Airport opponents check in for public inquiryBy Jack Sommers
June 01, 2010
CAMPAIGNERS both for and against more flights at Farnborough Airport are hoping that new and upcoming legislation could be on their side as a five-week public inquiry into the proposals continues.
The evidence presented at the inquiry, which began last Wednesday (May 26), will ultimately decide whether the economic benefits of having 50,000 flights a year at the airport outweigh residents’ fears over noise, pollution and the risk of a plane crash.
Rick Kimber, secretary of the Blackwater branch of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, who described the prospect of more flights as "an environmental disaster", said he was hoping the Climate Change Act 2008 might see the proposed increase rejected.
Before the new government scrapped the third runway at Heathrow, it was ruled by a judge that the Act had not been included in the planning for it.
The Act commits Britain to have its 2050 carbon level at 80% lower than in 1990.
But John Steel QC, airport owner TAG’s lawyer, said in his opening statement that the policy of the new coalition government coincided with TAG’s plans.
As part of the Queen’s Speech, the new government announced the Airport Economic Regulation Bill.
The Bill calls for the country to pursue "a new vision for a competitive aviation industry, supporting UK economic growth and designed within the constraint of the existing runway infrastructure".
Mr Steel told the inquiry this was aligned with TAG’s proposal to be allowed 50,000 flights a year – up from 28,000 – without building any new infrastructure, such as a runway or terminal building.
He said: “The proposals are to make best use of the existing infrastructure of Farnborough Airport. This is fully in accordance with government policy.
"The increase in movements would bring significant economic benefits to the UK, the region and the local area, including Rushmoor.
“It would secure existing jobs and create new ones, estimated by the appellant’s consultants, Mott MacDonald, to be 1,880 new jobs.”
All sides in the inquiry have produced hundreds of pages of evidence and Mr Steel said he was working the night before to include a mention of the Queen’s Speech.
Part of the reason for the new Bill is a third runway at Heathrow being turned down, which means there will be less infrastructure to accommodate the expected surge in demand for business flights.
But Mr Kimber felt the scrapping of the third runway was reason to think the appeal would go against TAG.
“We’re reasonably optimistic it’ll get turned down,” he said on the inquiry’s first day.
“It’s been shown that if the airport operates at the level TAG wants, it would have a terrible impact on the local area.
“We’ve seen the scrapping of the third runway so let’s hope TAG isn’t successful this time around.”
The inquiry, expected to last 28 days, is the second in three years concerning the airport.
The last one looked into whether it should be allowed 5,000 weekend and bank holiday flights a year, rather than 2,000, for which the government ruled in TAG’s favour.