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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Orwellian Approval process for airport expansion

Copy of letter printed in the Gloucester Citizen

Dear Editor,

The decision by the Tewksbury planning to back the expansion plans of Gloucestershire Airport is a new low. It is the culmination of a process that could have been taken from George Orwell’s novels.

We have seen examples of “double speak” from 1984. There is Steve Jordan (Cheltenham, Lib Dem) saying “They would manage emissions down after the runway extension.” There is Paul James (Gloucester, Conservative) saying he supports the Green Management plan to cap Greenhouse gas emissions, but saying (Echo, 13th Jan) that additional flights to Europe, “Is good news.” There is the airport claiming their grass will sequestrate all their CO2. There is the airport’s “Green Management Plan” which has no penalties if restrictions are exceeded. There is Tweksbury Council signing up to the Nottingham declaration to put climate change as the top priority, then ignoring it. There is the airport claiming that the project is about safety, then moving the take off point 200 metres towards residential areas in Innsworth and Churchdown and saying “all safety risk assessments are classified.”

We have seen Councillors behaving like the sheep in Animal Farm where they bleat in support of their leaders. Chirs Witts (Gloucester, Lib Dem) bleated "that I can not understand what the fuss is about.” We were assured that that there would be robust debate in the Scrutiny committee and then watched all the councillors unquestioningly voting 32 in favour with only Jonathan Whitaker (Gloucester, Lib Dem) having the moral fibre to vote against the airport’s proposal.

We have watched our democratic process becoming a charade. The hundreds of letters sent to Gloucester and Cheltenham councils and the 400 objections to the planning department have been ignored. Faced with this failure in process, we had no option other than to peacefully protest, and were subsequently arrested.

Whilst this farce played out, we watched the economy crumble and the outlook on climate change blacken. Our schools and public services now face budget cuts. Yet the council is still backing a multimillion-pound loan for a business with no viable business plan. This is a development that will benefit a tiny elite minority of the county and will be paid for by everyone else.