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Stakeholders comment on aviation strategy process

A report by Ipsos Mori has been published on the UK’s airport strategy.  The report investigated stakeholders view on the Air Transport White Paper (ATWP) process and its suitability as a framework for the development of the sector.

 The report did not look the contents of the ATWP so views were not sought on what we thought of the policies themselves.  We have expressed forthright views on the policies elsewhere!

The full title is: ‘Assessing The Future of Air Transport White Paper as a strategic framework for sustainable airport development – Research conducted by Ipsos MORI and the Institute for Transport Studies on behalf of the Department for Transport – February 2010’.

Scope of study

The introduction says: “There were two strands to the research study – assessing the strategic framework of the ATWP and understanding the development and use of airport master plans.”

The report is about framework/process, not about specific policies “It is important to note that, in relation to the ATWP, discussions were designed to focus exclusively on the strategic framework approach rather than on specific policies contained within the White Paper, which were beyond the scope of this research. Inevitably, some discussion of specific policies arose during the interviews; these have only been reported on where they provide valuable context to perceptions of the ATWP and master plans.”

The study was not like a public opinion survey for which Mori are best known. Instead it was built around 62 in-depth qualitative interviews with organisations who have a close interest in the issues. In particular, the members of the External Advisory Group  LINK  were included.

Organisations taking part

The great majority of the organisations interviewed represented aviation interests. Only 3 organisations represented the public at large:
* Aviation Environment Federation
* Friends of the Earth
* Strategic Aviation Special Interest Group (local authorities group)
The only other organisations listed which do not represent the aviation industry are:
* Sustainable Development Commission. A quasi government body, but has (at least until recently) expressed refreshingly outspoken and independent views.
* Confederation of British Industry. Predictably supports its aviation members and supports airport expansion with minimal environmental constraints.
* Government Office for the South East. As an organ of central government supports airport expansion with minimal environmental constraints.
* Air Transport Users’ Council. Represents users rather than the industry but, like the industry, appears to support airport expansion with minimal environmental constraints.  

Issues addressed 

There were two strands to the research study – assessing the strategic framework of the ATWP and understanding the development and use of airport master plans.
a) The strategic framework of the ATWP
* To explore perceptions of the ATWP as a framework for encouraging long-term sustainable development;
* To investigate how the ATWP has influenced airport development processes; and
* To understand the value of this longer-term approach to policy making, including its strengths and limitations.
b) The influence of one of the ATWP policies – master plans
To explore how the policy and guidance in relation to airport master plans have been interpreted by airports;
* To illustrate how master plans have been developed and implemented by airports;
* To understand the perceived value of master plans according to local stakeholders; and
* To investigate the barriers to implementing master plans.

Conclusions

It is not possible to provide a proper summary of the responses and conclusions in short article such as this. However, we reproduce 3 of the conclusions below. 

* “The ATWP was regarded as a valuable tool. Most were convinced the ATWP was needed to address the huge growth in aviation, to provide a steer from the government around expectations for the future of the industry and for a sustainable, long-term national strategy. It was also valuable as a tool to initiate debate among stakeholders about the future of aviation.”

* There were felt to be some gaps in the coverage of the ATWP. For instance, some perceived more could have been done to incorporate aviation into the broader UK infrastructure, taking a more holistic transport approach. Others felt that environmental issues and sustainable development were insufficiently addressed.”

* “Most recognised that master plans addressed the environmental impacts of airport development. Attitudes towards the master plans’ coverage of sustainability was dependent on the viewpoint of different stakeholders and the emphasis they therefore placed on the three different elements of sustainability (economy, society, environment).”

Although AEF’s and others’ views diverge greatly on specific aviation policies, there is much common ground on many of the issues covered by the report. For instance, almost everyone agrees that there should be a coherent strategy, as this aids clarity and minimises wasteful activity.  There is also a general view that an aviation strategy should incorporate clear policies in climate change, even though there is little agreement on the nature of those policies.

Full report

The full report may be found on the DfT web site.