Saying nothing much in 85 pages

The new Aviation White Paper takes 85 pages to say nothing much. By contrast, the 1953 White Paper which announced that Gatwick was to be built was four pages long!

The length of the White Paper is partly because it contains a paean of praise for the aviation industry which reads as if written by a PR agency, and most of which could be applied equally to any other industry.

And which ignores the fact that much of the apparent success of the industry is due to not paying fuel tax and not paying VAT (air passenger duty would need to be four times as high to cancel the benefit).

At least the new White Paper contains no proposals for new runways. Decisions on whether and where new runways should be built have been shunted off to the Airports Commission, not due to report until 2015.

Forecasts of future growth in air travel have been slashed. The previous White Paper in 2003 proposed that a new runway should be built at Stansted by 2012.

If that had been implemented it would now be standing empty. Gatwick is still handling fewer passengers than in 2007. Now we are told that the London airports will probably not be full until 2030.

GACC welcomes the statement that the Government’s policy is to limit and, where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise.

But only if this is achieved by quieter aircraft. We are concerned that the policy of concentrating aircraft on ever narrower routes, supported in the White Paper, would intensify the annoyance and be perceived as unfair.

It is disappointing that several measures to make life better for local residents have been dropped. That is what we feared would happen when the sympathetic Justine Greening was replaced as Transport Secretary by the pro-aviation Patrick McLoughlin.

Among the measures in the draft White Paper published in July 2012 which have been dropped, or referred to a committee for further consideration, are –

Stricter noise limits for departing aircraft.

Higher penalties on noisy aircraft.

Penalties on airlines which fail to comply with quieter approach procedures.

More noise monitors.

Higher landing fees for night flights.

Replacement of the 57 leq contour as the main measure of annoyance.

On climate change the Government is content to rely on seeking international agreement – although progress is minuscule – and on the EU emissions trading scheme – although that has been put on hold after opposition from China and the US.

No recognition that because Brits fly more than any other major nation, we have a responsibility to give a lead.

One sentence which GACC welcomes is ‘the [aviation] industry must continue to reduce and mitigate noise as airport capacity grows.

But how can that be reconciled with Gatwick’s Master Plan which forecasts that, as the airport grows, the number of people seriously affected by noise will double?


Chairman, Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, Campaign Office, Stan Hill, Charlwood, Surrey RH6 OEP