23rd November 2002

South East unites to tell Prime Minister to think again on airport expansion plans

In a show of unity representatives of all the main groups opposed to the government’s plans for massive airport expansion will visit Number 10 Downing Street this afternoon (Saturday 23 November) to deliver a letter highlighting their shared concerns over the government’s proposals to expand runway capacity in order to cope with predicted demand over the next 30 years. They are demanding that a halt be called to the policy of building more runways in the already over-crowded mainland south east.

The visit to Downing Street will follow a lunchtime protest march in Whitehall led by Jamie Oliver and a Trafalgar Square rally expected to attract many thousands of people affected by the government’s plans which include proposals for new runways at Heathrow, Luton and Stansted, and a new airport at Cliffe.

If implemented, the proposals as they currently stand would entail further destruction of countryside, damage to the environment and noise blight on large sections of the population around the sites being considered for expansion or development.

Whilst recognising that airports bring economic benefits and that air travel is a necessary aspect of modern life, the campaigners are calling on the government to think again about the way forward and to adopt a strategic, sustainable solution for meeting demand rather than merely continue with the incrementalistic approach which has failed the country – and its people – in the past. They also believe that the government must begin to implement its commitment to make the aviation industry pay its full social and environmental costs rather than continuing to subsidise air transport by an average £35 per ticket, largely through exemption from VAT and fuel duty.

The text of the letter to the Prime Minister is reproduced below. It has been signed by the leaders of Stop Stansted Expansion, HACAN (Heathrow), LADACAN (Luton), No Cliffe Airport (Cliffe) and No Third Runway (Heathrow).


AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER

c/o The Office of John McDonnell, MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP
The Prime Minister
10, Downing Street

London SW1A 2AA                                                                                         23 November 2002

Dear Mr Blair,

THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF AIR TRANSPORT IN THE UNITED KINGDOM: SOUTH EAST
We would like to bring to your attention our concerns at the Department for Transport’s plans to expand runway capacity in the South East of England. The DfT predicts that the demand for air travel in the South East will increase from 117 million to 301 million passengers over the next thirty years and argues that we must therefore expand our existing airports and/or build a new airport in the South East. We believe this approach is wrong.

We recognise that airports bring economic benefits and that air travel is a necessary aspect of modern life. We also recognise that Government has a duty to consider the growing demand for air travel, and to develop policies for the future which strike the right balance. We believe that Government is failing in this duty.

A review of airports’ policy for the next thirty years is an opportunity, by addressing fundamental issues in a strategic and coherent way, to avoid repeating past mistakes. There needs to be a recognition of the way the world is changing and of the underlying issues which led, for example, to the Kyoto Protocol, which was formally ratified by the UK and all other EU member states earlier this year. Unfortunately, the options currently being put forward are simply a continuation – for the next thirty years – of the incrementalistic approach which has failed us in the past.

It is time to call a halt to the policy of building more runways in the already over-crowded mainland South East. Rather than proposing further destruction of our countryside, further damage to our environment, and further noise blight upon a larger section of our population, the Government needs to take steps to implement its commitment that the aviation industry should pay its full social and environmental costs. A start might be made by addressing the £6.3 billion annual subsidy to the UK aviation industry (£35 per air ticket) which arises largely through its exemption from VAT and fuel duty, and leads to the perverse situation that you can now buy a 500 mile air ticket to Europe for less than the price of a 50 mile train ticket to London.

The European Union has committed itself to ‘internalise the external costs of aviation’. This presents an opportunity for the UK Government, leading by example, to press for a consensus within Europe on sustainable aviation, and to use this as a platform to try to bring about wider international agreement.

Your Secretary of State for Transport has declared that “doing nothing is not an option”. We agree with him, particularly when the challenge is to determine policies for the next thirty years and beyond.

Yours sincerely,

Norman Mead
Stop Stansted
Expansion
John Stewart
HACAN
ClearSkies
John Davis
LADACAN
Luton
Joan Goddard
No Cliffe Airport
John McDonnell, MP
No Third Runway

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport