16th December 2002

CBI response on airport expansion slammed by Stansted campaigners

Stop Stansted Expansion has accused the CBI of a total lack of imagination in its recommendations for three new runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick, claiming that its ‘add on’ policy for airport expansion is a major snub to UK plc.

The campaign group claims that rather than giving a boost to the UK’s flagging engineering industry by proposing a bold and imaginative solution to airport expansion, such as an offshore airport, it has chosen to continue the traditional expansionist policies which have blighted the country so badly in the past.

The employers’ body recommendations came in the CBI’s response to the government’s consultation on the Future Development of Air Transport in the UK: South East. Stop Stansted Expansion is opposed to the addition of further runways at Stansted and other mainland sites in the south east.

Stop Stansted Expansion argues that an offshore airport, with rail links to inland terminals, has the potential to save millions of people across the south east from the damage associated with large airport developments which impact so heavily on health, sleep, roads, farmland and the environment. It could also give the aviation industry what it needs and provide a showcase for British design, engineering and innovation. For these reasons it should be given greater consideration within the consultation.

In its submission, the CBI rejects the idea of establishing a new airport on the grounds that it would not be cost effective to develop a new site from scratch, with all the supporting infrastructure. The comments are made in respect of a site in North Kent, known as Cliffe, but would apply equally to an offshore solution. Campaigners, however, believe that although likely to be more expensive, the price of an offshore airport would be worth paying in the longer term.

While CBI director general Digby Jones asserts that expansion of capacity is crucial for the future success of the UK economy, Stop Stansted Expansion say this is merely a metaphor for a free hand to concrete over the countryside, blight the lives of over three quarters of a million people around Stansted alone and create untold environmental havoc and blight across the wider south east region.

Said Stop Stansted Expansion chairman Norman Mead: “An offshore solution would benefit rather than compromise communities across the south east by largely eliminating the problems associated with giant airports, namely gridlocked roads, constant noise and air pollution from both planes and cars, health problems and the loss of substantial countryside and heritage sites. The CBI could easily have spearheaded consideration of an innovative solution, such as an offshore option, giving a major boost to Britain’s long-suffering engineering industry in the process. It would also give the aviation industry what it is looking for – 24 hour take offs and landings.”

“It seems that CBI has decided its members stand to profit most from expansion of existing airports and that this is what has influenced its recommendations. We are therefore calling on Digby Jones to use the extended consultation period to reconsider the CBI’s submission and to recommend to the government that it considers an offshore airport along the lines of those which have worked so well in other parts of the world, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan and South Korea,” he added.

The government’s consultation was recently quashed and restarted following the success of two Stop Stansted Expansion members and three councils in an action to prove that it was irrational and unfair of the Secretary of State for Transport not to include Gatwick in its proposals because of an outdated legal agreement. The consultation will be formally restarted in January when, with the inclusion of Gatwick, it will run for a further four months.

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport