| 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 - as at 6 May 2013
Need for more runways is aviation industry spin, SSE tells Airports Commission
The UK economy is not being held back through a lack of airport capacity, says Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE). In a statement based on its submission to the Airports Commission, widely reported in national and regional media, the campaign group says there simply isn't any unsatisfied demand for more business flights or for more routes to emerging markets. Claims that the UK economy is suffering through lack of airport capacity are aviation industry spin, it says. To back up its statement, SSE says Heathrow flew more people to Miami last year than to the whole of mainland China, and more people to Nice than to either Beijing or Shanghai. Gatwick flew almost 50 times as many people to Spain last year as to the four BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - combined. Stansted provides flights every day of the week to Alicante but none at all to any of Europe's main business centres such as Paris, Zurich and Frankfurt. Meanwhile, London continues to be independently ranked as the best city in Europe for doing business and as the city with the best transport links with other cities and internationally. In its submission to the Commission, Brian Ross, SSE's economics adviser, says overall demand for business flights is actually declining and is now 20% less than it was ten years ago. SSE's submission to the Airports Commission can be found here.
SSE head to head with big business over night noise
The number of night flights at Stansted Airport should be halved over the next few years, according to SSE proposals contained in a submission to a Department for Transport (DfT) consultation on night flights, which has just ended. Stansted is presently allowed 12,000 night flights a year - more than double the number allowed at Heathrow - and handled just over 8,000 in 2012. SSE wants the cap reduced to 7,500 night flights a year from October 2014 and by 500 flights each subsequent year to bring it down to 5,500 by 2019. Martin Peachey, noise advisor to SSE, says the disadvantages of night flights outweigh the benefits. A cost benefit analysis carried out for Heathrow night flights last year by the CE Delft economic consultancy showed that a ban on Heathrow night flights could benefit the economy by £860 million over 10 years. SSE's demands are in direct contradiction to claims by business leaders that night flights must be maintained to protect the UK economy (see items below). See EADT report.
Night flights 'oil the cogs of freight industry', says CBI…
In urging the Government to maintain the night flights regime at Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick, the CBI has told the DfT that night flights 'oil the cogs of the express delivery industry' and allow passengers to travel between the UK and emerging market economies. CBI director Richard Tunnicliffe says: "Night flights allow the UK to compete in a 24-hour, seven day a week, global economy. When growth is so fragile, we can't risk cutting back on a key part of the aviation industry responsible for generating over a billion pounds in investment and exports. Everyone understands the impact of noise and disruption on local communities near the flight path. The aviation industry has made major strides, with quieter planes coming into operation month-by-month" (see 'Aircraft noise' below). See Herts & Essex Observer report.
…but could give Queen rude awakening
Plans drawn up by the DfT could see 1,700 Heathrow night flights a year diverted over Windsor Castle and away from the homes of 110,000 residents of the west London. John Stewart, chairman of the Hacan Clear-Skies group, told the Daily Mail: "Many people in west London will clearly benefit if this change went ahead but it would be at the expense of many more sleepless nights for the people of Windsor." The DfT said diverting the approach path for night flights was 'just one option' being examined. See Daily Mail report.
Aircraft noise could be cut by 20%, says aviation lobby
The Sustainable Aviation lobby group is attempting to defuse the issue of airport expansion with a claim that noise generated by the UK fleet could be cut by 20 per cent by the middle of this century compared with 2010 levels, even though the number of flights is projected to rise by 90 per cent over the same 40-year period. The claim came a day after SSE published its report disputing the aviation industry's assertion that more runways would boost UK economic growth. The aviation lobby group says the most important factor is the new generation of passenger jets, led by the Airbus A380, which have quieter engines than older aircraft, such as the Boeing 747. It is claimed that the noise reduction could be as much as 50 per cent by 2050 if aircraft manufacturers go further and produce a generation of 'ultra-low noise' jets from the 2020s onwards. Sustainable Aviation's objective is to 'limit and where possible reduce' the number of people living near airports who are significantly affected by aircraft noise - where residents are regularly exposed to levels of 57 decibels and above. See Financial Times report.
Labour moving towards second Gatwick runway…
Labour appears to be moving towards backing the idea of a second runway at Gatwick. Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle who has ruled out a third runway at Heathrow and rejected the idea of a Thames estuary airport, is understood to favour a second Gatwick runway over expansion elsewhere even though it cannot be built before 2019, according to the Evening Standard. However, Maria Eagle does not want to pre-empt the outcome of Sir Howard Davies' Airports Commission and a position on Gatwick expansion has not been agreed by the Labour cabinet, says the paper, adding that Gatwick is trying to rival Heathrow by adding new routes including to the Far East.
…but the UK doesn't need a new hub
Current airport capacity should be used to increase connectivity rather than create a new hub, says Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate. In its response to the Airports Commission's discussion paper on connectivity and economy, Wingate points out that Gatwick will not be at full capacity until at least 2020 and that it already serves half the world's fastest growing economies. See This Is Sussex report.
Ex-transport secretary wants new runways at Gatwick and Stansted
Philip Hammond, the defence secretary and former transport minister, has called for a second runway at Gatwick followed by a second at Stansted. He has opposed the idea of four runways at Heathrow or a new four-runway hub at either Stansted or Gatwick. When he was transport secretary, Mr Hammond favoured the so-called "Heath-wick" solution of two runways each at Heathrow and Gatwick, linked by super-fast rail to form a dual hub. Brendon Sewill, chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, says expanding Gatwick would be another example of the "short-term solutions" that have blighted British aviation policy for 60 years. Mr Hammond has warned strongly against a new hub at Stansted - a potential favourite of Mayor Boris Johnson - which would be "a disaster" for Heathrow and the west London economy. "So why not reflect that reality with a multi-airport model and expand London's existing single runway airports at Gatwick and eventually Stansted, to two runways each, providing decades worth of passenger growth capacity," Mr Hammond wrote in his local newspaper.
Imported goods increase UK's CO2 emissions
The Climate Change Commission (CCC) has 'laid bare' the UK's pretensions to have cut greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. While ministers have claimed global leadership in reducing CO2 emissions and urged other nations to follow suit, the CCC says the UK's total contribution towards heating the climate has actually increased. The CCC says although production of CO2 is down 20% in the past two decades, the overall trend is up 10% because the cuts in production emissions have been outweighed by CO2 in the form of imported goods, reports the BBC. Some commentators have argued that the UK should switch to declaring its total emissions, instead of its production emissions, a suggestion rejected by the CCC which says the UK should focus on reducing emissions produced in the UK, and proactively support an international agreement to reduce global emissions, following which imported emissions would fall. See BBC report.
Climate measures could hurt UK economy, hints Airports Commission
The Airports Commission has published the third in its series of discussion papers, the latest one dealing with aviation's climate change impacts. The Commission appears keen for the UK to avoid disadvantaging itself economically through constraints on airport capacity, and quotes the CCC as expressing a preference for EU or international climate measures over unilateral action in the UK. See AEF report.
Lydd Airport go-ahead turns back the clock on expansion
The Government's decision to allow the expansion of Lydd Airport makes grim reading for all local airport communities, says SSE's chairman, Peter Sanders. "It's like being back at the 2007 Stansted Public Inquiry all over again" he commented. The Government had clung to the discredited 57dBa method of measuring noise, and has dismissed the CPRE's tranquillity mapping, he points out. One slight piece of reassurance from SSE's point of view is that great weight has been placed on the need for economic development around Lydd, which would be less applicable in Stansted's case. Lydd Airport bosses want a new terminal building and an extended runway to take up to half a million passengers a year. Opponents of the plans could mount an appeal. They say safety fears about the nearby Dungeness nuclear plant have not been addressed. The £25m project, named London Ashford Airport, includes a runway extension of almost 300m (328yds). See BBC report.
Stansted passenger numbers nudge upwards
Stansted's March passenger numbers show a rise 3.8% from the same month last year, whilst flights rose 0.2%, although three days of the Easter weekend are included in the March numbers whereas Easter fell in April last year. A total of 17.5 million passengers were handled in the 12 months to March 2013, a fall of 1.8% year on year and 27.1% down from the peak 12 months in 2007. The 12 months to March 2013 saw a 6.9% year on year increase in cargo tonnage.
SSE probes Airport Commission witnesses
In response to a Freedom of Information request by SSE to discover which bodies and individuals have given evidence to Sir Howard Davies' Airports Commission, the Government has said it is discussing with the Ministry of Justice whether the commission falls under the FoI Act. Meanwhile, the commission has given an undertaking to publish on its website the 'range of stakeholders and organisations' it has met and will update the information regularly.
Stansted to face pricing shake-up
Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick are to face "the biggest regulatory shake-up for 25 years" in plans by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to introduce different pricing regimes. At Stansted, the CAA is considering exempting the airport from the industry-wide pricing formula based on a 'regulated asset base' (RAB) - the regulator's proxy for an airport's value - which rises in line with investment in new facilities, such as terminals and runways, reports the Telegraph. Ryanair repeatedly complains that RAB-based regulation has resulted in 'Taj Mahal' facilities that raise passenger charges and that Stansted's £1.3bn RAB is inflated by £156m of costs associated with the abortive plans to build a second runway. The CAA would acknowledge that Stansted's facilities do not reflect its low-fare customer base but is balking at calls from Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary to cut the airport's RAB to between £700m and £800m and base charges on that, says the paper. Alternative formulas include benchmarking charges against those at similar European airports or removing price caps altogether and simply monitoring any above-inflation rises. The CAA would then intervene to settle disputes.
Smarter way to check in
Using a system not unlike London Underground's Oyster card, Stansted Airport is using self-service 'Smart Access' scanners to replace manual boarding pass checks. The airport has started a £45m expansion of the security area in the main concourse to speed passenger flow-through. Now part of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), Stansted has been named the best airport for low-cost airlines for the third successive year in the SKYTRAX airport customer survey. See the Herts & Essex Observer report and the EADT report..
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