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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the problem is that speakers are consistently running over time with additional questions for the Minister. My concern is that my noble friend may not have time to answer the questions unless other speakers cut short their speeches.
Lord Bridges: My Lords, I understand that my noble friend Lord Colville is not going to speak, so there will be time for the Minister to reply. I shall repeat my last sentence. Otherwise, we may end up with a ludicrous situation with an airport which has apparently unrestricted future growth, approved by the local planning authority, contrary to the spirit and letter of PPG 7 thus permanently damaging the AONB; contravening the RAMSAR convention; infringing the EC habitats directive; and all that when it may ultimately appear that there is no airspace available for the aircraft.
That does not fit well with the Government's stated intentions on environmental policy. It appears to be the case that some government agencies--the CAA and even English Nature--do not submit evidence to local authorities or public inquiries on planning matters as they lack the resources and, indeed, the inclination to do so. However, we could avoid that particular sector of Cloud-cuckoo-land if the Government were to change their practice, which is simply a change in administrative procedure. I invite them to do so as a matter of some urgency. A planning system may be a fine concept but it cannot be expected to operate correctly unless supplied with accurate information. That really matters in relation to airports.
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, governments have come round to the idea that for roads, the old predict and provide approach is no longer feasible on environmental grounds. Demand for road space must be managed. But even in the bad old days of merely responding to demand, there was at least a national road plan, even if it was simply to build more.
For air travel and airports, the situation is even worse than it used to be for roads. Not only is there no overall national strategic plan for airports, with each application to build or expand treated individually, as other noble Lords have pointed out, but the Government's response seems still to be to meet the demand rather than to manage it.
As a London person, I wish to move swiftly from the general to the particular in order to discuss Heathrow Terminal 5. The need for a strategic approach is amply demonstrated by its absence prior to a decision on Terminal 5. How can such a hugely significant decision be made before we all understand how it fits into a national or regional plan and the achievement of a sustainable economy and environment?
Once Terminal 5 is approved, the pressure in future to use it to full capacity by building a third runway may follow as night follows day. I should like the Minister to give a pledge that a decision on Terminal 5 must be delayed until such plans are in place and until proper studies have been undertaken to determine the real effect of Terminal 5 on health through asthma stress, sleep disturbance and pollution, including noise pollution.
It is putting the cart before the horse for the Government only to promise an airport strategy once the T5 recommendation is known. The fact is that Heathrow has already reached its environmental limit with 50 million passengers and four terminals. The capacity at Terminal 5 would be an additional 30 million passengers per year--a 60 per cent. increase. And yet that airport is in the suburbs of London, within the M.25 area. In contrast, Charles de Gaulle in Paris is limited to 55 million passengers and Schiphol outside Amsterdam is limited to 40 million passengers. The noise, air pollution and traffic congestion generated by Heathrow have long exceeded the levels which the 1 million people affected by it are prepared to tolerate. Air pollution already breaches government targets.
Local people acknowledge that Heathrow as it is today makes an economic contribution to their area, as it does to the whole London economy, providing jobs and attracting business investment. But the key is to have a sense of proportion and to know when enough is enough. Once it starts to turn from a positive force into an intolerable blot on the quality of life of 1 million people, it is time to pause.
Why should the wishes of two large companies--BAA and BA--just because they have enormous financial and lobbying clout, and even friends in high places, override the democratically expressed wish of the local community? After all, 13 local authorities of all political colours are opposed to the expansion. That degree of cohesion would not exist unless all those authorities genuinely represented the clearly expressed wish of the community. Is democracy to be beaten by corporate power?
Let us not forget the financial facts of this David and Goliath battle. BAA has been allowed by its regulator--the Civil Aviation Authority which reports to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions--to recover its £60 million costs of the Terminal 5 inquiry by charging airlines higher landing
I cannot rehearse here in detail all the strong environmental and health arguments against Terminal 5. They include traffic fumes and congestion and of course focus particularly on aircraft noise, including night flights. There is a 24-hour noise climate around Heathrow. That needs to be restricted by the banning of night flights.
But a factor which goes beyond the local environmental impact is the question of safety. The skies over south-east England are the busiest in Europe and the air traffic control system is known to be at breaking point. Near misses are reported regularly. There was a record 15 in the first six months of 1998 alone. If even more flights were allowed into Heathrow, that could be extremely dangerous indeed with increased risk of mid-air collisions over a densely populated area.
I spoke earlier about the need for democracy to influence decisions such as those relating to Terminal 5. Clearly London's airports would need to continue to be included in a national transport policy and airports strategy. But the Greater London Authority also needs to have strong consultative links into the process, a part of its forthcoming strategic planning and transport responsibilities. The GLA will need to have a regional transport plan for which it is answerable to London voters. One of the factors at which it would look would be the need for balanced east-west development in London. Another would be the public transport links for passengers. I suggest that a Greater London Authority would seek to do better than the Heathrow Express which, good as it is, is "price controlled"--that is, quite expensive--to prevent overcrowding. The only alternative is the slow and very overcrowded Piccadilly Line.
The fact is that residents and local authorities around Heathrow feel betrayed and angry. Twenty years ago, the inspector, Mr. Justice Glidewell, in recommending the go-ahead for Terminal 4 said that it should be the last major expansion at the airport. The then government imposed a flight limit of 275,000 flights per year. Last year, that number was 440,000, an increase of two-thirds over 20 years. The local community is subjected now to pressure for massive expansion bigger than all the existing four terminals put together.
If trust is to be restored, a better way must be found to plan airports. Elements of that better way include a partnership between national and regional government with balanced planning to prevent over-congestion in London and the south-east; the promotion of rail travel alternatives particularly to cities on the Continent; and consideration should be given to the deregulation of
Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I offer a crumb of comfort to the noble Baroness because I shall not take up all my time. I rise to speak about Manston Airport, which is about eight or nine miles from my home, and the problems there which are causing enormous concern to the people of Thanet.
Manston is designated at present as a government aerodrome with a military air traffic control unit. At present, it is not a licensed aerodrome. However, a sale is under way by the Ministry of Defence to Wiggins which is due to be completed in March or April of this year.
The plan is that the airport will be operated by Thomson, which I believe is an extremely reputable airport operator. A management plan is in the process of being produced--indeed, it should already have been produced but has not been--and an aerodrome licence will be required from the CAA. The licence will be concerned with safety factors--safety standards are set by national legislation--but it will not cover noise or pollution. Who, then, will be able to control environmental factors, specifically noise and pollution? That is of enormous concern to local people.
The east-west flight path of the aerodrome goes straight over the ancient borough of Ramsgate. The difficulty is that the Thanet District Council, rightly or wrongly (some say wrongly) issued an "existing use" certificate for the operation of Manston as a civil airport without attaching any conditions. The council now says that it has no further powers to control the operation of the airport. Indeed, Wiggins claims that the council has no further powers to control noise or pollution or to control flight times or flight patterns, and that there is an established use for 55,000 movements in and out of the airport each year.
Historically, the vast majority of those 55,000 movements were movements of Tiger Moths or today's equivalent--single-engine training aircraft--because there is a flying school there, movements of gliders and, more recently, a few substantial aircraft which came in on charter flights and with freight but in limited numbers. Wiggins is now claiming that, because a glider came in last year, it has a right to bring in a jumbo jet; indeed, 55,000 jumbo jets.
Wiggins publicly advertised that the airport is to be open 24 hours a day. It is therefore not surprising that local residents are extremely concerned, particularly in relation to noise and pollution. The local people are perfectly reasonable. They agree that a properly controlled airport at Manston would be a godsend for Thanet, particularly if it dealt largely with freight. That might bring in industry, and there is a serious unemployment problem in the area. But, as with all airports, environmental factors must be controlled. However, there seems to be nobody to control them except, possibly, the Secretary of State--to which I shall turn in a moment.
Control can be effected by governing the numbers of landings and take-offs, the times of day when they take place--most major airports have a bar on landing or taking-off, except in emergencies, between midnight and 6 a.m.--and the type of aircraft. Older aircraft make more noise unless they are fitted with a "hush kit". Those will have to be supplied by the airport; the operators will not install them because they are more expensive. Apparently, one old Russian aircraft which currently lands in Manchester is known throughout Kent because it makes such an enormous amount of noise.
The Government have an obligation to establish that methods of control will be implemented. I conclude by suggesting, first, that the Ministry of Defence behaved irresponsibly in considering only the maximisation of the value of the land it is selling and not paying the slightest attention to either environmental factors or any kind of good neighbour policy. Secondly, perhaps the Minister can say whether the Thanet District Council now has or could have powers to impose any kind of restrictions? In particular, can it link restrictions of the kind I described to the granting of permissions; for example, for a new control tower which is needed or new hangars?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, not only for his powerful speech, but also for the thoughtful way in which he ranged across the United Kingdom and not simply in his own county of Suffolk.
We hear a great deal from government about integrated transport policies, national airport strategies, environmental issues--for example, noise and air pollution, congestion on the roads and in the air, environmental planning policies, economic development and environmental impact issues. Yet many policies remain to be published and government policies across Whitehall are creating rather than lessening tensions.
The specific point I want to address is co-ordination between government departments, in particular the Ministry of Defence and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Increasingly, throughout the United Kingdom, capital assets are being realised by the Ministry of Defence. That is even more critical since the Strategic Defence Review. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, ranged across the country and perhaps I too may be allowed to be parochial. I live in East Anglia and in my area the Royal Air Force Alconbury, which has already been mentioned in the debate, is actively under consideration for development. The Royal Air Force Wyton was recently declared a possible area for development. And, disturbingly, only yesterday I received from the Ministry of Defence in reply to a Written Question as to whether there were plans to relocate RAF logistics headquarters from its
Those are three major Royal Air Force establishments within two or three miles of each other; two have runway facilities and the other is a logistics base. These issues are causing enormous problems locally. Again, as has been said in this debate, they are tearing apart local communities. There are tensions between the DETR--for example, about its airport strategic policy, which we have yet to see; environmental quality, about which we are continually reminded; housing needs (there is a great demand for more housing); and economic development. The MoD land agents are deeply involved with the detail of many of these projects but are not forthcoming in telling local people what is going on. It was only when I asked the question about Royal Air Force Brampton that I elicited the information that it is actively being considered for relocation.
There is tension also between the Civil Aviation Authority, whose licensing procedures act independently, the planning system, which is underpinned by guidelines which we know are being reconsidered, and the MoD, which wants the best possible return for its capital assets. The way in which it realises those assets is often in conflict with what is being said, often to the point of pontification, by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Then we have the Treasury, which has always pocketed the proceeds. That means that there is often no direct benefit to local communities and the infrastructure needed to support many of the projects is not forthcoming.
In East Anglia, if all government land and buildings were released and developed, the character of the eastern region and certainly the quality of life would change dramatically. If the Ministry of Defence proceeds are returned to the Treasury, as is the usual case, and the infrastructure is not provided to support large-scale development, the results may be extremely damaging.
There is a mismatch between many of the policies coming out of government or, worse, an absence of policy altogether in areas such as national guidelines, local planning policies, infrastructure needs, airports policy, capital receipts and their use. And the Ministry of Defence's policies versus those of the DETR is an issue that needs to be addressed. It would be helpful to know from the Minister how those two departments are talking to each other about the impact of one department's realising assets on the other, which is charged with concern for the quality for the environment.
In answer to the question posed in the Motion, I do not believe that current planning procedures respecting proposals for new commercial airports, or any other large scale developments, are adequate to take account of environmental issues. Today I have spoken to three planning officers and they say that they are in considerable difficulties about advising their local people what to do. My noble friend Lord Marlesford made the point that many local councils throughout the land feel threatened when they are told that if they do
Too often we hear of industries merging, of plants closing and of the laying-off of staff. However, I cannot recall an incidence of that happening in terms of airports. Quite the reverse. Affluence and deregulation have done well by our airlines and their customers. In consequence, they and the airports have done well. Perhaps I may bracket both as the "aviation industry", as I did last July, and suggest that it is an outstandingly successful industry.
In airport terms, that success is across the board, be it the privately-owned heavyweights in BAA, other private operations such as the National Bus-owned Hurn airport at Bournemouth, or our municipal airports. In the context of the latter, I welcome the Government's relaxation of public sector borrowing controls in respect of soundly financed local authority projects. The success of Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle must benefit the community, the shipper and the traveller.
Where should we aim to go from here? What steps can we take to build on success? I believe that we should look at the airlines, be they scheduled or the new generation low cost or chartered airlines. With practically no subsidy for their operations, they identify demand and provide service on a commercial basis. I believe that a national airports policy would anticipate their requirements and thus customer wishes.
But there is an environmental price to pay. No one has mentioned Kyoto yet. It deserves an airing. We cannot overlook it. I sleep within 15 yards of the Bakerloo line and under a Heathrow approach, neither of which bother me much, but I appreciate that others have a much rougher time. Nonetheless, I believe that we must choose between more airports, which I am against, and greater utilisation of existing facilities, which I believe will find much sympathy among speakers in your Lordships' House.
I come down on the side of the latter. A number of airfields are potential airports. Those of the MoD have been mentioned and I believe that British Aerospace has at least half a dozen that could be developed from test airfields into commercial airports, but not yet. I would leave them unconverted; I would leave them in their present situation pro tem. I hope that a national policy will embrace them only at the far end of the 30-year view that is taken in the White Paper. Maybe that is a little too long.
I shall not rehearse all that was said on 21st January during the Question tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, about Terminal 5, but I welcomed the trend in the Government's answers that day. Having taken the Kings Cross and other railway Bills on the Floor of this House, I believe that it is essential that the Government overhaul the planning regime, especially in respect of additional facilities rather than in respect of new airports.
I would also suggest that new infrastructure should not be looked at in purely airport terms. Access is an issue that must be addressed at all times--access for users and workers. We must not forget that much of the traffic at Heathrow is not as a result of the customers but the people who keep the airlines and the airport going.
The Heathrow Express, Manchester Airport's new station, the forthcoming Luton Airport station and the Tyne and Wear Metro's airport extension are all welcome developments. Would that the Heathrow Express served Hayes and Harlington, thus opening up access from Wales and the West of England and taking local traffic off the roads. Would that Stansted had an approach from the east, from East Anglia which might help to alleviate the needs of the Bentwaters development or anything similar. Would that Heathrow had a southern access from, say, Feltham. That was first mooted in the early 1960s and was then costed at £6 million, which is peanuts.
We cannot afford to follow the Scandinavian example of building new airports on greenfield sites, as has happened in Sweden and Norway, or on reclaimed land as in Copenhagen. Nor am I convinced, as some noble Lords have suggested, that we can follow the German plan of eliminating domestic flights in favour of surface transport. However, we can make the best use of what we have by simplifying the planning regime and by enhancing local and national access to airports by means of public transport. Those are two themes set out in the White Paper and they are objectives for the commission for integrated transport to pursue?
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I join with others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who I think may know the answer to his Question. There is a tinge of "Have you stopped beating your wife?" in the Question. "Is the Government satisfied that procedures take account of policy?". What policy?
One need only recall--to take one airport--what the inspector said at the time of the T4 inquiry, to which my noble friend, Baroness Ludford referred. At that time the Government accepted in 1979 that the proposed fifth terminal at Heathrow should not go ahead. Recalling those statements one understands well the public's scepticism about the procedure and the value of undertakings given as part of them.
As noble Lords have said, the transport White Paper promises an airports' policy looking 30 years ahead. When will the 30 years start? Not only will we have to wait for the inspector's report on T5, but also for the Secretary of State's decision--in other words perhaps at least three years. I hope that the Minister can explain whether emerging proposals for airports, both relating to Heathrow and otherwise, can or should be put on hold. I include in the list Northolt Airport, to which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred, for which one option is as a feeder for Heathrow.
I fully support the Motion that airports and air transport policy should be integrated with other areas of transport policy and wider policies. That is a commonsense view and it is a view held by the public. I believe that the public's expectations and demands are increasing, particularly with regard to sustainability and environmental protection. One of the most serious aspects of the matter is the public's view of the difficulty of individuals making a difference, not just when dealing with a particular matter, a particular application, but also the process of creating the plan, the framework, in the first place. The concern to which noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, referred attaches to the application made by an organisation in the public sector, lack of transparency in those processes and the obligation on them to realise the best price. I support what the noble Baroness said on that. On this occasion she must be glad not to be in government in order to be able to say that.
It is a good idea in theory to have a plan-led system, but that requires a plan to be in place. One of the difficulties of the application for Alconbury, to which reference has been made, seems to be that the issue was not, as I understand it, considered within the Huntingdon local plan, so there was no proper analysis at the plan-making stage. In other words, it is not plan-led; it is developer-led, so it is difficult to set it in the context of, for instance, transport links, and particularly the now very full A.14, and still less to respond to it being a site which must be an obvious candidate for mixed development, including perhaps fulfilling some need for household growth.
Reference has been made to flying rights at Alconbury. Can the Minister confirm whether flying there will require a further application, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested? An application such as Alconbury may be the biggest decision in any district councillor's career and unless there is a strategy in place we may be expecting decisions from people whom we have not adequately equipped to deal with them.
Integration with other policy areas is a need writ large over Heathrow. The inquiry there is taking years and I cannot possibly cover the issues in the seven minutes allowed to speakers tonight. However, perhaps I may touch on just a few. I refer first to the place of private funding. The Heathrow Express, so funded, disgorges passengers into the difficulties of Paddington without
I turn next to noise and night flights. The White Paper recognises that the aviation industry imposes severe environmental costs which it should meet, but the Government do not seem to have struck the same balance in the current consultation paper on night flights. Dangerously, they do not seem to be taking the public with them in the exercise of consultation. There is a big credibility gap between research and the disturbance actually suffered. People know when their sleep is disturbed. They know that the effect of the number of movements as well as the amount of noise is relevant. The "them and us" reading is compounded by such things as redefining what is meant by "night" in order to make it shorter. Other airports have banned night flights without alarmist claims about huge amounts of business being lost or, like Schiphol, they give a weighting to night flights so that in their annual noise budget they count for more.
I appreciate that the Minister cannot comment on current applications or consultation, but I hope that he can help the House on one general matter. I refer to the role of the Secretary of State, a matter on which I have written to him. The word on the street is that the current Secretary of State considers that decisions should, as often as possible, be left to local planning authorities and that he is resisting using Article 14 directions and calling in applications. I have a lot of sympathy with that although there are situations when intervention is appropriate. Has there been any change of policy or approach? If so, that should be known.
As has been said, the Government boast of their joined-up approach. I hope that they will soon join up the strands of their airports policy. A different department, MAFF, used to be reputed to defend agriculture with a disregard for public health, but now we are to have the food standards agency. I hope that the DETR will show that it is not an uncritical defender of the aviation industry, but also a defender of people's quality of life. I hope that we shall soon have passed the point when we hear, "Let us have an airports policy, but not yet".
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I have vivid boyhood memories--I think it was in 1942--of the arrival, first, of clearing equipment and then of construction equipment on five separate sites, all within close proximity to my home. Wartime airfields were constructed on a five-mile triangulation across the whole of the eastern counties wherever the terrain was in any way suitable. We should all be grateful to those who served over the years in the interests of the defence of this nation, first as a matter of survival and latterly as a matter of serious defence. I should welcome an assurance from the Minister that there are no possible residual defence considerations left which could justify continuing the maintenance of those airfields.
In his Unstarred Question, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, asks really about the validity of the planning process. Long experience of that process leads me to say--I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me for saying this--that one's satisfaction with the process is directly proportional to one's degree of agreement with its conclusions. There is simply no getting away from that. Planning is an extremely subjective matter. However, it is reasonable to suggest that in this situation, if it were not for the existence of the former wartime airfields, any planning application on any of those sites, either for airfield use or for residential use, would almost certainly be instantly rejected. I suggest that that is not perhaps an unreasonable starting point for consideration of this matter. Of course, such robust action would immediately lead to appeal--or possibly would have lead to a call-in by the Secretary of State because there would have been national policy implications. The Secretary of State wishes at present, quite properly, to get a high degree of local decision-making. But where is the national policy to guide those who are responsible for taking such decisions?
The planning process does not stop. It is already running. In both Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, structure and district plans are moving forward, driven by an assumption that the former military airfields are brownfield sites, to be developed with the encouragement of the Secretary of State at the DETR. Is that a correct assumption? If it is not a correct assumption, where do we go? Moreover, if it is a correct assumption, has it been made to the exclusion of all other policy interests?
These matters will be decided long before there is a national policy from the Government. Hence the policy, when it comes, will have to be made to fit the past rather than guide the future unless the Government take some action now. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for tabling this Question. It has revealed what appears to be a vacuum in the Government's thought on this matter as well as a lack of willingness to take action. That seems to be becoming a common feature as this Parliament develops.
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