Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Airports Policy Consortium (IT 78)



  1. The Airports Policy Consortium (APC) welcomes the inquiry by the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee. It offers the opportunity to identify a range of issues which must be addressed in developing the Government's transport policies and, from APC's perspective, the specific issues raised in preparing the promised aviation strategy.

  2. APC is a group of local authorities committed to working towards an airports strategy for the UK that reconciles the economic and environmental impacts of aviation in a sustainable way.

  3. APC welcomes the publication of the Government's White Paper—A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone. Not only does it take a long hard look at transport, but it has also included many aspects of transport which in the past have not been addressed. Debate on these issues is healthy and important. Whilst aviation is, understandably, not given the same priority in the White Paper as roads and rail, it does at last feature in this great transport debate . This acknowledgement that a strategic approach is needed to the integration of all forms of transport is a great leap forward.


  4. Aviation has had little Governmental guidance or direction since the 1985 Airports Act which itself has proved insufficient in the face of ever increasing demand. This has been reflected in the ad-hoc proposals for new infrastructure with dominant growth centred around the south-east at the expense of many regional airports.

  5. For many years now APC has been calling for a long-term aviation strategy that looks at the issue of aviation and airport development from a national perspective. The recognition that a 30 year aviation strategy is now needed is a significant and welcome development.

  6. Although aviation policy issues were only a small part of the White Paper, their importance to the development of an integrated and sustainable transport policy should not be underestimated. Aviation needs to be closely integrated with roads and railways but also presents the most diverse range of social, economic and environmental challenges.

  7. The starting point for any strategy must be forecasts of future demand and assessments of existing planned capacity. Judgments then have to be taken over the acceptability of meeting all that demand and the consequences, particularly the economic, social and environmental consequences, of both meeting and not meeting it.

  8. The quality of the forecasts of future passenger demand and the number and types of aircraft needed has varied over the last 30 years. At times the forecasts have been judged to be too high but more recently they have been too low.
DETR forecasts of future passenger demand

YearLondon area mppa Regions mppa
MidHigh MidHigh

1995 (actual)8282 4747
2000104108 6373
2005124134 82101
2010153172 101129
20151841212 127166
20302277 332205277

1 This is the DETR's unconstrained demand figure.
2 Growth from 2015 to 2030 is assumed by APC to be three times the previous five years growth.

  9. Forecast growth over the next 30 years of some 200 mppa in the south east and some 150 mppa in the regions needs to be compared with Heathrow's current throughput of 58 mppa, Gatwick at 27 mppa and Manchester with 17 mppa. Meeting the above forecasts would entail every UK airport growing to three or four times its current size over the next 30 years. APC believes that the proposed aviation strategy needs to address whether this is an acceptable or sensible proposition from a social, economic and environmental viewpoint.

  10. The White Paper identified (paragraph 3.191) that "aviation should meet the external costs, including environmental costs, which it imposes." APC welcomes the policy and is keen to see work undertaken to help quantify those issues. In particular studies of air pollution, effective transfer of shorter journeys to rail or sea, and better information to enable people to choose between different forms of transport will all be needed. The Government has already recognised (White Paper paragraph 2.24) that CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre are higher from air travel than most other ways of travelling and that fuel for air travel now accounts for one-sixth of transport fuel sold in the UK. If air travel grows as predicted that percentage could grow as well.

  11. The White Paper also proposes the establishment of an Air Transport Forum for all major airports. Improved public transport to airports to vital, but realistically the major modal shift may have to be achieved with employees more than with passengers.


  12. Clearly the above predictions are only the starting point and could be classed as unrealistic. Nevertheless they show, dramatically, that action needs to be taken soon to look and plan well ahead.

  13. Recent passenger increases appear even to be exceeding the high forecasts set out above. The obvious implication is that major new infrastructure will be needed spread across the whole country. This scenario of demand exceeding capacity is exactly the same dilemma that faced the Government on the roads programme some years ago. This has led to an acceptance by Government that "predict and provide" is no longer a sustainable roads policy and alternative means of dealing with road traffic growth are, consequently, now being pursued.

  14. The APC believe that, given this experience of the roads programme, the Government must now seriously address whether the "predict and provide" approach should also formally be eliminated from aviation policy. Alternatives are less easy to identify in the aviation industry, yet meeting all demands may prove impossible to achieve as part of a sustainable transport strategy.

  15. If trebling the capacity of all or most airports in the UK cannot be embodied into a sustainable aviation strategy, then demand will need to be constrained. On that basis some key questions need to be addressed as part of developing the strategy.

    —  Do some parts of the aviation industry so bolster the economy of the UK that constraints must not be introduced?

    —  How can regional airports better provide for the services needed to help their local economies and contribute to a national strategy?

    —  Are all predicted journeys essential or can efforts be made to encourage the greater use of less damaging methods of communication—e.g., rail, sea, video conferencing?

    —  How can the leisure passenger be protected from being squeezed out on price?

    —  Which journeys can be better made by land or sea?

    —  What steps can be taken to evaluate the direct social and economic impact of increased tourism on the environmental capacity of facilities in this country and those we visit?

    —  How can we be sure that improvements in air traffic control can match the increase in air traffic movements, maintain passenger safety and avoid pollution from delayed landings?

    —  What will be the local and global effect of pollution from aircraft and how does this meet the UK's obligations under Kyoto?

    —  How can environmental impact be better assessed and then controlled over time?

    —  Can the Transport Forum for each airport be given realistic targets for air passengers and employees travel mode?

  16. APC is of the view that there is not yet enough information available to the Government on which to base a decision on such questions. Yet, if it is necessary to constrain demand, then action needs to be taken soon to reduce the current 5 per cent to 6 per cent annual growth.

  17. One approach to producing a strategy may be to set a growth limit of say 2 per cent per annum. The challenge, as part of producing a long term aviation strategy, would then be to identify action that needs to be taken to keep to that level and to quantify the social and economic damage that may be caused. Any such damage can then be compared with the environmental impact of meeting more of the demand.

  18. Another method of developing the strategy may to define the acceptable environmental capacity of the key airports and their hinterland. Then to challenge the aviation industry to identify the growth that can be accommodated without breaking that limit.

  19. Any future aviation strategy must be an amalgam of seeking the economic benefits, minimising or managing the environmental impact and resolving the surface access implications.


  20. It is APC's view that work on economic benefits and the practicality and techniques of environmental controls needs to be developed by independent consultants in advance of seeking both policy and site specific solutions. APC is concerned that a failure to obtain truly independent advice will allow parties to question the validity of any assessment made and will mean that any strategy will lack a broad consensus.

  21. Thereafter representatives of the local authorities and the aviation industry must work with Government to identify and evaluate a range of options for meeting that part of the demand, which is judged from earlier studies as desirable to accommodate. Possible solutions should range from modest expansion of some existing facilities; major expansions of existing airports; new inland sites; coastal sites and esturial sites—recognising that some of these options themselves have major environmental consequences.

  22. Complex studies of each possible location will be needed, with the aim of identifying the best mixture of economic benefit and environmental controls.

  23. The aim must be to prepare a draft policy statement which compares and contrasts all possibilities and then provides a period for consultation. Based on that consultation process it must then be the responsibility of Government to take the lead and determine which solutions form part of its aviation strategy.

  24. These solutions will then need to be reflected in the regional planning process so as to secure the appropriate integration of land use and transport infrastructure. Thereafter it will be for the aviation industry to bring forward specific proposals when they judge the time is right. Those proposals will ultimately need testing through the planning process but only to judge the best methods of mitigating and controlling impact. The principle of growth at that location will have been set in Parliament as a part of the Government's Aviation Strategy.


  25. The APC welcomes the Government's commitment to developing a 30 year aviation strategy.

  26. The Government's recognition that "predict and provide" is no longer sustainable for the roads programme is equally applicable to the aviation industry. This should be made explicit at the start of developing the 30 year strategy and options developed for managing demand, sooner rather than later.

  27. Urgent independent studies into the economic value of aviation, and the social and environmental consequences of meeting all demand, should be undertaken now to inform the development of an aviation strategy if it is to enjoy broad consensus.

  28. An aviation strategy is needed before any new infrastructure is agreed.

  29. Any strategy is going to be contentious but those involved in its preparation must be persuaded that compromise is better than a continuation of previous and current conflicts.

  30. The ultimate decision on a strategy must lie with Government.

  31. The mitigation of environmental effects of airport growth, the harnessing of important economic benefits and the integration of transport infrastructure must be determined locally.

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Prepared 28 April 1999