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CASE are local residents concerned about plans to expand Gloucestershire (Staverton) airport.

 

Website produced with the assistance of Cheltenham Friends of the Earth.

 

 

© CASE 2009

 

 

CASE

Answers to some Frequently Asked Questions

Would the airport have to close if their plans are not approved?
Isn't it a choice between more jets or thousands of home built on the site?
Will hundreds of jobs be lost if the airport is unable to expand?
Isn't it better to use a local airport?
The airport has been here longer that you, what right do you have to complain?
Aren't aircraft more fuel efficient than cars?
Aren't jet aircraft getting more efficient?
Surely emissions trading will sort this out?

Would the airport have to close if their plans are not approved?

No. The planning applications are designed to increase profits by allowing larger aircraft to use the airport, not keep the airport in business.

Financial consultant Mott MacDonald was commissioned by the Joint Airport Working Group to review the the airport five-year business plan. Mott MacDonald concluded that without making the planned changes "The airport should be able to continue as it is and probably break even on GA activity with its profit increasingly coming from the property portfolio income" (GA=General Aviation). The report goes on to say that "Runway length and enhanced navigational aids alone will not ensure the future commercial success of Gloucestershire Airport or any other airport – market opportunity appears to be the most significant determinant. Most significant market at the airport is currently test & training, aero club and private movements."

The airport is currently, and always has been, predominantly used by light aircraft. A dramatic increase in the proportion of jet aircraft using the site would represent a significant change in the nature of the noise and pollution generated by the site. This change is not necessary to ensure the viability of the airport.

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Isn't it a choice between more jets or thousands of home built on the site?

No. Firstly, the airport would not be forced to close if the planning applications are not permitted, and could carry on much as it has done for years. Secondly, even if the airport did close, the land would still be designated as green belt. This would make it extremely difficult to develop the land. We accept that some of the land could be used commercially, and some for housing, but the majority could remain as green space in the green belt.

In fact, Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce have been reported as wanting “pressure on local authorities to release land around the Staverton site for business development” (Echo Business, Tues 28th August 2007– “New air service takes to skies”). It seems that Michael Ratcliffe, Chief Executive of the Chamber is intent on developing a substantial chunk of the greenbelt to support the expanded airport.

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Will hundreds of jobs be lost if the airport is unable to expand?

No. We have seen no evidence that jobs would be lost if the airport was unable to expand. The latest figures we have show that Gloucestershire Airport itself employs 28 people.

The number of jobs in the vicinity of the airport which are not directly linked to the operation of the airport greatly exceeds those which are directly associated with the airport. Many companies for whom the presence of the airport was once a crucial location criterion now make no use of the airport. For example, two large local aerospace companies Messier (Dowty) and Smiths Aerospace now have no operational linkage with the airport. We also understand that neither of these companies, or GCHQ, uses the airport to bring in investors, customers or suppliers.

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Isn't it better to use a local airport?

It is often argued that it is better to fly from a local airport rather than create emissions driving to Heathrow, but this argument contains a few errors:

1. because the climate change effect of car driving is less per passenger kilometre than flying, for any destinations east of Gloucester, it is better to drive eastwards as far as possible before flying – so less miles are flown

2. expansion of Gloucester will not reduce flights from other airports– in fact all UK airports are aiming to massively increase passengers and flights, and increasing local capacity will just increase total flights, not shift them from other airports

3. the emissions produced reaching Heathrow, say, are far lower than the emissions from a flight, so it is disingenuous to have a massive increase in total flights to save this small fraction from the car journeys

4. many low cost flights from regional airports fly to airports that are remote from the actual destination the passenger is trying to reach – so even if you save car journey at the UK end you may increase transfer emissions at the other end

5. public transport links to Heathrow and other London airports are often better than the links to regional airports, so you may not even need to drive to those airports

6. If the final destination is not directly reachable from Gloucestershire Airport then this would mean flying first to a intermediate hub, for instance Heathrow, not only may this add extra flying miles (if the hub does not lie on a direct line with the final destination) but also doubles the number of take-offs and landings, greatly increasing the emissions. It is far better to fly direct from another airport in these circumstances.

It is of no environmental benefit to expand regional airports, especially when this means an increase in total flights and emissions. It would be better to discourage short haul flights that are filling up Heathrow (in favour of high speed rail, video conferencing and holidays in the UK) so that the capacity can be used for longer flights to avoid use of intermediate hubs and avoid expanding all regional airports.

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The airport has been here longer that you, what right do you have to complain?

The airport has been here longer that (almost) all of us, does that mean that we have no right to object to a significant increase in the nuisance? If the plans are approved the airport will then be able to press ahead, possibly changing beyond recognition, replacing predominantly light aircraft with much larger jet aircraft.

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Aren't aircraft more fuel efficient than cars?

Airlines claim that flying is the most fuel efficient way to travel, but this is not strictly true, nor is it the whole picture. They compare the fuel use of a car with that of a plane, but tend to use a high consumption car with a single passenger versus the most efficient plane fully loaded. The fuel consumption of a car does not go up much with more passengers (as long as its tyres are at the correct pressure), that of a plane does increase with load during take-off and landing but much less so during cruising. Planes are far more efficient whilst cruising than during take-off so the longer the flight the better the figures look. But most flights are “short haul” and the take-off is a very significant element of the fuel consumption.

The average fuel consumption of a new car is currently 9.6 litres per 100km (with the best cars being 5.4 litres per 100 km). If such a car carried 4 people this makes 2.4 litres of fuel per 100 passenger km. The average fuel consumption for flights in the US is around 4.4 litres per 100 passenger km. So even on this measure it is obvious that planes are not remarkably more efficient than cars. Take-off accounts for a large amount of fuel use, perhaps 20-30% for short haul flights, and this increases the average fuel consumption for these flights considerably.

It is also not relevant to compare with cars – the comparison should be made with trains instead. The typical consumption for a train is 1.25 litres per 100 passenger km – and can be far better than this with more modern trains and tracks and high occupancy. Many of the short-haul flights within the UK and Europe can realistically be replaced with trains, and when the check-in, baggage collection and transfer times are taken into account – train journeys can often be quicker than the equivalent flights.

Fuel consumption is not the whole picture – because planes fly high in the atmosphere it is not just the carbon dioxide they emit that contributes to climate change. These other gases increase the effect of the fuel use by 2 or more times. Overall this makes flying 7 to 10 times worse for the environment than using a train.

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Aren't jet aircraft getting more efficient?

Planes designs are getting slowly more fuel efficient – due to better engines, drag coefficient and lighter materials. But the rate of improvement is very slow, around 1% per year. Most improvement comes on the introduction of a radically new design, for instance the A380 (first commercial flight 2007?) is 12% more efficient than the 747-400 (first commercial flight1989), i.e. 12% improvement in 18 years. Many of these newer designs are irrelevant to Staverton as they are too big to use the airport. The design life for new planes is over 30 years and an airline needs to fly planes for a very large fraction of this time to afford to buy them. This means that it is unlikely that technical improvements will be deployed even at a 1% rate.

Jet aircraft are only now reaching the level of efficiencies that propeller aircraft had in the early 1960's – the difference being that jets are larger, faster and have a longer range, meaning more people can fly further and more often – all of which increase emissions.

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Surely emissions trading will sort this out?

Both the Government and the aviation industry are in favour of massive expansion in aviation (growing from 200 million passengers per year in 2005 to 500 million in 2030) and including aviation inside the European Trading System (ETS) for greenhouse gas emissions. The ETS currently covers the dirtier industries (e.g. coal fired power generation) and causes those industries to buy permits to emit pollution at a cost of around £9 per tonne currently. The idea is that over time the number of permits will reduce and hence the cost will go up and this will cause those industries to get more efficient or swap over to more renewable technologies. It also allows those industries to buy permits from clean sectors for instance wind farms create credits, and this helps to improve the economics of those cleaner sectors.

However, it is not currently clear that this system is actually delivering cuts in emissions – rather it has generated a huge trade in dubious credits and the price of permits is so low that it does not act as a significant incentive to change. To make this system work requires a much tighter control on permits and credits, a lower supply overall and hence higher prices – it is not clear if and when this will occur.

The aviation industry wants to be included in this system but ONLY for its increase in emissions after it joins (i.e. not its very significant current emissions, just the extra ones). It has also delayed the process of joining so that it can expand massively first – i.e. the amount it plans on being charged for is reducing with each passing year. It also wants to be in the same marketplace as other sectors. Because aviation is highly profitable due to advantageous tax treatment it will be far better placed to buy permits than other industries – hence its success in buying permits will cause the costs to all other sectors of the economy to rise.

If the number of permits is strictly limited then this may mean that other sectors will not be able to get sufficient permits for their operations and this will force them to make huge investments to change to other energy sources OR to go out of business.

If aviation is to be allowed into the ETS as its main form of emissions control, then it should have a separately allocated set of permits, should have to pay for its whole emissions not just the extra ones after joining, and should have a level tax regime with other industries to avoid inequitable allocation of permits.

And in the meantime, because this will not happen until 2012 at the earliest, the tax subsidy should be revised to make ticket prices reflect environmental costs.

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