Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (AS 08)

1. GACC is the main environmental body concerned with Gatwick. Founded in 1968, we have as members nearly 100 Borough, District and Parish Councils and environmental groups covering about a twenty miles radius from the airport.

2. This response has been approved by the GACC Committee.

3. In the interests of brevity we answer some but not all the questions set by the Committee. In several instances we suggest that the Select Committee might wish to seek information from government departments. Please be assured that this is not an impertinent attempt to tell the Committee how to run their inquiry: merely a desire to establish factual information that can help forward the debate on aviation policy.

1(b) What are the benefits of aviation to the UK economy?

4. The benefits are regularly exaggerated by the lobbyists for the aviation industry, and the DfT are too inclined to accept biased statistics uncritically. In particular: ––

The figures for economic output are misleading because they do not include depreciation, eg the need to replace old aircraft. We suggest that the Select Committee may wish to ask DfT to produce statistics for the net value added by the air transport industry, after depreciation.

The number said to be employed in air transport has fallen from 200,000 in the 2003 Air Transport White Paper to 120,000 in the Draft Aviation Policy Framework (paragraph 2.2). The industry and DfT have recently attempted to confuse this fact by using figures which include aerospace.

It is poor statistical practice to include figures for indirect and induced employment. Any industry could exaggerate its own importance in this way.

Claims for social benefit are suspect—similar claims could be made by any other industry. For example, road transport could claim very similar social benefits.

1(c) What is the impact of Air Passenger Duty on the aviation industry?

5. The impact is very much less than if the industry had to pay tax on aviation fuel and if air tickets were subject to VAT. We suggest that the Select Committee may wish to ask the DfT (or the Treasury) for an estimate of the benefit received by the aviation industry from the absence of fuel tax and VAT.

6. If any witnesses suggest that APD should be reduced, the Select Committee may wish to ask them what taxes they would increase instead, or what public services should be cut.

7. The demand for air travel, and hence the requirement for more airport capacity, is artificially inflated by the lack of fuel tax and VAT, only partially compensated by APD. The Select Committee may wish to ask the DfT to run their computer model to provide an estimate of what the demand for air travel would be in 2030 if by then international agreement has been reached to tax aviation fuel at the same rate as petrol for motor vehicles in the UK, and if the EU had reached agreement to impose, in lieu of VAT, a 20% ticket tax on all flights departing from EU airports.

3(a) Are the Government’s proposals to manage the impact of aviation on the local environment sufficient, particularly in terms of reducing the impact of noise on local residents?

8. Noise is still a serious problem at Gatwick. Complaints are received regularly from people living up to 20 miles from the airport. For instance in September 2012 a lady wrote to us from near Tunbridge Wells, 19 miles from Gatwick to say:

“When I bought my house I was unaware that it was on a plane flight path until of course it was too late—I’d moved in. I’ve been here three years now. .... I find the plane noise from arrivals in this area extremely disturbing. For example, last week I woke from a dream where I was being attacked by bees, only to find it was a low flying aircraft outside making the noise, lights blazing, at 4am. I sleep with earplugs. I have double glazing and my windows were closed. I always sleep with my windows closed at night, even in summer when its sometimes hot and stuffy in my bedroom because of the racket outside. Summer is the worse time for the planes, and from late afternoon onwards they are less than two minutes apart coming thick and fast.

“Aeroplanes ... turn with a heavy screeching and droning right over my back garden, which (laughably) is supposed to be within an “area of outstanding natural beauty”. ... For example, last Sunday (9 September), my family and I wanted to make the most of what is probably going to be the last really sunny weekend by sitting in the garden to eat a meal. This was at 5:30pm and we could barely hear ourselves talking from the plane noise.... Our garden is no sanctuary by day and nor by night...”

9. It is intolerable that this degree of misery should be caused by the aviation industry.

10. GACC welcomes the statement in the Draft Aviation Policy Framework that “our overall objective is to aim to limit and reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise.” But this needs a proviso: to concentrate flight paths may reduce the number of people affected but would be undesirable if it were to cause extreme misery to a few. GACC has welcomed several of the minor measures to reduce noise, as set out in the Draft Aviation Policy Framework, but much tougher action is needed.

11. The Select Committee may like to recommend that no planning applications for airport expansion should be approved if they do not comply with the Government objective quoted above.

4. Do we need a step-change in UK aviation capacity? Why?

12. The forecasts produced by DfT have consistently been too high. In the 2003 White Paper, demand was forecast to reach 500 million in 2030. That figure has already been reduced to 335 million in the 2011 forecasts.1

13. The 2011 forecasts show that the three main London airports will not be full until 2030. But these forecasts may also be too high. After the West Coast Main Line fiasco the Select Committee will wish to examine carefully the assumptions on which the 2011 forecasts are based. In particular the assumption that oil prices will be no higher than $90 per barrel in 2030.

12. It may also be unrealistic to assume that there will be no increase in the taxation of air travel by 2030. If there is a major international disaster, the nations of the world may well decide to raise the necessary funds by imposing a world-wide tax on aviation fuel.

13. Climate change rules may rule out any step-change in aviation activity. The Climate Change Committee has recommended a 55% limit on the growth in flights by 2050. If there were to be a step-change in airport capacity in the South East (matched by an equivalent increase in the amount of air travel), that would imply a ban on any expansion of all regional airports,

14. A new runway at Gatwick could not provide the answer if a step-change in capacity were required:

(a)A new runway could not legally be built until after 2019, and would therefore not help to provide jobs now.

(b)The location of a new runway as shown in the latest Gatwick master plan (as Gatwick Airport Ltd admit) is comparatively close to the existing runway.2 As British Airways have commented, this would leave insufficient space for aircraft to manoeuvre or to use piers connected to a new terminal.3

(c)All other runway locations have been examined many times in the past and have been repeatedly ruled out as impractical (because of a range of hills) or as causing unacceptable environmental and heritage damage.

(d)Since there is hardly space for one new runway, there is no possibility of making Gatwick a four-runway airport to compete with Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt.

(e)All previous attempts to run Gatwick as a subsidiary hub to Heathrow have failed. Details are set out in a GACC paper on hub airports.4

(f)Public protest at Gatwick has been quiescent since 2003 because there has been no actual runway proposal. But if any serious proposal were to be made, opposition can be expected to be just as strong as at Heathrow or Stansted in recent years.

17. The idea of a high-speed train link between Gatwick and Heathrow has been described as unrealistic by the airport owners at both ends—BAA and Gatwick Airport Ltd. The idea is flawed because:

(a)If the line followed the M25 it would not be straight and thus not high speed;

(b)a straight high-speed train line, if over-ground, would cause unacceptable environmental damage. If underground it would involve unacceptable expense;

(c)passengers would need to pass through immigration and customs at both ends; even if they were to be locked into the coaches, an airport hub with two runways at Heathrow and two at Gatwick is unlikely to prove attractive compared to four-runway hubs on the continent.

(d)claims that the journey would only take 15 minutes ignore the time needed to walk to the train station and wait for the next train; and

(e)as shown above, there is insufficient space for a new runway at Gatwick.



2 Gatwick master plan July 2012. Paragraph 10.3.6

3 Response to consultation on the Future of Air Transport. 2003.

4 Hub airports

5 October 2012

Prepared 31st May 2013