20 Questions for Ruth Kelly
Councils take issue with transport secretary following backing of new runway
Councils opposed to Heathrow expansion have set 20 key questions for transport secretary Ruth Kelly, who announced her backing for a new runway at the airport before the start of the current Government consultation on the plan.
The 2M Group of councils drew up the list after residents complained that the transport department's consultation document had been made deliberately complicated and one-sided.
The 'Adding Capacity at Heathrow' consultation runs until February 27. It sets out plans for adding another 222,000 flights year at the airport by 2030. The extra capacity is equivalent to building a new airport the size of Gatwick.
The 2M questions are designed to probe the consultation's claims on noise, climate change and the economic impact of expansion.
Speaking on behalf of the 2M Group, Hounslow Council leader Peter Thompson said:
"Many people have said they find the 238-page consultation document and the eight-page questionnaire bewildering. Yet for all the great mass of detail, so much of the vital information on environmental impact and economic benefits is missing.
"We hope residents will find it useful to include some of the 2M questions in their own response to the minister.
"We are not saying these are the only questions but they do cover the main concerns people have expressed so far.
"The Government has made this consultation as difficult as possible - our aim is to simplify matters so that residents can test the minister on the key assumptions that lie behind her support for expansion."
The full 20 questions are:
1. Have you assessed the climate change impact of the extra 3 million tonnes per annum of CO2 admissions produced by the third runway alone?
2. Can you explain why the aviation industry, uniquely, can expect other industries to make its emissions reductions for it?
3. How do you reconcile the Government’s stated objectives for achieving emissions reductions with its advocacy of further expansion at Heathrow?
4. The latest noise attitudes survey (ANASE) showed that the same proportion of people previously annoyed by aircraft noise at 57 decibels were now affected at 50 or 51 decibels. Why was this calculation not included in the noise impact assessment and why is the old 57decibel contour still being used to draw the boundaries of the areas which, you say, are affected by aircraft noise?
5. While you say that ANASE is flawed, is it not more robust than a study carried out 22 years ago (ANIS) which was never subjected to external review?
6. How can people sensibly comment on how the proposals will affect them when you are not telling them clearly where new or altered flightpaths would go?
7. Why does your economic assessment not take into account the £9bn subsidy the aviation industry receives from not paying VAT and the £18bn tourism deficit where UK travellers overseas spend more than visitors to this country?
8. If the extra 222,000 flights weren’t provided at Heathrow, can you calculate the impact on the economy if these ‘displaced’ passengers (a) made their overseas journey by rail, (b) flew from another London airport or (c) stayed in the UK?
9. Have you assessed the extra capacity that could be provided by high speed rail including the new link from St Pancras?
10. What benefit to the UK economy is provided by the 35 per cent of passengers at Heathrow who are simply changing planes?
11. Will you now commission an independent study of the economic impact of Heathrow?
12. According to your projections, the numbers of people taking public transport to the airport will double to around 38 million by 2030. Numbers travelling by road will also double to 53 million. What new transport schemes will be in place by 2030 and what will be average traffic speeds on the roads?
13. What new aircraft other than the A380 and 787 will be flying once the third runway opens?
14. Why was data on aircraft fleet mixes kept secret from local authorities while you were assessing the environmental impacts - yet freely shared with the owners of Heathrow (BAA) who stand to gain most from its expansion?
15. Has the data provided by BAA, including types of aircraft, their noise and air pollution characteristics - and assumptions on airlines' purchasing intentions - been independently vetted?
16. Can you guarantee that once the third runway is operating, the two existing runways will return to segregated mode and restore the relief offered by runway alternation?
17. Will you guarantee that the third runway - which is already longer than proposed in the Air Transport White Paper - will not be extended again in the future to accommodate larger aircraft?
18. Will you introduce a requirement to cut back on the number of flights if it becomes clear that air quality and noise limits are being exceeded?
19. Have you measured the increased risk of air accidents from so many extra flights over London?
20. Can you explain why you announced your support for the ‘Adding capacity at Heathrow’ report to the Evening Standard six days before the consultation started?
The 20 questions will form part of a special 2M newsletter which will be published in mid-January and distributed throughout the areas most affected by expansion.
Hounslow Council is holding a Public Meeting on expansion at Heathrow and the current consultation on Tuesday, 22 January. The meeting will take place at 7.30pm at the Civic Centre, Lampton Road, Hounslow, TW3 4DN.
January 9, 2008