The new Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has wasted little time in making his contribution to the incoherent Government approach to climate change and environmental protection. Today Mr Hoon and Hazel Blears, Communities Secretary, have approved BAA’s plans to increase the cap in passenger numbers at Stansted Airport.
This is an odd move given that the Government’s advisors on climate change raised concerns earlier this week about the climate change impacts of aviation. It sounds like the climate change issue doesn’t apply to the Department for Transport. Indeed there is one standout sentence in the decision letter, paragraph 23 where it actually states:
“The Secretaries of State note that neither the Planning Bill nor Climate Change Bill have been enacted, and afford them little weight, as they might be subject to change. “
The Climate Change Bill may well be subject to change but it won’t be in a way which makes it OK to continue to ignore the need for emissions reductions – it will be, if anything, more stringent in its targets. The idea of affording the Government’s climate change policy which is being pursued through the climate change bill “little weight” is bizarre.
It’s worth remembering that one of the reasons Uttlesford District Council initially turned down the planning application was due to the impacts on climate change – the local council understood the conflicts with climate change policy, but the Transport Secretary doesn’t. Perhaps Mr Hoon hasn’t quite grasped the urgency of addressing climate change or perhaps his head has been turned by a flawed economic argument, but whatever the reason this is a bad move environmentally.
Aside from the climate change impacts, we’re concerned that this gives BAA encouragement to press ahead with its other planning application for a new second runway at the airport – a second runway which would destroy five irreplaceable ancient woods. The plans to expand permitted passenger numbers simply increases the pressure on decision makers to roll over and let BAA go ahead with its destructive plans for a second runway. This will all come to a head at a public inquiry next year and anyone who cares about climate change and environmental protection will have to be ready to make their voices heard then.
You can read all the documents relating to the Inspector’s conclusions and the decision letter here