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ADEPT calls for national strategy on aviation

27 February 2020

In the wake of the Appeal Court’s decision that plans for the third runway at Heathrow were unlawful, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) has called for a national strategy on the aviation sector to tackle both climate change and the economy in a new paper on aviation, published today.

‘The Future of Aviation’ policy challenge paper argues that the aviation industry is an essential part of the transport mix and is vital to the UK remaining an economically outward-looking, trading nation now that we have left the EU, but that it must also take into account climate change commitments.

The Heathrow decision is not the first UK decision against expansion. North Somerset Council refused a planning application to enable the expansion of Bristol Airport earlier this month. With 270 local authorities having declared climate emergencies to date, straightforward economic arguments no longer dominate the decision making-process for local councillors, at least. An airport’s impact goes far wider than its boundary fence.

The paper clearly sets out the challenges facing the aviation industry, with the need to balance environmental costs with the economic benefits of aviation growth at the top of the list. It recognises the significant impact aviation has on the environment, but acknowledges that aviation is inextricably linked with economic growth. 

The situation with Flybe showed the importance of flight to the regional economy - regional airports provide economic clusters and support wide transformational benefits - and the willingness of the Government to step in. Oxford Economics1, estimated that London Luton Airport supported 27,500 jobs, including account direct employment (9,900 jobs), positions in the supply chain and induced employment and contributed approx. £1.8bn to UK GDP in 2017. 

ADEPT also sets out what needs to change. A key recommendation is around a focus on regional hubs, using existing aviation infrastructure as testbeds for innovation and driving sustainable change. 

For ADEPT, collaboration between all elements of the aviation sector – commercial, government, local authorities and sub-national transport bodies - is needed to balance business, environmental, economic and community needs. Currently there are only limited mechanisms in place to track the long-term sustainability of the sector so targets, performance tracking and corrective actions need to be implemented.

Mark Kemp, Chair of ADEPT’s Transport and Connectivity Board said: “The Appeal Court’s decision on Heathrow expansion shows how much climate change will impact on the aviation sector. Aviation needs to deliver on any promises linked to expansion, particularly on air quality and noise reduction and to mitigate the impacts on local communities and the environment. Alongside the North Somerset decision, it is apparent how much attitudes to airport expansion are changing. A national strategy would set out a clear vision for a more sustainable aviation sector, benefitting the country, the environment, industry and local authorities.”