| 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 - February 2017
Time running out to respond to Night Flights Consultation
The Government has allowed only a short time frame to respond to proposals for the regulation of night flights at Stansted Airport over the next five years. Stop Stansted Expansion is urging local councils and individual residents to respond to this consultation, which closes on February 28.
Stansted currently has permission for 12,000 night flights a year, more than twice as many as Heathrow. "SSE has long argued to the Government that night flights have a far greater impact on local residents around Stansted because of its rural location where background noise levels at night are generally very low. We also know that night flights cause far more annoyance to local residents compared to flights during the day," says SSE chairman Peter Sanders.
The current 12,000 annual limit on night flights applies only to the 6½ hours from 11.30pm to 6.00am whereas the normal definition of 'night' is the 8 hours from 11.00pm to 7.00am. A large number of Stansted's night flights are large, noisy cargo aircraft, many of which are very old and give rise to a disproportionately high level of noise complaints. The Government's latest night flights proposals do not go nearly far enough, says SSE, which is calling for an unequivocal Government commitment to phase out all night flights at Stansted by 2030; for the annual limit to apply, not just from 11.30pm to 6.00am, but from 11.00pm to 7.00am; for a radical overhaul of the current 'averaging' method for measuring noise so that noise statistics start to represent what people actually have to endure; and for an immediate ban on aircraft using reverse thrust when landing during the night.
You can respond to the night flights consultation either by completing an online questionnaire with questions pre-set by the Department of Transport at https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/J6KX6 or you can send an email, making the points you want to make, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Government consultation launched on third Heathrow runway
At the beginning of February Transport Secretary Chris Grayling launched a four-month public consultation on the Government's decision to expand Britain's biggest airport by adding a third runway at Heathrow. Chris Grayling heralded the launch as a sign that Britain will be open for business after Brexit and that the Government is delivering the infrastructure the nation will need. The conditions for planning consent for the third Heathrow runway are outlined in a draft National Policy Statement (NPS), which is the first step in enacting the decision the Government announced in the autumn in favour of another runway at Heathrow. MPs will have to approve the NPS for it to become law, which could take another year. See The Guardian report.
Heathrow's "least used" third runway
Campaigners say the proposed third runway at Heathrow could be one of the least used runways in Europe after a Government-commissioned report suggested the airport might breach EU air quality laws. The report concluded that a third Heathrow runway would mean higher toxic air levels in central London but it also suggested that increased nitrogen dioxide levels around Heathrow due to more road traffic would still not delay compliance with EU air quality rules. This interpretation of the air quality regulations is likely to be challenged in court, reports the London Standard. Meanwhile, airlines say that landing charges at Heathrow could rise very substantially to pay for a third runway. As a result, major airlines may drop Heathrow for rival airports such as Amsterdam. The European vice-president of the International Air Transport Association said that airline backing for the project was "conditional" on fees remaining at today's levels. See The Times report.
Stansted's long-haul hopes
Stansted has repeated its hopes of becoming a hub for long-haul airlines. Speaking at the launch of Ryanair's new summer routes, Stansted Airport chief executive Andrew Cowan said, "Heathrow is full, Gatwick is pretty much full, and if anyone wants to grow in London we've got the capacity to make that happen." Ryanair now serves 140 routes from Stansted. Ryanair's chief commercial officer, David O'Brien, said: "It wouldn't at all surprise me that several long-haul airlines would be interested in tapping into our European network." See The Independent report.
More passengers on fewer flights at Stansted
In 2016, Stansted Airport set a new annual record for its passenger throughput, by handling 24.3m passengers during the year, compared to the previous record of 23.8m, achieved in 2007. The 2016 passenger throughput was achieved with 25,300 fewer commercial flights than in 2007 - 166,200 compared to 191,500 - reflecting higher load factors.
Advice on local homeowner compensation
Many local residents are now taking advice from chartered surveyors after SSE provided details of three firms willing to help local residents if they believe they may be entitled to compensation for devaluation of their homes caused by airport expansion. Claims are now beginning to be submitted to Stansted Airport Limited (STAL). SSE emphasises it does not endorse or recommend any one firm of chartered surveyors over another. Further information is available here.
Airport will benefit from A120 improvements
Roads Minister and Essex MP John Hayes promised to be a "champion" for improvements to the A120 at a Westminster event hosted by MPs including Sir Alan Haselhurst. Andrew Cowan, CEO of Stansted Airport, said that infrastructure had not kept pace with the airport's needs and that improvements to the A120 would be a boost for Stansted. "Not only is it integral to Stansted but many leading lights of the business community rely on it," he said. A petition with 534 signatures was handed to the Minister the day after a consultation was launched into making the A120 a dual carriageway. See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
Ryanair cuts fares to hit passenger target...
Ryanair claims that it has been forced to reduce winter fares in order to hit contractual passenger number targets at airports including Stansted. Average fares were down by 17% at the end of last year, which reduced profits by 8% to 95m in the last quarter of 2016. Passenger volumes rose by 16% in the same quarter to annual total of 119m. Ryanair admitted chasing passenger numbers in order to gain airport discounts. Ryanair signed a 10-year deal with Stansted in 2013 under which the airport would drop charges if it brought in more passengers to spend money in shops and restaurants. The target was 20 million passengers by 2024. SSE calculates that Ryanair accounted for 19.5m passengers at Stansted last year - over 80% of the airport's 24.3m total passengers. See The Times report.
...and may drop UK flights over Brexit
Ryanair says that it may drop its UK domestic flights when the UK leaves the EU because it is uncertain whether the current freedom of any EU airline to fly between any two airports in Europe, including domestic flights in a foreign country, will still apply. As an Irish airline, Ryanair may be excluded from UK domestic routes. EasyJet has already indicated that it will set up a European subsidiary to allow it to maintain and expand its current network. See The Independent report.
Airlines set out emissions strategy
Airlines UK, representing UK-registered airlines, has set out how it believes the industry can meet the UK's demand for air travel, while at the same time meeting climate change targets on reducing carbon emissions. The report covers four areas of work towards reducing carbon emissions - the continuous introduction of new aircraft; greater fuel efficiency; the use of sustainable fuels; and support for international carbon trading and offset schemes. SSE described the report as "more of the usual wishful thinking from an industry constantly seeking to duck its responsibilities in relation to climate change." See the Travel Weekly report.
Queues cause delays not airspace
SSE has challenged claims by the Government that airport delays will increase "enormously" without a radical shake-up in the UK's airspace to cope with an expected doubling in air traffic by 2030. Transport secretary Chris Grayling said that without action, flight delays would be damaging for passengers, the economy and the environment. National Air Traffic Services (NATS) says UK passengers are delayed by 1,500 hours annually, a figure that would rise to 66,000 hours by 2030 unless action is taken. However, Martin Peachey, SSE's noise expert, points out that the average delay across 2.4 million flights a year in the UK is just 2¼ seconds and that the delay is actually on the ground. "The real delays are very little to do with airspace arrangements and far more to do with long check-in queues," he says. See The Telegraph report.
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