27th June 2006

SSE endorses call for aviation policy rethink

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has given its endorsement to a national campaign calling for the Government’s aviation policy to be scrapped which is launched today (Tuesday 27 June) by AirportWatch the alliance of national environmental campaign organisations and airport campaign groups.

The Rethink! campaign highlights the fact that the Government’s drive to triple air transport activity by 2030 will accelerate climate change, damage the countryside and inflict traffic and noise misery on communities near to airports.

At Stansted, for example, BAA has recently applied for permission to increase the number of permitted flights on the airport’s single runway and for the removal of any limit on passenger numbers. Such a move could see the current 22 million passengers a year more than double in the future if the application is approved by planning authority Uttlesford District Council.

This would significantly worsen the pain already experienced by people across Herts, Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire as a result of the airport’s operation. However, it is not just these counties which are threatened as a result of the Government’s expansion policy, but communities across the UK.

The timing of the campaign is significant since the Government is set to review its 2003 Air Transport White Paper this autumn. Rethink! aims to pile on the pressure by stimulating members of the public to raise their concerns through a simple online letter to Transport Minister Douglas Alexander, accessible at www.rethink.airportwatch.org.uk.

Said SSE’s Campaign Director, Carol Barbone: “The Government’s aviation policy is out of date and out of touch and the sooner that the Transport Minister recognises that only a thorough rethink will do, the better. The more pressure that can be applied by people taking part in the letter writing initiative, the more the Government will have to take on board the need for a whole new approach to airport expansion.”

The ten demands of the Rethink! campaign are as follows:

1. Rein back expansion so it is consistent with climate change targets. Aviation emissions must be reduced in line with national carbon quotas.

2. Revise demand forecasts. The review must recognise that rising oil prices will limit demand for air travel and growth forecasts should be revised accordingly.

3. Remove the tax-breaks the aviation industry enjoys. The aviation industry currently enjoys effective subsidies worth £9 billion in the form of annual UK tax exemptions through not paying fuel tax or VAT. These tax exemptions are likely to be removed by 2030 and growth forecasts should be adjusted accordingly.

4. Reassess air freight. Air is the most environmentally-damaging way of transporting goods, yet substantial tax breaks artificially inflate demand. The concept of Air Passenger Duty should be extended to freight to correct this.

5. Reduce the noise suffered by local communities. Almost half a million people suffer noise at or above recognised annoyance thresholds, and under White paper proposals that number would rise to almost three quarters of a million. The review should commit to reducing both noise levels and the number of people exposed.

6. Respect the country’s heritage, biodiversity and ancient woodlands. The review must abandon proposals that will destroy irreplaceable habitats and buildings.

7. Revisit rail. The review should examine rail as a substitute for short haul flights.

8. Revise the economic assessment of the aviation industry. The review should be based on an independent, factual assessment of aviation’s contribution to the economy.

9. Review the big expansion plans for the UK airports. A mere progress report is not enough the review needs to be a fundamental rethink of aviation policy.

10. Rethink! the approach. Aviation policy must change business as usual is not an option.

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport