Following the publication of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee’s report on smaller airports (of up to 5 million passengers per year), published today (13/3/15), AEF calls on the Government to help manage the local environmental impacts of airports and airfields across the UK.
The Committee’s report states that there is no case for direct Government intervention to keep small airports open, yet it does recommend measures for the Government to help to financially support small airports. These include a reduction in Air Passenger Duty and the use of start up aid where it can be demonstrated that it would not contravene European guidelines.
AEF, which has members around many of the UK’s smaller airports, supports the retention of Air Passenger Duty in the absence of either aviation fuel duty or VAT, and considers that the Government should be willing, where necessary, to use its powers to limit the environmental impacts of small airports.
Smaller airports may bring benefits to the local area, particularly in remote parts of the UK. However, these airports and their associated flightpaths can generate significant noise problems for communities and such impacts are often unregulated unless local planning controls are in place.
The Government’s preferred approach is for airports and local communities to work together to find solutions but this is not always possible. It is not always in an airport’s interest, or that of its investors and shareholders, for example, to voluntarily agree to operational restrictions on flights, hours or noise. Any review of the Government’s role in relation to small airports should therefore include consideration of whether measures are in place to address noise.
The Transport Committee’s recommendation for a UK-wide review of APD should not assume that APD is too high. The absence of duty on aviation fuel and of VAT on tickets means that flying is currently artificially cheap, contributing to growth rates that outpace the industry’s ability to introduce cleaner and quieter technology.
The Committee’s report also introduces the idea of ring-fencing slots for regional connectivity if a new runway is built in the South East. But it does not appear to have considered whether regional connectivity with a hub airport could be better provided by rail. With the Committee on Climate Change recommending that UK aviation emissions remain within 37.5Mt CO2 by 2050 to preserve the integrity of the Climate Change Act’s overall 80% reduction target, an integrated approach to mobility is essential.
AEF’s Director, Tim Johnson said in response to the Transport Committee’s report:
“Small airports and their associated flight paths can generate significant environmental impacts, notably aircraft noise, yet there are often no controls to protect communities effectively. These local impacts need to be managed.
Any review of the Government’s approach towards small airports should include consideration of the case for new measures to limit and reduce levels of aircraft noise.”