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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Further email correspondance with Steve Jordan (Lib Dem Councillor) on the expansion of Staverton Airport

Dear Steve,

Thankyou for your reply to my emails and clarification of your position. Perhaps we have misunderstood the minutes of the scrutiny committee meetings which show you supporting the airports development. We are also concerned that there appears to be no mechanism within the scrutiny committees evaluation to consider the environmental impacts of this development.

We note that Mott MacDonald are to be engaged to carry out an assessment. However, analysis of environmental impacts, and especially contributions to climate change, are not in Mott's areas of expertise and there has been no publication of their remit. It therefore appears that this will be a rubber stamping exercise.

On the particular point that you raise about safety, this has clearly been a smoke screen to enable the airport to expand whilst avoiding the necessary scrutiny. Even the airport management have said in their 5 year business plan that it was their intent to develop additional services. In the business plan they initially published they were absolutely explicit about their ambitions to develop additional services. If safety is a genuine concern to airport management, then it would suggest that they are trying to encourage services that are inappropriate to their infrastructure.

I would challenge your interpretation of the Echo's reports as being lurid, especially because these reflect services numbers quoted from Mark Ryan. Mark Ryan has said that the existing plane movements would be replaced by the those associated with the new services. As this will result in light general aviation planes being replaced with longer range scheduled passenger planes and business jets, then the CO2 emissions from the airport will increase dramatically. So whilst the absolute number of services may not increase, the total CO2 emissions will. Furthermore, a part of the development proposals is to introduce instrument landing. This will enable services to land and take off in the dark, thus allowing a further increase in available capacity at the airport.

I appreciate you sharing the wider argument regarding the use of the airport for housing, but there has not been any suggestion that the airport is not viable in its current mode of operation. However, the debate on housing is a complex issue which needs to be evaluated on its own merits. We should not be trying to resolve this by expanding an airport.

I enclose a link to todays report in the Telegraph on seagull die offs of the Eastern Seaboard of the USA. Sea bird die offs are becoming a frequent occurrence and "dead zones" have been observed in both the North Sea and Western Pacific. You may wish to forward this link to any councillors who you believe still support the airport expansion and consider climate change to be an irrelevant issue.

Kevin Lister

Steve Jordan wrote:

Thanks Kevin,

I hope I can help clarify a few issues for you.

Whether we like it or not, the council position on the latest airport business plan will be decided by the cabinet and the cabinet is entirely made up of Conservatives. Their decision is currently expected in November. As you may know, the airport is jointly owned by Cheltenham and Gloucester councils and a process for the 2 councils to look at the business plan is just getting underway. There will be a chance for the relevant scrutiny committee to express an opinion but so far there is only a list of questions to put to the airport board.

As for Lib Dem policy on airports, it is something I support, which I guess is no surprise as I don't own a car let alone a private jet. For me the main issue at the airport is about safety, as it only operates with a dispensation to allow a shorter runway than should normally be the case. This needs to be sorted out for the airport to continue the current level of operation. The Echo's lurid headlines about expansion plans give a distorted picture, but the article also mentioned that the current usage is 90000 movements per year and in future this is expected to be 90000 movements per year. Not much of an expansion there. The idea that Gloucestershire airport will become some sort of regional hub is frankly ridiculous and not something the Lib Dems would support.

The biggest issue with the current activity at the airport is that it prevents houses being built in the green belt. The first objective for those who want to do this is to make sure the airport closes so that the land can be released (see Gloucester City input to Regional Spatial Strategy). So while there is interest in the future of the airport in some ways it is a red herring. The wider debate is between those who 'oppose the airport' as a means of building in the greenbelt and those who 'support the airport' to prevent it. Our view over the years is that we don't support building in the green belt.

Regards, Steve.
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