30th June 2003

Wrong Sums on Airports would mean Unprecedented Vandalism

The Government has got its sums wrong over airport expansion. Building more runways in the South East would be an act of unprecedented vandalism and totally unjustified on economic grounds.

This is the devastating verdict delivered today (30 June) to transport secretary Alistair Darling by Stop Stansted Expansion whose response to the government’s airport consultation presents an alternative solution to airport expansion – and reveals massive miscalculations by the Department for Transport.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) accuses the government of grossly exaggerating the economic benefits of the aviation industry and ignoring the economic ‘disbenefits’. The government has chosen to ignore the ‘excessively favourable’ tax regime under which aviation is exempted from meeting its external costs – in flagrant breach of the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

The adoption of a fair tax regime would obviate the need for more runways in the south east – with the minimum impact on air fares.

Stop Stansted Expansion’s other main points:

*  Reduced growth in aviation would not result in loss of jobs but redistribute jobs to other sectors of the economy*  Unconstrained and reckless growth in aviation would cause appalling devastation to the countryside, public health, the environment and heritage

*  The effect of airport expansion on air pollution would break EU and UK laws

SSE, which was instrumental in bringing together anti-airport expansion campaign groups representing Heathrow, Gatwick, Cliffe, Luton and Rugby in a massive ‘no more runways’ movement last November, presented its 107-page response to the Department for Transport in London today.

SSE’s campaign is supported by leading environmental and preservation groups, MPs from Essex and Hertfordshire constituencies and celebrities such as Jamie Oliver MBE and Terry Waite CBE. It has orchestrated one of the biggest ever protest movements against government proposals including mass demonstrations, thousands of letters of protest and tens of thousands of petition signatures.

“The future growth of demand must be monitored and managed. The government’s apparent total commitment to predict and provide – a policy that even Alistair Darling admits has failed miserably with roads – must be abandoned,” Norman Mead, SSE’s chairman said.

“The government must recognise – before it’s too late – that the solution lies not in concreting over great swathes of south east England and destroying the lives of thousands of people in its wake, but address the real issue of the tax regime under which the aviation industry currently operates.”

With a fairer tax regime, aviation would pay £7.9 billion more per year. The European Environment Agency has estimated the cost of pollution and environmental damage alone at £6 billion per year.

Air fares continue to fall. Even tax at £6 billion, matching aviation’s external costs, would halve growth from 4 per cent to 2 per cent. “This would obviate the need for more runways in the south east by 2030 and the impact on fares would only be about one per cent a year in real terms,” continued Norman Mead. “It would not price people off planes, but bring an end to the present policy of pricing them on to planes.”

“We challenge the government to live up to the fine words of its sustainable development policy and implement an effective policy of demand management,” he concluded.

Other points from the SSE submission:


*  An ‘aviation deficit’ is caused by the fact that outward tourism runs at twice the level of inward tourism, with a massive effect on UK balance of payments*  If the 4-runway Stansted option was adopted, the consequences, says the Institute of Public Policy Research, would be ‘a scale of heritage destruction rarely witnessed since listed protection became adopted in the 1970s’

*  In ignoring World Health Organisation guidelines on noise, the government has underestimated by a factor of between three and four the number of people affected.

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