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|Airport expansion nightmare|
|Thursday, 21 July 2005 00:00|
The news that Southampton Airport is planning a massive increase in passenger numbers will be a nightmare for many Bitterne Park residents, who are already putting up with a summer of relentless landings and take-offs over their houses, from early in the morning to late at night.
The airport says in its 'draft master plan', out for public consultation until 31 October, that it anticipates passenger numbers will increase from today's 1.5 million to three million by 2015 — and to six million in 25 years' time.
The plan has been developed in response to the government's white paper, ‘The Future of Air Transport’, which requires airport operators such as BAA plc, which runs Southampton Airport, to outline their 'vision for growth' up to 2030.
The airport stresses that the number of flights is expected to increase at around half this rate, and it thinks aircraft engine technology will make progress in noise and emission reductions during this time. It will also continue its ban on night flights: an agreement with Eastleigh Borough Council means that scheduled flights currently stop at 11 pm. Flights start up into and out of the airport after 6 am, and after 7.30 am on Sundays.
Business organisations have welcomed the plans as a boost to jobs and the economy: BAA says by 2030 it will generate 4,000 jobs for local people and is predicting contributions to the regional economy of Ł260 million per year.
Noise hinders children's learning
But at what cost? In June medical journal The Lancet reported that children under flightpaths find learning to read harder, and they score less well in memory tests. The Lancet concluded that chronic exposure to aircraft noise had "deleterious effects on reading comprehension", and that "schools exposed to high levels of aircraft noise are not healthy educational environments." (Read a summary on the BBC website)
According to an Observer/ICM poll also published in June, which interviewed over a thousand adults across the UK, most Britons believe that there must be restrictions on cheap air travel if the increasing problem of global warming is going to be tackled. Most felt the governement should be setting the agenda.
John Denham, Labour MP for Southampton Itchen, says on his website: "Over the time that the Airport plans to treble the number of flights, climate change will really begin to bite across the south coast making some low lying areas very vulnerable. With all we know about climate change it seems very unlikely that the number of flights can possibly continue to increase without restraint.
"I accept the need for enough business flights to continue to attract employers into the area but I question whether the rapid growth in low cost flights can be sustained. I know that the low-cost flights are popular and have created a lot of jobs, but there comes a time when we have to ask whether the damage to our environment can be afforded.
"I am also disappointed that no attempt has been made to mitigate the effects of any expansion on the people living under the flight path. Some simple things, like moving the runway to the north could make a real difference but have been ignored."
He goes on say that Southampton City Council should campaign hard to represent local people, and not let Eastleigh Borough Council take all the decisions. Meanwhile the June/July issue of SCC's 'City View' magazine trumpets the ever-increasing number of routes from the airport, and the fact that more airlines are joining "Southampton's success story".
The cost of success
The immediate cost of this success story, for Southampton residents who are stuck with increasing numbers of planes flying over our back yards and our community, will surely be a significant increase in noise from flights - even if FlyBe is replacing its noisiest aircraft and even if there is progress with technology in the future.
The draft master plan makes depressing reading for Bitterne Park residents, and we must oppose it.
More information & contacts
Below is a brief collection of contacts and links with background information. There are many more in our other article here.
Find out more!
Read BAA's press release about their plan
Download the plan from BAA's site - pdf file
For other contacts see our other article here.
What are 'emissions trading schemes' - the favoured approach to reduce carbon emissions - governement website
Why emissions trading schemes are gambling with our climate - article by Tony Berkeley, member of the House of Lords, in the Observer
More about climate change: the Friends of the Earth's Big Ask campaign
Aircraft noise & schools in The Lancet and reported in The Guardian
Aviation noise: background information and history from politics.co.uk
Offset the carbon emissions of your flight by paying for the equivalent number of trees to be planted, at Future Forests, plus lots of further information on the subject