Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Cambridge Liberal Democrats Set Out Aviation Strategy

Liberal Democrats are driving forward a new strategy for aviation which balances the benefits the industry brings as a driver of jobs and growth with the harm it causes to the environment.

The strategy reinforces the Lib Dems’ opposition to new runways at London’s airports. They are pushing for better use of existing capacity in the South-East and at regional airports to meet short to medium-term demand.

Firmly rejecting Boris Johnson’s Thames Estuary airport and a third runway at Heathrow, they instead want an independent, evidence-based study to find a location for a hub airport or a suitable airport to expand into a hub for the long-term.

They claim UK aviation policy must be based on five key principles: accessibility from the north and south; growth within UK carbon budgets; minimal impact on the local population; minimal impact on the global environment and maximum hubbing potential.

The Lib Dems’ policy on aviation is being driven forward by Julian Huppert, Co-Chair of the party’s Transport Committee.

He will put forward a motion calling for no new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted and no airport capacity expansion which could allow for aircraft movements above the carbon emissions cap set by the independent Committee on Climate Change.

The motion also rejects mixed-mode flights at Heathrow and opposes an extension of night flights.

Julian said: “The Liberal Democrats have always opposed a new runway at Heathrow because it is in an appallingly bad location, with 25% of all those in Europe affected by aircraft noise living under the Heathrow flight path.

“In the same vein, Mixed-Mode and night flights would cause unacceptable noise levels and air pollution for thousands of Londoners. You can’t have one of the world’s noisiest and busiest airports in the heart of West London’s suburbs.

“Aviation policy has focused on London and the south east and it is clear that is where the greatest demand lies; but airports and foreign travel for business or leisure must be easily accessible for citizens living across the UK. And noise and air quality impacts have to be minimised.

“With Birmingham looking to expand, Stansted only half full and Gatwick expanding into emerging markets, regional airports and other airports within London can meet demand for the short to medium term. Especially if we provide them with the transport links they so desperately need.

“We recognise, however, that a single, hub airport - rather than a constrained Heathrow with multiple satellite airports - would be better for the environment and better for the economy in the long term. Even three runways at Heathrow would only be a medium term solution.

“It’s clear that we need a new hub airport, and we need to move beyond the sterile Heathrow third runway debate and Boris’ ridiculous idea for an estuary airport.  That’s why we support an independent panel to set out a new vision for our hub, but the review must not allow the total number of UK runways to expand. Flight movements above the Committee on Climate Change cap would pose an unacceptable risk to our children’s future.”

The motion also calls for new noise limits over populated areas at certain times to incentivise quieter planes and tough requirements to make sure low emission vehicles are used at airports.

“Aviation has the potential to become one of the greatest threats to the global environment,” said Julian. “Unmitigated expansion of aviation would cause the UK to miss its carbon reduction targets. That’s why we support on overall cap on flight movements.

“Successive governments have failed to come up with a clear strategy which supports the aviation industry while at the same time mitigating its impact on the environment and on local residents.

“This policy motion has the short-term solutions we need, and a long-term policy framework based on the evidence.

“Labour and the Tories have slavishly followed industry giants for years; a third runway at Heathrow wouldn’t even be a proper long-term solution. Now they’re in opposition, the Labour Party policy is a blank sheet of paper. They are neither for nor against a third runway at Heathrow. While most Conservatives, with a few notable exceptions, are wavering in the face of the interests of big business.

“Enough is enough. The public deserve an airport policy which balances the benefits from aviation with the harm it can do to the environment globally and locally. That is exactly what we’ll deliver.”