No Airport At Cliffe
Dual Hub not viable…The RSPB is extremely concerned by the Government`s proposal for a new airport on the North Kent Marshes, centred on Cliffe, as one of its options for infrastructure expansion in the current consultation on runway capacity in South East England. Main concerns about the approach the Government is taking to this issue include:
The Cliffe area contains habitats and landscapes of high environmental value.
The Government is not doing enough to manage demand for air travel.
The Government should maximise the use of existing airports infrastructure.
The dual hub approach to airports is questionable.We are calling on the Department for Transport to rule out the option of a new airport at Cliffe when it publishes its definitive Aviation White Paper early next year.Economic Costs and Benefits
The South East Regional Air Study (SERAS) contends that building a four-runway airport at Cliffe would cost ?8.9 billion-by far the most expensive option-but would produce ?17.3 billion in benefits, creating a net benefit of ?8.4 billion. However, there are other, ambiguous figures contained in the document:
For example, the SERAS summary document admits that building a four-runway airport at Cliffe could incur capital costs of up to ?11.5bn-?2.6bn more than the figure used in the cost benefit analysis.
SERAS goes on to say that, if CO2 emissions charging were enforced, economic benefits would be reduced by an additional ?1 billion.
These uncertainties mean it is very difficult to get an accurate picture of how much Cliffe would cost, and what the economic benefits would be. One thing is clear, though whichever way you look at it, Cliffe is the most expensive option on the table.Regional Regeneration
There are serious problems with the contention that an airport at Cliffe would regenerate the regional economy. Kent County Council, who oppose an airport at Cliffe, argued in a public statement (July 23):
The South East Regional Aviation Study (SERAS) does not include a dedicated new rail-link from the airport to London, domestic and international rail services may have to be reduced to make room for the 100,000 airport passengers a day expected to travel by rail-equivalent to the total Kent commuters a day travelling to London already.
Kent County Council also argues that there is already concern about the capacity of the M25 to take this increase from the Kent side of London, and that It makes absolutely no sense to put an airport in Kent on the far side of London, away from the rest of England.Kent County Council is also concerned that it would distract from the regeneration schemes already in place for the Kent Thames Gateway. This should come as no surprise. The Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment (SACTRA) examined the links between transport provision in general and economic activity (SACTRA, 1999). SACTRA found that new transport infrastructure does not necessarily lead to any gains in economic performance, and only has a role to play in economic regeneration if a whole number of other factors are also put into place.Environmental impact
Cliffe is the wrong place for any major infrastructure development, let alone a new airport, given its outstanding value to wildlife and its consequent protected status under both national and international law. The proposed airport would destroy large areas of proven national, European and international importance for wildlife. This includes important wetland and estuarine habitats, including part of four Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and the Thames Estuary and Marshes Special Protection Area and Ramsar site. The Thames is one of the most important sites for waterfowl in the UK, supporting an average of over 155,000 wintering waders and wildfowl. The area supports internationally important numbers of brent goose, oystercatcher, ringed plover, grey plover, knot, dunlin, bar-tailed godwit and redshank during winter. The proposed airport would also destroy most of the RSPB`s Nature Reserve at Northward Hill and affect a number of other important landholdings in the area. This part of Kent also has high historic, cultural and landscape value and, assuming the area`s many assets are nurtured; it will play an important role in the regeneration of the Thames Gateway. Many organisations have been working together imaginatively to ensure that this potential is fulfilled. Overall, a new airport at Cliffe would be one of the most environmentally damaging proposals ever seen in the UK. Demand management
The RSPB`s work on aviation focuses on its environmental impact, both in terms of direct impact on important wildlife sites and the indirect effects of emissions from aviation and associated infrastructure on climate change. The predict and provide approach to policy, which failed for roads, is failing too for aviation. Instead, we believe that the overarching principle for policy on air travel should be to manage demand within environmental and social limits, through policy mechanisms such as:
Bringing responsibility for aviation emissions within the remit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol. Once there, aviation emissions would be capped and could be traded with other emissions.
As a matter of urgency, resolving the issue of allocating emissions to countries, by point of sale of fuel. If responsibility for emissions remains in the International Civil Aviation Organisation, impose a standard rate of tax, worldwide. (This would not be levied internationally but in each country at the same rate.)
In the interim, the EU imposing a tax on fuels used on all flights within the EU. At a minimum, the UK should impose a fuel tax on domestic flights.
Introducing VAT or a sales tax on all flights, preferably a standard tax across the EU but, in the first instance, certainly in the UK.
Adding an environmental surcharge to the Air Passenger Duty, auction take-off and landing slots and introducing a dual till approach to take-off and landing charges.
Promoting alternatives to aviation for short-distance travel, notably rail.According to the Department for Transport`s own analysis, it would be extremely cheap to create a vast reduction in demand. If GDP were to fall by 0.5%, from the assumed average of 2.25% per year to 1.75% per year, passenger numbers would fall from about 400 million in 2020 to about 330 million. If airfares did not fall at 1% each year but remained constant, demand in 2020 would fall dramatically from about 400 million to about 300 million (i.e. roughly a 50% increase on present demand rather than 100%). This demonstrates that demand can be managed simply, and without imposing anywhere near the tax burden on aviation that the other transport sectors bear.The Government must deliver on commitment to making best use of existing infrastructure, which it should do by increasing the efficiency of main airports. This can be achieved with improvements in air traffic control, baggage handling and aircraft wing design.NB Dual hub approach - The Department for Transport is advocating the creation of a second hub airport, similar to Heathrow, at Cliffe or Stansted. However, it is not clear that the concept of two linked hubs will work. Heathrow currently has poor access by road and rail, except from Paddington, and access east of London is inadequate. Providing the transport links to make the two-hub concept work would require huge infrastructure development across London-something that is not addressed by the consultation.
Perry Haines NA@C RSPB campaign co-ordinator
4th July 2014