| 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 - 18 May 2015
SSE repeats demand for a full night's sleep
Stop Stansted Expansion has repeated its call for night flights to be progressively phased out, arguing that everyone is entitled to a full night's sleep. Ahead of the general election and local elections, it called on all candidates in the region affected by Stansted Airport to support a ban on night flights. SSE has repeatedly made the case that night flights have a far greater impact on local residents around Stansted because of its rural location where background noise levels are generally very low. The number of night flights at Stansted has significantly increased over the past year, believed to be largely due to the transfer to Stansted of cargo flights from Manston airport, now closed. Unlike Stansted, Manston operated a night time ban. Stansted currently has permission to operate 12,000 night flights a year, more than twice as many as are permitted at Heathrow. SSE wants all politicians to recognise that the 12,000 limit only applies to the 6½ hour period between 11.30pm and 6.00am whereas the normal definition of 'night' is the 8-hours between 11.00pm to 7.00am. There are no restrictions on the number of aircraft permitted to take-off and land at Stansted during the so-called shoulder periods between 11.00pm and 11.30pm and between 6.00am and 7.00am. Further background is contained in SSE's submission on night flights to the Government in January 2014.
Heathrow could trade night flights for runway
Heathrow's chief executive John Holland-Kaye says his airport would consider ending night flights were it a requirement for getting a new runway. He has already promised there would be no more flights before 6.00am than at present if a third runway is built. Heathrow local residents campaign group HACAN believes a new runway should make it possible to ban night flights altogether, the CEO has now refused to rule out that option. At present, between 16 and 18 planes land at Heathrow between 4.30am and 6.00am each day. Heathrow has already announced that it would increase aircraft noise compensation from £30m to £700m for those adversely affected by a new runway. It would adopt the more generous European noise measure to calculate which homes were eligible, rather than the statutory UK government standards. However, Mr Holland-Kaye said that offer was subject to the airport getting permission for a third runway. See the Get West London report.
Cars not planes could breach pollution limits
Meanwhile, Heathrow Airport's sustainability director, Matt Gorman, has challenged claims by Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith that a third runway could breach air pollution limits for London. Mr Gorman said the Airports Commission had been "very clear" that Heathrow could expand and stay within its air pollution limits. He said it was up to City Hall, along with the Government, to do more to combat vehicle emissions on approach roads. See the London Evening Standard report.
Boris vows to intensify his fight against Heathrow expansion
Following his return to the House of Commons last week, as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Boris Johnson says that the government should flatly reject any recommendation to expand Heathrow and warned that the chance of a third Heathrow runway was "virtually nil". The London Mayor vowed to use his new parliamentary seat to intensify his fight against Heathrow expansion. Speaking on LBC radio, he said that any recommendation in favour of a third runway at Heathrow should be "filed vertically" like other reports that came to a similar conclusion during recent decades. Urging ministers to swing behind opposition to Heathrow expansion, Boris added: "It is for others to man up, to get some cojones and actually to say what they think should happen. Heathrow is undeliverable and the sooner we face that, the sooner our salvation will come." See The Times report.
...but supporters of airport expansion claim public support
According to ITV News, one hundred thousand people who live near Heathrow Airport have backed a campaign for a third runway. The Back Heathrow Campaign Group say that a third Heathrow runway would create thousands of jobs and boost the economy. Another poll, carried out by Populus claims that the public supports airport expansion in the South-East by a factor of three to one. In an article in The Independent, Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the advertising giant WPP, says the Populus poll shows that "the public increasingly gets" that delaying expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick threatens "jobs, growth, trade and investment". The poll, commissioned by the Let Britain Fly pressure group, indicated that 45 per cent were in favour of new runways being built, compared to only 16 per cent against, with the remainder undecided.
Consultation could delay Commission's report
The Airports Commission has launched a surprise further public consultation before publishing its final recommendations on airport expansion in the UK. The chairman, Sir Howard Davies, says he wants to hear the public's view on how they would be affected by air pollution if Heathrow or Gatwick were expanded. It is understood that this new consultation on air quality has been launched because the Supreme Court ruled last month that Britain must speed up its efforts to tackle air pollution, having breached EU limits. The Airport Commission's decision to hold this further consultation is intended to ensure that its final recommendations will not be vulnerable to a legal challenge, according to the Financial Times, and there are concerns a new consultation would delay the final report, even though the consultation period has been limited to just three weeks. Sir Howard is due to take up a new role as chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland in September. The Commission has concluded that a second runway at Gatwick would cost £9.3bn, plus a further £787m from the taxpayer to improve road and rail access. By comparison, a third runway at Heathrow would cost an estimated £18.6bn, requiring £5.7bn from the taxpayer to improve access. See The Telegraph report.
Gatwick boss reacts almost instantly to the announcement of the new consultation
Within hours of the Airport Commission's announcement of a further consultation on the air quality impacts of a new runway, Gatwick's chief executive, Stewart Wingate seized the opportunity to undermine the case for expansion at Heathrow and to underpin his arguments for expansion at Gatwick: He pointed out that the area around Heathrow was already in breach of EU air quality limits and that "Air quality has been a showstopper for Heathrow before and it is now clear that it will be again." He added: "In contrast, Gatwick has never breached legal air quality limits and its location means it can guarantee that it never will. This decision is about the economy and the environment. Gatwick's plan is simpler, cheaper, faster and quieter - above all it can actually happen." See the Gatwick Airport press release.
Stansted passenger numbers top 21 million
Annual passenger numbers at Stansted Airport have topped 21 million a year for the first time in six years, says managing director Andrew Harrison. The total number of passengers using the airport in the 12 months to April 2015 was 21.1 million. Passenger numbers in April rose by 10.7 per cent compared to the same month last year, whilst flights rose by 10.5 per cent. Annual passenger numbers are still 12 per cent below Stansted's peak throughput of 24.0 million passengers achieved in the 12 months to October 2007. The number of flights handled by Stansted in the past 12 months was 149,700, which is 23 per cent fewer than in the peak 12 months to October 2007. The significant recovery in Stansted's level of business over the past two years has closed the gap between its actual throughput and its permitted throughput. However, the airport still has headroom, under its planning consents, to grow passenger numbers by 66 per cent from their present level to 35 million passengers per annum and to grow the number of flights by 76 per cent to 264,000. See the Stansted Airport press release.
Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton also continue to grow
Heathrow handled 6.1m passengers in April, taking its total over the past 12 months to a record 73.7m passengers. It catered for 471,272 flights in the year to 30 April, just 8,728 short of its planning cap of 480,000 annual flights. Cargo tonnage also continues to grow at Heathrow, reaching a total of more than 1.5m tonnes over the past 12 months, which is almost two-thirds of all UK air freight. Gatwick handled 3.2m passengers in April, taking its total over the past 12 months to a record 38.7m passengers - up 6.5 per cent on last year. It recorded 261,000 flights in the 12 months to April, an increase of 2.2 per cent on last year. Gatwick chief executive Stuart Wingate told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, "Gatwick is approaching being full and Heathrow is full." Luton Airport is also seeing record passenger numbers and it its April growth of 11.7 per cent was higher than Stansted's growth (10.7%). Luton expects to handle over 11m passengers this year and has ambitions to grow to an annual throughput of 18m passengers. See the BBC News report and the Heathrow Airport press release and the Gatwick Airport press release and the My News Desk report.
APD scrapped for under-12s
Stansted Airport has welcomed the abolition of air passenger duty (APD) for children under 12. It claims that parents with two young children could save up to £142 on long-haul trips. The saving on short-haul trips will be £13 for each youngster. APD is due to be scrapped for under-16s from March next year. See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
No Atlantic flights, admits Ryanair
Ryanair has been forced to admit it is not considering transatlantic flights just days after it said it was. In a brief stock exchange statement, the Irish airline said it had not approved any such plans, nor would it. See The Telegraph report.
Boris rejects City Airport expansion
Boris Johnson has rejected plans to double the capacity of London City Airport. The Mayor of London said granting permission for the £200million scheme - including a 50 per cent increase in take-offs and landings - would lead to an "unacceptable" increase in noise, and stood by his call for the construction of a so-called Boris Island hub airport to the east of London. See the London Evening Standard report.
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