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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dear Mr. Wain,

I am writing to you with regards to the expansion plans at Gloucestershire Airport which are due to go before the council in the near future. In particular I wish to highlight the blatant attempt by the airport's management or those closely associated with it to solicit support from organisations that have no interest in either the local economy of Gloucestershire, the environment or the quality of life in this region.

It has been bought to my attention that the Airport or one of the operators from the airport have posted a request on a flying blog to encourage like minded aviation enthusiasts to write to yourself, see the link at:-

This post raises a number of major concerns.

Firstly the opening paragraph of the post states “As you may know, Staverton has been seeking for some time to make some CAA-mandated improvements at the Western end of 09/27, to bring its overrun and obstruction-free area up to the standard where it can again accept PT flights up to ~50-seater (rather than the present ~20-seater) turbprops, and analogous types.” This is unequivocal evidence that the intent of the investment is to expand the existing operations. No amount of carbon budgeting will constrain the environemental damage associated with this.

We have obtained a copy of the letter from Mark Ryan, referred to in this post, which is being circulated to those people with a vested interest in developing the airport. It again raises serious concerns about the true motive behind the investment and demonstrates blatant distortions of the truth.

Mark Ryan's letter claims “During the lengthy consultation period, associated with this project, the feedback received from local businesses has been highly supportive.” Other analysis carried out indicates that most businesses in the area are totally ambivalent to the development of the airport. The main employers of the region such as GCHQ make no use of the airport and have no intention to do so. In fact most forward looking businesses are now attempting to use technologies such as video conferencing to avoid flying altogether in their attempts to minimse carbon foot prints. We would expect that most businesses that support the airport do so because the directors of the company use the airport for private aviation purposes or are directly linked to the airport such as the aviation companies there and are tenents of the airport.

Mark Ryan's letter also claims that “These developments together with our multiple runway configuration, convenient M5 and A40 access, will consolidate our position as the leading General Aviation and business airport in the South West and create a first class facility urgently needed to serve the Airport's thriving business catchment population of more than 2 million.” This paragraph is a blatant admission that the intent behind this investment is to expand and develop the existing business.

This intent is totally contrary to the airport's claims to have climate change as their top agenda item in every board meeting. It is also totally contrary to the evidence on climate change. The hard and uncomfortable truths are now these:-

  • Runaway climate change has now started. The warming that the planet is experiencing is so significant that the arctic ice cap is melting far faster than ever predicted and methane releases have also started in the high Arctic . These two factors alone will result in more heat being added to the planet than that from all industrialisation to date.

  • The rate at which CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere is increasing. By 2030 CO2 will be at a level that is unrecoverable, at which point in time both CO2 and global temperature will rise rapidly, catastrophically and irreversibly.
  • The UK government's Climate Change Bill will mandate an 80% cut in CO2 emissions. Barack Obama has also stated that this will be his position. A cut of this size in emissions is not compatible with any significant aviation industry, much less any attempt to make further investments in airports. The future for the aviation industry is thus retrenchment and not expansion of any kind.
  • The scheduled services are for weekend breaks in the Isle of Mann and Jersey. Calculations show that each passenger's return journey will contribute approximately 220kgs of CO2 to the atmosphere. Given the severity of the climate change problem facing us, it is immoral to allow this level of damage for such a frivolous activity. The situation is even worse for business jets which are the most carbon intensive mode of travel and when most of these flights are for leisure purposes or other non-essential travel.
  • As the share holders, the council tax payer will ultimately be liable for the loans. Given the collapsing economy, it makes no sense to impose further financial risk on the tax payer, especially for such a large investment with such an inherently poor business case and which will benefit so few people. This liablity will come at a time when many essential services will come under increased financial pressure.

It is clear that despite the public position that the airport management has taken on climate change, they are still putting their personal responsibilities on climate change far below their short term interests of expanding the business and thus have not moved on since their infamously discredited report last year when they attempted to disprove climate change existed.

We trust that your council will recognise the folly of supporting this investment and reject the proposal outright.

A copy of Mark Ryan's letter is attached with the email.

Kevin Lister

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