29th October 2002

Government withholding airport expansion documents

Stop Stansted Expansion has today (29 October) called upon the Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, to explain why he is withholding certain key documents from the public consultation on new airport capacity in the south east.

The missing documents include two key Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) reports on airspace capacity. These should have been available for public inspection at the start of the consultation process on 23 July but are still not available. The Department for Transport Library claims that it is still waiting for these to arrive and they have not been delivered to the House of Commons Library either. There is a concern that the government may be trying to avoid making these reports public.

Peter Gowan, Deputy Chairman of the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign said: “We are very keen to see these reports because it is clear that the CAA, NATS and the Department for Transport are not in agreement about the air traffic control implications of building more new runways in the south east. This is not just a capacity issue; it is a major public safety issue.”

The government acknowledges that there is currently a problem with crowded skies but, in its main consultation document on its proposals for more runways, anticipates improvements in technology over the next ten years and concludes that “the difficulties are not insuperable and any additional capacity could be accommodated.”

However, this is not the view of NATS chief executive, Richard Everitt. In a speech to the UK Aviation Club last month (19 September) he condemned any idea of building a new airport in the south east, pointing out that “the stark reality we then face is either to close or to severely limit capacity at one of the other London airports.”

Peter Gowan added: “This whole consultation exercise is beginning to look more and more like a sham. Alistair Darling called for a genuine and open public debate but he seems to be doing his best to prevent that. This is an issue which affect millions of people across the country yet he launched his consultation on the last day of Parliament before the summer recess.”

“Now, with only a month of the consultation period to run, these key ATC documents – and several others – are still being withheld from public gaze. There is certainly a moral, if not a legal, case for the consultation period to be extended beyond 30 November.”

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits