The Expansion Debate in other Areas

There are currently eight UK airports pursuing expansion plans following the Government’s 2018 publication of a document called Aviation 2050 – The future of UK Aviation.

In March 2020, North Somerset Council rejected, with an 18-2 majority, Bristol Airport’s application to expand passenger numbers from the current 9 million to 12 million by 2025.  The Leader of the Council made this statement:-

“What the Committee has considered is that the detrimental effect of the expansion of the airport on this area and the wider impact on the environment outweighs the narrower benefits to airport expansion. I am sure that we can reconsider it in future when the airline industry has decarbonised and the public transport links to the airport are far stronger.”

In December 2020, London Heathrow airport won its long legal case for expansion with a third runway, when the Supreme Court overturned a previous court ruling that had blocked plans on environmental grounds. It, however, still faces uncertainties as to how it would finance its £14 billion plans, as they cannot currently raise airport charges to airlines to cover them.

This month we have the Calling In of expansion plans at Leeds Bradford Airport.

The application is not to increase passenger throughput, but to replace the current terminal facility, by means of various bolt-on additions to the original terminal built in 1965.

Being debated by Eastleigh Borough Council on the 8th -9th April is an application to expand the runway at Southampton airport by 164 metres to allow larger aircraft to use the facility.   The Local Area Committee voted against the Plan, against officers’ advice, and the decision will now be taken by Full Council. As with Bristol Airport, whilst the local authority realises the value in employment opportunity environmental issues can no longer be ignored.

Against these we have the ongoing expansion planning at Luton Airport.  We are assured by London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL) that it will be “green growth only”, yet as we have mentioned before, the operator of the airport has stated that it can only control 4% of the total carbon emissions from airport operations; the rest are aircraft/surface traffic produced, and can’t be controlled until aircraft technology and electric vehicle enhancements have leapt ahead. 

“Green growth only” within the current, and indeed foreseeable future of aviation is as achievable as “low fat lard” in dietary terms. LLAL will however carry on clocking up debts on its barrage of consultants and legal advisors in chasing this mythical ideal.

They know that unlike the regional Councils, who are striving to keep an ethical and environmental balance at these other airports, LLAL being a fully owned company of Luton Borough Council will never be held to account for their actions.

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