The White Paper and the Government's role
The White Paper sets out a strategic framework for the development of airport capacity in the United Kingdom over the next 30 years. In preparing it, the Government consulted extensively. We received around 500,000 responses to our seven regional consultation documents. We have taken a strategic view of where airport development may be needed, balancing the benefits of new airports against the impacts they can have. But the Government doesn't build airports or add runways. That's down to those who own and operate Britain's airports. And the White Paper doesn't formally authorise (or preclude) any development. Any proposals will still have to go through the planning process in the normal way. The rest of this leaflet describes briefly the issues behind the White Paper and the conclusions we have reached, plus what happens next.
A balanced approach
UK air travel has increased five-fold over the last 30 years. Half the population now flies at least once a year. And freight traffic at UK airports has doubled since 1990. Britain's economy increasingly depends on air travel, for exports, tourism and inward investment. The aviation industry directly supports around 200,000 jobs and indirectly up to three times that. Airports are important to the economies of the English regions and of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Aviation links remote communities and helps people stay in touch with friends and family around the world. It brings businesses together and has given many affordable access to foreign travel. All the evidence suggests that air travel will continue growing over the next 30 years. But if we want to
continue enjoying its benefits, we have to increase capacity. But we can't add to airport capacity regardless of the environmental cost. So, we need a balanced approach which recognises the importance of air travel, but which also tackles environmental issues.
We must do more to reduce the environmental effects of aviation. The UK will take action both internationally and here at home, as well as meeting air quality and other environmental standards and minimising environmental damage.
Emissions trading is the best way of tackling the aviation industry's greenhouse gas emissions. Those responsible for emissions must keep within set limits by reducing their own emissions and/or buying additional 'allowances' from others who reduce their emissions. We will press hard for this approach both in the EU and globally.
Our aim is to limit and, where possible, reduce the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise. Today's aircraft are 75% quieter than jets in the 1960s. Practical things that will be done include:
- limits on the size of the area around major airports affected by significant noise levels;
- promoting research into low-noise aircraft;
- strengthening existing rules, applying international regulations and changing the law where we need to;
- making more use of noise-related landing charges, and using the money to reduce the effects of noise; and
- stronger measures by airport operators to insulate properties against noise.
Planning law already provides for people whose property is affected by airport development proposals, but only once planning permission has been granted or local development plans revised. However, the prospect of airport development can blight property values for some time before this stage. We are arranging for airport operators to bring in schemes to deal with the problem of such generalised blight. These will apply in all cases involving a new runway or safeguarding of land for airport development proposed in the White Paper.
Safety and security
The UK aviation industry has an excellent safety record, and for years we have operated a stringent aviation security regime. It reflects the threat at any given time and provides a robust defence. The Government, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the industry agree that we must maintain our high standards, identify potential threats and make improvements.
Support for regional air services and airport development
A key issue for Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North of England and the far South West of England is ensuring the continuation of air services to the major London airports. We will protect London slots for essential regional services by imposing 'public service obligations' (PSOs) where necessary. We encourage the setting up of Route Development Funds, to promote new air services at airports outside the South East. We support the establishment of Centres of Excellence for aircraft maintenance.
The South East
Our first priority is to make best use of the existing runways at the major South East airports. Beyond that, we support the building of two new runways in the South East in the period to 2030. We support development as soon as possible (around 2011/2012) of a second runway at Stansted as the first new runway for the South East. Noise should be strictly controlled, and loss of heritage and countryside kept to a minimum. We do not support options for two or three new runways at Stansted. We support development of Heathrow provided that strict environmental limits can be met, including a new runway as soon as possible after Stansted (in the 2015-2020 period). We look to the operator to safeguard land for it. We propose an urgent programme of work to tackle the air quality problems at Heathrow and consider how best to use the existing airport.We believe that land should be safeguarded for a new wide-spaced runway at Gatwick both on its own merits and in case the conditions attached to a new Heathrow runway cannot be met. But we will not act to overturn the planning agreement preventing a second runway before 2019. We do not support the option for two new runways at Gatwick. We support the growth of Luton up to the maximum use of one runway, but we do not support a second runway. We do not believe that there is a strong case for creating a second hub in the South East, whether or not a third runway is built at Heathrow. We do not support a new airport at Cliffe, because of its ecological damage, safety risk and doubtful viability. We do not support development of Alconbury for passengers or freight but we recognise the potential to move aircraft maintenance there from Cambridge.