes waiting to land at Stansted Airport - shelved after vocal opposition - the new consultation mainly concerns planes going in and out of London Gatwick. Air traffic management company NATS says there will be some changes to flightpaths across Suffolk but not those where planes fly below 7,000ft. The aim of the new plans is to reduce noise for people below flightpaths, and improve efficiency, reducing fuel burn and CO2 emissions. Changes have not been ruled out for the future. See the EADT report.
Boris admits he's losing the Thames estuary argument
London Mayor Boris Johnson has admitted he is losing the battle for a Thames Estuary airport instead of a third runway at Heathrow but says he will not give up the fight. "When Heathrow's on the table.... ?nobody is going to be impressed with any other solution. That is the reality. That is where the establishment in this country is. It's what the Treasury wants. It's what the CBI wants," says Mr Johnson, quoted in The Financial Times. "At the moment I think I'm just about out there on my own. I don't see anybody else really coming to the barricades. Do you hear them? Do you hear anybody else?" he asks.
New intra-Europe emissions tax plans
The European Commission (EC) is proposing to extend its tax on aviation emissions to the portion of international flights that occurs within European airspace. The current EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) applies only to intra-European flights. The EC says the proposals would apply from January 2014 until a global mechanism, put forward by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, becomes applicable to international aviation emissions by 2020. The new proposal has caused "surprise and concern" at the International Air Traffic Association which says it is not in the spirit of the accord agreed by the two bodies, according to Air Transport World. See the Air Transport World report.
Follow Ireland and scrap APD, says airline boss
An airline boss has called on Britain to follow Ireland's example and scrap air passenger duty (APD). Ireland, which had already cut air tax to just €3 per passenger per flight, has said that it would be scrapped entirely from April 2014, reports The Telegraph. Steve Hoy, chief commercial officer at the airline Bmi regional, said: "This recent tax break highlights that the Irish constituency has recognised the negative impact that the duty has on core industry, tourism and airlines. We're disappointed that UK air travel continues to be subjected to such a considerable levy and urge the UK government to follow suit." Following the latest rise in Air Passenger Duty (APD) in April 2013, outbound travellers pay the Government between £13 and £94 every time they fly - or twice that much if they opt for a premium-economy, business - or first-class seat, says the paper. APD has been blamed for pricing ordinary families out of overseas holidays, discouraging airlines from opening new routes and forcing many to be withdrawn, and hindering the economy by persuading inbound tourists - who pay the tax on their flight home - to go elsewhere.
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