Sir Howard Davis’s Airports Commission has finally announced that the idea of a wholly new hub airport in the Thames Estuary will no longer be considered a possibility. We have to breathe a sigh of relief at this, since the enormous environmental damage, financial cost and business risk of such an enterprise have finally been clearly and damningly recognised.
Given the resounding pounding that the idea of a new ‘Boris Island’ has received this morning does give us cause to consider why so much public money has been unnecessarily spent in extending the work of the Commission in hammering the last few nails into this particular coffin. Nevertheless, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted from the fact that the focus for airport capacity expansion is now firmly on either Gatwick or Heathrow.
CPRE Kent remains convinced – along with other Non-Governmental Organisations – that the case for expansion is far from clear-cut. We contend that adequate airport capacity already exists; it is not passenger numbers but flight numbers that are the key parameter. Flight numbers have not increased in line with passenger numbers, since aircraft now carry more passengers per flight. Sensible management of transport policy, making best use of existing alternative (and less environmentally damaging) routes, could free up significant runway space (the south east has astonishingly good rail connections to mainland Europe, yet Heathrow alone carries over 10 flights per day to Paris alone). Let’s make sensible use of the runway space that already exists – and yes, even at Manston, provided it can be operated under a sensible planning regime that prevents the erosion of night flight controls – before we rush to increase pollution, sacrifice homes, blight lives and lose green spaces.
2nd September 2014