Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560-579)

MR PAUL HAMBLIN, MR LONEK WOJTULEWICZ AND COUNCILLOR RUTH CADBURY

1 FEBRUARY 2006

  Q560  Graham Stringer: It is a process issue then. You are quite happy with the outcome at the end of it?

  Mr Wojtulewicz: I do not think the council is happy with the outcome but it would have helped if we had more transparency and more explanation about why they came to their view and what weight they gave to our views.

  Q561  Graham Stringer: What is the council not happy about? We are finding it difficult to get there, are we not?

  Mr Wojtulewicz: What the council is not happy about is that the amount of controlled airspace over Leicestershire has now doubled and there are more people affected by air transport than previously.

  Q562  Graham Stringer: We visited the CAA at the end of last year and they told us that there were fewer people affected by the airspace changes than previously.

  Mr Wojtulewicz: I think this is where the problem with the county council comes in. The airspace changes covered Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Within that area they said that overall between those three counties there were fewer people, but in Leicestershire there were more people affected. There were fewer in other places but Leicestershire bore the brunt of it.

  Q563  Graham Stringer: So it is a NIMBY issue and that Leicestershire people should not be disturbed so that there is a greater benefit overall in the Midlands. Is that the issue?

  Mr Wojtulewicz: That is always a problem, that the benefits of airports are spread wide but the disbenefits are felt locally. Clearly, the council is concerned about what its constituents are telling it.

  Q564  Graham Stringer: Is there also a change in the number of people in rural areas affected compared to the number of people in urban areas?

  Mr Wojtulewicz: In Leicestershire, I believe there are more people in rural areas affected.

  Q565  Graham Stringer: And fewer in urban areas?

  Mr Wojtulewicz: I am not sure what the balance is. There were not that many urban areas overflown previously, but there were some.

  Q566  Graham Stringer: Do you accept that overall in the Midlands fewer people are now affected by aircraft noise?

  Mr Wojtulewicz: I have not seen that data but if that what the CAA tell us, I have to accept that. All I can say is that Leicestershire took the worst position.

  Q567  Graham Stringer: Could I ask CPRE: it seems to me, from your evidence, that your real problem is that you are fundamentally opposed to the Civil Aviation Authority's remit. Do you have a view as to what the total level of aviation should be in this country, either in number of flights or number of passengers? Should that be reduced, increased or stay the same?

  Mr Hamblin: Perhaps, first, I can put on record that we do not have a problem with the CAA existing as a safety and economic regulator. We do have concerns that it is not looking at issue within the framework of sustainable development.

  Q568  Graham Stringer: It was its remit that I mentioned particularly and not its existence. To be clear, its remit is to make sure that there is enough capacity to satisfy the demand for air travel.

  Mr Hamblin: I have some sympathy with the Civil Aviation Authority that is trying to address how to distribute increasing environmental damage. Do you locate it in over-populated areas—and clearly that would be unacceptable—or do you spread it out over tranquil areas of countryside? CPRE believes that the tranquillity of the countryside is part of its defining characteristics; that is what makes it different to urban areas. The Government, in its Rural White Paper, said that it wanted to have policies to protect tranquillity, and indeed it has given guidance to the CAA on that particular point. So I have some sympathy with the CAA in terms of how they wrestle with this problem. At the end of the day, what they are doing is looking at mitigation measures. We believe the key solutions lie in trying to avoid the impact by tackling the overall growth in air traffic. That is why, as we have discussed on previous occasions, CPRE has advocated an air transport policy which is based on demand management at its heart. With growing evidence, almost by the day, about the impacts of climate change, in addition to the effects associated with noise, the strength of the argument over the need for a demand management policy grows.

  Q569  Graham Stringer: Can you answer this question? Do you want the number of people travelling by air to reduce, stay the same or increase and, if to increase, by what rate?

  Mr Hamblin: I cannot answer by what particular rate. We have done work with the Department for Transport looking at their forecasting model which said that if you were to put a tax on aviation fuel and VAT on the industry, which is currently exempt, then the forecast growth would decline considerably and to an extent that it could be met within existing infrastructure. That would still see an increase in the number of flights, but it would be significantly less than is currently forecast as being provided for in terms of the policies in the Air Transport White Paper.

  Q570  Graham Stringer: To go back to the answer you gave to the question originally, you are saying, are you, in plain English that you prefer that the noise from aviation is taken by more people living in urban areas rather than by people living in rural areas?

  Mr Hamblin: I am saying that the CAA, local authorities and other interested groups are being told: you have a choice; either you can have noise over urban areas or the countryside. The solution lies not in responding to that one way or the other but in actually tackling the heart of the problem, which is the increasing level of air traffic.

  Q571  Graham Stringer: You have just said that you believe that there should be an increase in air traffic but not at the rate envisaged in the White Paper. What I am asking is this: in that scenario, where does CPRE believe those airplanes should fly over? Should they be flying over countryside or should they be flying over urban areas where there is a choice, because there would be a choice?

  Mr Hamblin: I think at the moment we are not in a position where we can properly evaluate what the impact will be over rural areas because of the way noise is measured, failure of information—

  Q572  Chairman: I am sorry, Mr Hamblin, but you are wriggling a bit. You are asked a very straightforward question to which we do expect a fairly straightforward answer. It is very simple. You posed the conundrum, so what is your view? Given the fact that life is inadequate, government departments do not give you all the details you want, that the sun rises and sets, could you just tell us what your view is?

  Mr Hamblin: If we had full information, if we had a policy which was focused on demand management, which reduced the overall pressure, then the CAA would need to come to a judgment about that.

  Q573  Chairman: We know about the CAA. We are asking you, Mr Hamblin: what is the view of the CPRE? It is a perfectly fair point. If there is a choice between rural areas and more people suffering more in Hounslow, what is your decision?

  Mr Hamblin: We would want to see the overall policy focused on demand management. Of the aircraft which are then flying, clearly you would want to reduce the impact on the human population, and that means not flying over urban areas, but there is a significant downside which currently is not being addressed in the policy debate. That is the impact on tranquil areas and the countryside for those in urban areas to visit and enjoy as much as those in the countryside.

  Chairman: I think that means urban areas by any other name.

  Q574  Graham Stringer: I shall read the transcript with interest. As a final point, you have used the word sustainability" a good deal. Can you define that for us, please?

  Mr Hamblin: We have a position statement, which I would be very happy to submit to the committee, if you would like. If you are looking for a definition now, then I would recommend the Government's Sustainable Development Strategy. That is looking at improving the quality of life for people now and in the future, by promoting economic prosperity rather than growth, and living within environmental limits.

  Q575  Graham Stringer: This is a final question to Cllr Cadbury. You said in response to the Government's consultation that you were restricted in some way from providing an input into that consultation. I thought it was an open consultation and that you could say anything you wanted to before the White Paper was produced.

  Cllr Cadbury: Thank you for letting me clarify that. The consultation was quite open. When the White Paper came out, there was a general statement recognising, I think for the first time by the Department for Transport, the needs of residents and the communities near airports, and that was to be welcomed. The detail of that came out as a series of schemes, some of which applied to Runway 3, the purchasing of homes for the Runway 3 area in Hillingdon, but the two other elements related to community noise insulation and people living in the very noisiest area, the 69 contour. Those were fairly strange. We would have been more than happy to be called in by the Department for Transport to talk about the detail of them before they had been finalised. If you would like the detail I can elaborate. For community buildings, schools mainly, the scheme is inadequate and it is discretionary. We have standards in this country set by the DfES using the Building Bulletins for acoustic standards and ventilation standards; ie what classrooms should experience in terms of external noise and ventilation. Those were not used by the Department for Transport. When we spoke to the DfT officials, they were not even aware of them. The scheme merely provides double glazing; it does not provide for any ventilation. It only works in classrooms and not other rooms in the schools. It does not address mobile classrooms and, because our schools are successful and growing, several have mobile classrooms. The scheme will not be able to include mobile classrooms. For the insulation of homes, we have said for many years that the existing scheme is inadequate both in terms of how big an area it covers and also what it covers. It only provides half the cost of double glazing; householders are expected to pay the other half of the cost. It only covers the 6,000 or so homes in the 69 dBA contour. We say it should probably go out to the 65 or 63 contours, as in other areas, and I believe possibly Manchester Airport itself. The White Paper said nothing about noise insulation at all. It allowed for a grant for a home owner to be given up to £10,000 to help each sell their house and move away, but somebody else would be coming to live there. The house would not be bought by BAA. Really, that does not help the existing residents who decide to remain in that area. We believe that if they are going to spend that kind of money, they should have provided a proper insulation scheme. This is detail on which, if they had talked to us while they were drafting the White Paper, we could probably have given them some relevant local advice.

  Q576  Clive Efford: Following on from that, you have suggested that the CAA should have powers to impose sanctions on airlines and airports that fail to fulfil any mitigation targets. Can you describe for us very briefly the scope of the mitigation that you are seeking? You are suggesting that mitigation should be implemented in order to reduce environmental impact by airports and by airlines. What is the scope of what you are looking for, how would it be implemented, and what sort of things are you looking for?

  Cllr Cadbury: There is a range of opportunities to fund through some sort of levy or range of levies. The sources of funding for mitigation in the FAA scheme are quite varied. They include tax on tyres, on passengers, on tickets, on the airlines themselves and on the airports as well, as part of the FAA's core funding. It is quite a mixed scheme which does not therefore restrict aviation in that sense. We are not saying what sort of levy it should be but that there should be a levy in order to fund adequate mitigation. It is only fair that the mitigation for the impact of aviation on local communities should come from aviation in some form, but I am not suggesting any particular route that it should take.

  Q577  Clive Efford: I will ask one last question as we are short of time. You have argued very strongly that the CAA should be responsible for environmental matters in relation to the air industry. Do you have any concerns or comments about any conflicts of interest the CAA may have, given that it is funded by the industry? Do you think it is the most appropriate body for that?

  Cllr Cadbury: I do not think in this country we have an alternative at the moment that I can see. I agree there could be a danger, but they are already regulating the aviation industry. Possibly there is a lack of anything else.

  Q578  Clive Efford: You are seeking to impose costs on the industry?

  Cllr Cadbury: Yes. I think that is reasonable.

  Mr Wojtulewicz: I would generally agree with that point. While it might be difficult for the CAA to balance its own decisions, it needs to have that environmental duty. If there is a cost, then there is a cost.

  Q579  Chairman: Mr Hamblin, you said the CAA needs to be more sophisticated in feeding information to the Government. What do you mean?

  Mr Hamblin: Much of the discussion on the Air Transport White Paper and the consultation around that was based on ground-based infrastructure. It was not really looking at the overall implications for the management of airspace. Certainly, anybody responding to the consultation paper would find it extremely difficult to feed into that debate, not least because, as the committee has heard from the CAA itself, work is still ongoing to feed into the Department for Transport on that. Information on the management of airspace should have been made available earlier. The sophistication that we are looking for is in relation to low thresholds for community annoyance and not simply designated areas as a proxy for sensitive environmental areas.


 
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