CPRE Protect Kent is disappointed with the announcement given by the Chairman of the Airports Commission today. The initial recommendation to focus the options for additional runway capacity at Heathrow or Gatwick is extremely disappointing, since we believe that there is sufficient capacity in the system.
During the consultation CPRE Protect Kent examined aviation trends throughout the UK. We found that the upward trend is diminishing, meaning that there will be fewer aircraft flying in the future. With the rise of technological innovations such as online video conferencing and increased fuel prices, we believe that passenger numbers will slowly begin to level off. This fact, combined with statistics for the current spare runway capacity of a number of airports in the south east, showed that we are unlikely to realistically need any more runway space. Stansted is only operating at around 50% capacity, whilst Gatwick also has significant runway space available. With declining aviation runway use, we believe that there is simply no requirement to build more runway space and that the countryside can be protected through more efficient use of existing capacity and the use of fewer, quieter planes.
CPRE Protect Kent welcomes the fact that the Thames Estuary airports have been dropped dismissed from the shortlisted options. We are also pleased that the creation of an Independent Noise Authority has recommended. We hope that this authority will reduce noise, rather than simply enabling more planes to fly.
CPRE Protect Kent is glad that Sir Howard Davies has listened to the objections to a Thames Estuary airport and not shortlisted that option. However, we are extremely disappointed that the possibility of a new hub airport at Cliffe has not been dismissed altogether and we hope that the further investigation of environmental impacts will do just that. We are also disappointed that he has failed to acknowledge the large amount of spare runway capacity currently available for use in the south east. Surely we should be making better use of existing south east airports before building any new runway capacity.
Technological innovations are making frequent flying for business less necessary. The forecast of fewer aircraft flying in the future should show the Airports Commission that there simply is no need to build new aviation capacity in the south east of England.