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AEF welcomes new Chair and talks airport expansion at 2020 AGM

15th December, 2020

November’s Annual General Meeting, marking 45 years since AEF’s formation in 1975, was held virtually for the first time. Despite the absence of the customary wine and mince pies, the event was well attended, allowing members an opportunity to hear our staff review progress on current campaigns and the 2020 work programme more generally. 

The meeting also saw our long-serving Chair, Richard Roads step down from his role. Richard, a founder member, embraced the role of leading the Executive Council and helping AEF grow its influence and standing. From day one, Richard was committed to ensuring the Federation’s staff were fully supported and that our finances, although severely stretched on many occasions, were sufficient to guarantee our future viability. His personal commitment to the organisation has been appreciated by staff and members alike over the years, so we are pleased he will be continuing to serve on the Executive Council having been re-elected by the meeting.

Stepping into the role of Chair is former vice-chair Rachael Webb. Rachael’s experience of community involvement in Luton Airport’s consultative committee, combined with a good understanding of the national policy challenges, made her the Executive Council’s unanimous choice to take over from Richard. 

The meeting also incorporated a members event to highlight local campaigns opposing airport expansion on environmental grounds, an issue that AEF continues to track at a national level. While traffic levels at UK airports remain low during the pandemic, and the future is uncertain, many airports are progressing expansion plans. Recently, we’ve seen the first of possibly many airport-related applications for a Development Consent Order, and local authorities refusing planning applications on grounds that gave prominence to the climate change implications of expansion. 

Ian Coatman’s presentation, on behalf of the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA), set out the environmental and economic arguments (supported by a New Economics Foundation report that described the case for expansion as “selective and logically inconsistent”) against the airport increasing its capacity from 4 million passengers per annum to 7 million. The local authority is expected to make a decision next January. 

The Parish Councils Airport Association has registered as a Rule 6 party to challenge Bristol Airport’s expansion plans at a public inquiry set to start in mid-2021. Hilary Burn, representing PCAA, outlined the Council’s reasons for refusal which included insufficient economic benefit to outweigh environmental impacts on communities, impacts on health and wellbeing, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and inappropriate use of Green Belt land. 

With several airports wishing to expand using a Development Consent Order (DCO), we invited Samara Jones-Hall (from Five10Twelve) to share her experiences of the first airport-related DCO, Manston Airport, covering both the process and lessons learned for campaigners. Since the AGM, the Government has announced it will not be contesting a judicial review brought against its decision to approve the DCO for the airport to reopen as a freight hub, effectively stopping the developer’s plans in their tracks for now.

An overview of all three campaigns can be found here.