Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Liberal Democrats say no to new runways at London airports

The Liberal Democrats are pushing for a new strategy for aviation which balances the benefits the industry brings as a driver of jobs and growth with the harm it causes to the environment.

The strategy, which will be put to members at the party’s Autumn Conference in a policy motion, reinforces the Liberal Democrats’ opposition to new runways at London’s airports. Key proposals include:

  • Pushing for better use of existing capacity in the South-East and at regional airports to meet short to medium-term demand
  • Firmly rejecting Boris Johnson’s Thames Estuary airport
  • No new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted
  • An independent, evidence-based study to find a location for a hub airport or a suitable airport to expand into a hub for the long-term
  • No airport capacity expansion which could allow for aircraft movements above the carbon emissions cap set by the independent Committee on Climate Change

The Liberal Democrats want UK aviation policy to be based on five key principles: accessibility from north and south; growth within UK carbon budgets; minimal impact on the local population; minimal impact on the global environment and maximum ‘hub airport’ potential.

The policy is being led by Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Transport, Julian Huppert.

Commenting, Julian Huppert said:

“Liberal Democrats have always opposed a new runway at Heathrow because it is in an appallingly bad location, with a quarter of all those in Europe affected by aircraft noise living under the Heathrow flight path.

“In the same vein, mixed-mode and night flights would cause unacceptable noise levels and air pollution for thousands of Londoners. You can’t have one of the world’s noisiest and busiest airports in the heart of West London’s suburbs.

“Aviation policy has focused on London and the South East and it is clear that is where the greatest demand lies; but airports and foreign travel for business or leisure must be easily accessible for citizens living across the UK. And noise and air quality impacts have to be minimised.

“With Birmingham looking to expand, Stansted only half full and Gatwick expanding into emerging markets, regional airports and other airports within London can meet demand for the short to medium term. Especially if we provide them with the transport links they so desperately need.

“We recognise, however, that a single, hub airport – rather than a constrained Heathrow with multiple satellite airports – would be better for the environment and better for the economy in the long term. Even three runways at Heathrow would only be a medium term solution.

“Aviation has the potential to become one of the greatest threats to the global environment. Unmitigated expansion of aviation would cause the UK to miss its carbon reduction targets.

“Successive governments have failed to come up with a clear strategy which supports the aviation industry while mitigating its impact on the environment and local residents.

“Now they’re in opposition, the Labour Party policy is a blank sheet of paper. They are neither for nor against a third runway at Heathrow. While most Conservatives, with a few notable exceptions, are wavering in the face of big business.

“Enough is enough. The public deserve an airport policy which balances the benefits from aviation with the harms it can do to the environment globally and locally. That is exactly what we’ll deliver.”

Notes:

The full text of the conference motion, which will be debated at Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in Brighton on Sunday 23 September 2012, is below.

A Sustainable Future for Aviation

Conference believes that:

i) The aviation industry is an important driver of jobs and growth in our globalised economy.

ii) Aviation helps to connect people who live in different countries, and promotes

internationalism.

iii) Aviation has the potential to become one of the greatest threats to the global environment.

iv) Unmitigated expansion of aviation would cause the UK to miss its carbon reduction targets.

v) Aviation has a very negative impact on the health and well being of individuals living near UK airports, particularly in terms of noise pollution and air quality.

vi) Without significant technological development, air travel will become too expensive for the majority of people due to the rising cost of fuel.

vii) The Government should support and promote efforts by the aviation industry to reduce its environmental impact.

viii) Aviation policy in the UK has lacked a clear strategy for how we can mitigate its impact on the environment and on local residents.

ix) Successive Governments have failed to find a means by which we can support this industry, while mitigating its impact on UK residents and the global environment.

Conference therefore welcomes:

I. The Government’s decision, in line with our manifesto, to cancel Labour’s third runway at Heathrow and to oppose new runways at Gatwick and Stansted.

II. The publication of the Government’s Draft Aviation Policy Strategy.

III. The Government’s continued support for the European Emissions Trading Scheme.

Conference however notes that:

A. The independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended that, in order for the UK to meet its target of 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, aviation emissions of CO2 should not exceed 2005 levels in 2050 (37.5MtCO2 a year); for this to be possible, air traffic movements should not be allowed to expand more than 60% beyond current levels.

B. Up to half of emissions relating to air travel are caused by surface access to airports.

C. Heathrow is an extremely badly located airport, with half of all those in Europe affected by aircraft noise living under the Heathrow flight path – we strongly oppose the third runway, and are disappointed that the Labour party do not have a clear policy against it.

D. London is the best-connected city in the world, with seven runways operating at six airports.

E. A Thames Estuary airport would be extremely expensive; catastrophic for local wildlife; a dangerous investment due to the location of the SS Richard Montgomery; liable to birdstrike; and poorly located for those living outside London and the South East.

F. Aviation policy has to date focused on London and the South-East; it is clear that that is where the greatest demand lies, but airports and foreign travel for business or leisure must be easily accessible for citizens living across the UK.

G. With Birmingham looking to expand, Stansted only half full and Gatwick expanding into emerging markets, regional airports and other airports within London can meet demand for years to come; however, we recognise that a single, hub airport – rather than a constrained Heathrow with multiple satellite airports – would be better for the environment and better for the economy.

Conference therefore calls for:

1. Rejection of new runways at Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick.

2. Rejection of mixed-mode at Heathrow, and opposition to an extension of night flights.

3. Rejection of expansion of airport capacity which would allow for aircraft movements above the cap set by the CCC, or which would allow for a net increase in the number of runways which serve the UK; we would introduce an overall emissions cap for the industry for 2050 in line with the CCC recommendations.

4. UK Aviation policy to be based on five key principles:

a) Accessibility from North and South.

b) Growth within UK carbon budgets.

c) Minimal impact to local population.

d) Minimal impact to the local environment.

e) Maximum hubbing potential.

5. The UK to make best use of existing capacity through:

a) Movement of point-to-point flights which do not serve our hub capability from Heathrow to other airports; this would be done through a re-negotiation of EU slot allocation rules and the introduction of slot auctioning – failing that, we support the introduction of a departure tax at Heathrow to shift less profitable non-hub flights.

b) An end to cross-subsidy of lower landing fees at Heathrow.

c) The introduction of a Per-Plane-Duty (PPD) in place of APD to incentivise fully-loaded planes; in the mean time, we support a revenue neutral shift in APD rates to discourage short-haul flights, which can be made on land, and to encourage long-haul hubbing – APD and PPD rates should be based on distance to airports, not to capital cities.

d) Use of existing capacity and improved transport links at Gatwick, Stansted, Luton,

Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh – the priority should be better use of capacity at Gatwick, which has already shown the ability to access emerging markets across Asia through new point-to-point routes.

6. Greening of the aviation industry through:

a) New noise limits in population centres at certain times to incentivise quieter planes.

b) Tough requirements for low emission surface access to UK airports, and for airport operators to use low emission vehicles on site.

c) Support for the Emissions Trading Scheme at the EU level to promote the polluter pays principle.

7. An independent, evidence-based study to find a suitable location for a hub airport, or a suitable airport to expand into a hub, but the remit of the commission must include:

a) A strategy for removing excess capacity above the CCC cap outside of the new hub airport.

b) No net increase in the number of UK runways.

c) Greater recognition of the need to serve North and South than previous governments have shown.

d) Significantly lower noise impact than currently exists at Heathrow.

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.