Councils call for new aviation regulator

'Truly independent body which can act as champion for consumers' needed

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Councils concerned about the environmental impact of Heathrow expansion have called on the Government to set up a brand new regulator for the aviation industry.

The authorities, who are all members of the 2M Group, say the Civil Aviation Authority should be abolished to make way for the new independent watchdog.

Hounslow, Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils were responding to a Transport Department consultation on the future of the CAA.

Cllr Peter Thompson leader of the London Borough of Hounslow, speaking on behalf of the councils, said: 

“This was meant to be a root and branch review but all we’re being offered is the same cosy arrangement between the DfT, CAA and the industry that has existed for years.

“Our experience as local authorities over the last 20 years concerned with the environmental impact of Heathrow’s operations is that no one agency is holding either the DfT or the aviation industry to account.

“With the Government pushing for expansion at Heathrow we needed a strong CAA to tell ministers that the forecast on noises and emissions simply did not add up.

“The answer now is to set up a truly independent body which can act as a champion for consumer and environmental interests alongside its traditional safety and licensing roles.”

The councils fear that under current government plans the CAA could be given the key role in deciding whether the environmental conditions for a third runway had been met.

The authorities are concerned that, unlike the Environment Agency which challenged the government’s NO2 forecasts, the CAA accepted the noise case too uncritically.

The councils also say that decisions on future airspace changes affecting millions of people are too important to be left to such an unaccountable body.

The Government’s current proposals offer no right of appeal on CAA decisions.

The DfT’s consultation on proposals to update the regulatory framework for aviation closes on March 11.

The 2M Group is an alliance of local authorities concerned about the environmental impact of Heathrow expansion on their communities.

The group, which took its name from the 2 million residents of the original 12 authorities, now represents a combined population of 5 million people.

March 12, 2010