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CAA response to airports consultation: tackle environmental issues or no new runway

5th February, 2015

The Civil Aviation Authority’s response to the Airports Commission’s consultation on runway options tells industry and policy makers they must do more, including improving their offer of compensation, or risk never having a runway built.

CAA’s response follows on from a report produced last year on managing aircraft noise and calls on industry to scale up ambition for tackling noise and to improve engagement with affected communities, with a particular focus on providing as much information as possible on the impacts of expansion.

The response also calls for a full study of the economic value and community impact of night flights to inform policy considerations. It also raises the importance of considering what communities actually want before promising measures such as respite and increased flight path concentration.

As with its earlier noise report, CAA again raises the issue of compensation, saying that spending should be “significantly higher than the norm in the UK” and notes that major airports in the United States and elsewhere in Europe often have more generous compensation packages.

Other issues raised include key changes in the proposals and raises concerns that in previous expansion debates third party risk and public safety zones have been the focus of considerable attention and therefore recommend that the Airports Commission consider whether PSZs should be directly included in their assessment.

The regulator does, however, continue to support expansion, claiming it is in the interest of consumers. Yet while the regulator sometimes appears to include the wider public in its definition of ‘consumers’ as well as those who are travelling, the overall argument for expansion rests on meeting the demands of air travellers.

Our view

Our response to the consultation focused on the remaining need to tackle gaps in the Airports Commission and clarify how the significant environmental impacts of expansion would be factored into the recommendation-making process.

We contest whether expanding Heathrow or Gatwick with the accompanying increased risk to health from air quality and noise and greater CO2 emissions is in the interest of the wider public.

While CAA argued that it is too early to say what the potential airspace and flight path implications of a new runway may be we have argued that the Airports Commission should make publicly available the sensitivity of their noise findings to the assumptions they make on flight paths. We therefore support the CAA’s call for making information about potential noise impacts in different scenarios as accessible as possible

Like the CAA, we are doubtful whether the compensation offers currently on the table go anywhere near to addressing the public’s concerns about the environmental impact of expansion, as recently argued in a letter by a member of our advisory council, Jeff Gazzard, to the Evening Standard.

Download:  CAA response to the Airports Commission consultation: Increasing the UK’s long-term capacity

Responses from organisations, local authorities, industry and community groups are available on the AirportWatch website.