THE BLOG

Government Runs Rough-Shod Over Residents on Aircraft Noise

14/05/2013 14:06 BST | Updated 13/07/2013 10:12 BST

"First it giveth, and then it taketh away." As it is with the Government's new aviation policy. A genuine consultation to establish what Londoners and interested parties thought about the Government's new Aviation Policy Framework was an excellent idea. But an idea it remained.

Instead, we got a lesson in how not to do it. The ministerial team in post at the Department for Transport appear to be doing a U-turn over the environmental concerns and riding roughshod over the interests of local people.

And last week, the House of Commons Transport Select Committee put forward their proposal for a third and fourth runway at Heathrow. Is nobody listening? It is incredible a committee looking into expanding aviation capacity in the South East does not have London-based MP as a member. I challenge anyone calling for the expansion of Heathrow to spend 24 hours under the flight path and then ask themselves again whether it is fair on residents to increase the number of planes, the noise and the pollution in this part of London.

The Government's new policy on aviation is no better. It fails to respond to environmental concerns on air quality and noise. How to improve the impact of airport noise was not addressed - despite this issue being the leading theme of responses during the consultation phase.

The Government has not taken up the recommendation, put forward by the London Assembly Environment Committee that a new benchmark for identifying communities most affected by noise must be established.

In a letter to the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, the Committee argued the policy framework for compensating residents disturbed by aircraft is weak. The Government unhelpfully continues to support self-regulation, which is what we have at the moment and does not work.

Pollution levels around Heathrow have not improved for more than a decade and areas around the airport already breach European Union air quality limits. Any environmental safeguards around new airport capacity must be fit for purpose and make a positive difference to the environment and health of people living close to airports.

There is no commitment to national action, such as including aviation in the five-year national carbon budgets. The government says that delays and uncertainty over the European emissions trading scheme rules out such action, but surely this should be an argument for decisive national action, not against.

When the Government published its aviation policy framework in draft form, it asked the right questions about noise, air quality and climate change, but the final version fails to deliver on these. It is disappointing that so few of the recommendations we and others made have been taken up by the Government.

This consultation was the opportunity residents were waiting for to express their very real concerns about the environmental and health impacts of aviation. Instead, it is a missed opportunity and a waste of people's time and taxpayer money. The Government's aviation policy affects us all and we deserve to have our voices heard.