Biggin Hill Airport lies within the Borough of Bromley. The local council owns the airport and has leased it to Biggin Hill Airport Ltd (BHAL) for use essentially for private flying and “general aviation”, i.e. not for scheduled commercial flights. But BHAL have long desired to expand activities at the airport to make it more commercially viable. Local residents have strongly objected to any expansion because there is a lot of housing near or under the flight paths and complaints about noise are common.
BHAL have now applied for a variation of the lease to permit scheduled and non-scheduled commercial flights…including by accepting “individual farepaying passengers….”, although limits on the number of flights will remain and BHAL say the number of flights will not significantly change. If the council rejects the request to vary the lease, BHAL will appeal to the Upper Tribunal.
A local group called Flightpath Watch is active in opposing changes to the airport that might increase noise (see logo above). There are also concerns about poor road access to the airport. Few people desire to turn Biggin Hill into another major London airport.
You can read the full details and likely council response here: https://tinyurl.com/jsaxubr4 . Local residents who are concerned should make representations to the council or their local councillors on this matter.
Comment: The case for changing the lease as desired by BHAL appears unjustified although some change may be acceptable. But it is not totally clear why BHAL requires the proposed change. I recommend opposition unless the case for change is made more evident.
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The big news last week was the Appeal Court Decision to uphold the challenge by environmental groups to the approval of a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport by the Government.
The basis for the Court’s decision was that the Government had ignored their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce carbon emissions. The Government denies that they had but have decided not to appeal the decision. However Heathrow Airport itself is to appeal to the Supreme Court as they believe they can meet the objections. The Appeal Court did not overturn previous High Court rejection of other challenges over air and noise pollution, traffic, and the cost of the runway so it’s not exactly a clear-cut victory.
However Boris Johnson has previously opposed the third runway perhaps because his Parliamentary constituency is Uxbridge which is badly affected by aircraft noise so it may be a convenient decision for him. It will avoid him having to lie down in front of bulldozers to stop it as he previously promised. One commentator described him as acting like Pontius Pilate, i.e. looking the other way and washing his hands of the matter.
So far as drivers are concerned this is surely good news. This is what I said in a previous blog post after the Government said it was pushing ahead in 2016: “It will bring major challenges to the road network because the new runway will have to run over the M25. So that will likely have to be moved into a tunnel. In addition the western side of the M25 is one of the most congested parts of the UK road network already and the extra traffic generated by Heathrow expansion will make that even worse. So widening of both the M25 and M4 is probably required. The costs of those improvements could be over £3 billion and it could take over 6 years to implement with no doubt a lot of traffic disruption while it is being built.
In addition the extra aircraft movements and more traffic will have negative environmental impacts in both air pollution and noise.
Comment: this was surely one of the worst decisions ever made by a UK Government. There were a number of better alternatives for airport expansion, including the encouragement of the use of other regional airports. Why does the whole country find it necessary to travel through Heathrow when smaller airports are altogether easier to use?”
Residents of West London will no doubt be overjoyed by this decision as they are badly affected by aircraft noise which certainly would be made worse by the extra flights a third runway would mean. Aircraft noise from Heathrow even affects distant parts of London such as the South-East to which this writer can personally testify.
Will this legal decision impact other transport projects such as HS2 (an environmental disaster on several grounds) or road building schemes? Not necessarily because the Government always has ultimate authority and can override any commitment to the Paris Agreement if they wished by an Act of Parliament and the Appeal Court legal decision is about the decision process used, i.e. it’s a technical issue in essence. However the Government has made the unwise decision to commit to zero carbon by 2050 which is both irrational and unaffordable in this writer’s view. UK policies will have very little impact on global CO2 emissions even if you accept that CO2 levels affect climate change (as opposed to vice versa) which many people do not.
However the environmental lobby is having a major impact on national and local policies. This is what ABD Environment Spokesman Paul Biggs recently said in a press release: “People don’t realise the costs in terms of money, jobs and freedom of travel that they will start to face in the near future from eco-austerity policies unashamedly aimed at the totalitarian control of every aspect of our lives without having any positive effect on weather, climate, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, or life expectancy. The computer model-dependent climate death cult is a gift to a cross-party political class elite that are financially and socially insulated from a net zero agenda waved through Parliament without debate or an estimate of the real costs involved. Voters will eventually vent their anger outside of selective, anti-democratic, brainwashing ‘Climate Assemblies.’ We have a Democracy Emergency, not a Climate Emergency.”
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Heathrow Airport has announced a public consultation on its plans to expand by building a third runway. This will require diversion of the M25 into a tunnel over which the new runway will be built.
The western side of the M25 is one of the busiest sections of the national motorway network and has regular congestion at present. The additional traffic generated by the airport expansion plus the construction traffic and the disruption caused by the diversion is surely going to make congestion worse both in the short term and long term.
In addition the additional planes flying in and out of the airport will add to air pollution in the area which is already one of the worse such spots in London. The airport plans “no significant increase in parking at the airport despite the scale of growth” which seems somewhat unrealistic. But they plan to deter people from driving to the airport by introducing a ULEZ charge for most visitors. Effectively folks using vehicles will be targeted as a way to offset the additional emissions from planes.
As regards the general merits of expanding the airport, the ABD has no official stance as there are differing opinions on the subject. But the impact on the M25 and surrounding roads will clearly be negative and should be opposed.
Boris Johnson, our potential future Prime Minister, is drawing up plans to have an independent review of HS2 which many people oppose. But it is likely to be run by Douglas Oakervee who chaired HS2 between 2012 and 2013. This looks like a future “whitewash” and a sop to those who oppose HS2 on economic and environmental grounds.
Heathrow airport has announced plans for a charge on some cars and PHVs from 2022. It will apply to those that enter the airport to park or drop off passengers. The charge could be as much as £15 and will be similar to the central London ULEZ charge – in other words focussed on older petrol vehicles and diesels more than 4 years old that are not Euro 6 compliant. Just like the ULEZ, it will apply every day and 24 hours per day. Black cabs will be exempt.
The airport claims this will be used to fund public transport improvements. They also say that road transport is the main source of local air pollution but according to AutoExpress Heathrow Airport had greenhouse gas emissions of around two million tonnes of CO2 in 2017, 1.3 million tonnes of which came from planes taking off and landing.
Comment: It seems exceedingly unlikely that the contribution to air pollution of road vehicles actually going to and from London Airport is significant in comparison with that spewed out by the numerous jet planes taking off and landing. There is also the adjacent traffic with high numbers of HGVs and buses on the M25, M4 and M3 which have nothing to do with the airport and this charge will have no impact on them. Meanwhile the airport is planning to increase flights from the existing runways and wants to open a third runway as soon as possible. If they really wanted to reduce air pollution in this area then they have an easy solution – halt the expansion of the airport.
Penalising those vehicle owners who purchased cars that were perfectly legal at the time is unfair and unreasonable. Diesel cars were encouraged by the Government to reduce CO2 emissions but buyers are now being targeted. Like the central London ULEZ, this scheme just looks like an excuse to raise money from vehicle users by suggesting it will cut air pollution when it will have no significant impact. It’s a pointless gesture which will cost some drivers a great deal.
The SUN newspaper has reported on the concerns of London drivers over the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) under the headline “FUMING!”. The article says that London diesel motorists will have to buy a new car or face paying thousands in a new pollution tax – see https://www.thesun.co.uk/motors/8241278/motorists-new-car-pollution-tax/ . The article includes good quotes from me and from Howard Cox, Gareth Bacon and Shaun Bailey.
Interesting to note that TfL previously claimed that the capital cost of extending the ULEZ to the North/South Circular was £38 million. But it seems that TfL Manager Paul Cowperthwaite is now suggesting it could be between £90 million and £130 million. On a cost/benefit analysis that will make it even more uneconomic than was even forecast previously (see our previous articles on that issue). Mr Cowperthwaite’s comments about the alleged air quality crisis and his estimate of what it costs are just figments of his imagination that bear no relation to reality. As I am quoted in the SUN article, “The ULEZ is a giant con to raise more taxes to fix the Mayor’s budget problems”.
A big contributor to air pollution, particularly in west London is from aircraft landing and taking off at Heathrow airport. The airport is planning to increase the number of such aircraft numbers even prior to their proposed construction of a third runway. They plan to do this by using new technology to alternate runway use. This could mean an additional 25,000 flights per year with the associated pressure on the road network as most passengers arrive via vehicles.
It may also mean more aircraft noise affected more London residents as landing and take-off flight paths will change. There will still be no ban on night flights that disturb residents. Will the Mayor and TfL be objecting? I hope so.