Progress Report on Aviation White Paper Set to Confirm Government’s Desire for 3rd Runway at Heathrow

Campaigners promise ‘mother of all battles.

The Government is expected to confirm its desire to see a 3rd runway built at Heathrow when it issues its ‘Progress Report’ on its 2003 Aviation White Paper this week (1). But it will hold back from giving the green light to an additional runway until 2007 when it publishes its report into future levels of air pollution at Heathrow (2).

John Stewart, Chair of campaign group HACAN ClearSkies, said, “If the Government gives the green light for a 3rd runway, it will face the mother of all battles. Not only are residents and local authorities united in their opposition to it, but I can see it becoming a cause celebre for the wider environmental movement. There is no doubt in my mind that the Government will face direct action on a scale not seen since the protests against roads at Newbury and Twyford Down in the 1990s”.

The Government committed itself to reviewing the 2003 Aviation White Paper by the end of this year. It has been under considerable pressure to radically rethink the White Paper in view of aviation’s growing contribution to climate change and the rising cost of oil. But it has opted to simply produce a short ‘progress report’ (3).

The Progress Report is expected to endorse Gordon Brown’s pre-budget statement where he made clear his support for a 3rd runway (4). It will also endorse the Eddington Report where the former BA chief repeated his view that a 3rd runway was important (5).

ENDS

Notes for Editors:

(1) The date the Department for Transport has pencilled in is 14th December.

(2) Over two years ago, the Department for Transport, in conjunction with the aviation industry, embarked on a study, Project Heathrow, to reassess future air pollution levels at Heathrow in light of evidence in the White Paper that, if a 3rd runway were to be built, pollution levels around Heathrow may exceed the EU legal limits due to come into force in 2010. The study is due to be published in the New Year. No decision will be taken about a 3rd runway until that study is published.

(3) The Progress Report is expected to be less than 20 pages in length. It will set out a business-as-usual approach although it is expected to recognise that the environment is more critical now to the aviation debate than in 2003.

The Progress Report is expected to:

  • Endorse the White Paper’s forecasts that there will be a near-trebling of passenger using UK airports by 2030. It will argue that any increase in oil prices will be off-set by a continuing fall in fares, particularly on the budget airlines.

  • Assume that there will be no new taxes (such as fuel duty) imposed on aviation before 2030.

  • Argue that the best way to deal with emissions is through the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme — details of which are expected to be published around 20th December.

  • Support the principle laid out in the Stern Review and the Eddington Report if published that air passengers should pay the carbon cost of their journey. But it will argue that from 2010 the industry will be paying the full cost of its carbon and that it has taken account of this in its forecast of passenger use of airports.

  • Endorse the principle of carbon off-setting as laid out by DEFRA in a position paper expected to be published on 11th December. DEFRA is expected to try and set out a ‘gold-plated’ standard for off-setting

(4) In his pre-budget speech Gordon Brown said Heathrow played a unique role in the UK as a hub airport, where demand for capacity already significantly exceeds supply, leading to less competition, greater congestion, reduced choice and higher prices for passengers. Where there are net benefits from doing so it argued,, the Government supported the expansion of UK airports, including at Heathrow, and will identify the necessary mitigation measures to allow relevant
limits on air quality and noise to be met.

(5) The Eddington Report was published last week. Rod Eddington, the former BA Chief Executive, had been asked by Gordon Brown to look at the transport neds of the economy over the next 30 years.

For further information contact John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650