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Hundreds of thousands of homeowners near Britain's most congested airports will all suffer another two decades of b...
Hundreds of thousands of homeowners near Britain's most congested airports will all suffer another two decades of blight and uncertainty after the government publishes its aviation white paper next week, the Strategic Aviation Special Interest Group (SASIG) has warned.

SASIG, a Local Government Association group which represents some 70 local authorities, said that next week's announcement by transport secretary Alistair Darling, which is supposed to decide the future of airports for the next 30 years, will do nothing of the sort.

'Instead of bringing certainty to communities near airports, the White Paper will only increase uncertainty,' said Richard Worrall, chairman of SASIG.

'There will be no clear decision taken next week, but only dithering. The White Paper will do nothing to assure those living near Stansted, Heathrow or Gatwick airports, all of which could be expanded over the next 20 years. Whatever is said next week, it is likely that nothing will be permanently ruled out. No-one will know which airport will actually be expanded first.'

It has been predicted that the government might tell the aviation industry that a new runway at Heathrow cannot be sanctioned until air pollution levels can be controlled. The government also seem likely to abide by the legal agreement that there should be no new runway at Gatwick until 2019 - so that leaves Stansted the open door through which the airlines are saying they will not pass.

Mr Worrall added: 'By fiddling with expansion of existing airports, ministers thought they were going for an easy option. In fact, they have found each option very difficult and could well take no firm decision on any of them. This will blight the lives of hundreds of thousands of people for many years - as public inquiry after public inquiry is fought. Ministers should have gone for a bold, fresh start by building a new airport that would have spared the Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick communities increased noise, air pollution and traffic.'

SASIG has campaigned for a new airport rather than expand existing south-east airports, but criticised the government for failing to publicise possible options in north Kent that have been shown to be superior to any other solution.

Mr Worrall expressed his amazement that so little interest has been shown in a new airport. 'When the government put Cliffe in the consultation frame they gave us an option that was bound to fail. I have been delighted that several developers have come up with better proposals but so few people have had chance to comment on them. That must be put right.'

Explaining the concept he continued, 'A new airport would give the passengers all the benefits of easy access and a pleasant travelling experience. Gone would be the overcrowded conditions we have tolerated for so long. The aviation industry could operate for longer hours - removing the misery of night flights from our urban areas.'

He continued, 'I believe that the government should signal support for a new airport, then private sector finance would be available for the construction - and the BAA monopoly would be broken. That can only be good for the public.'

SASIG told the government over a year ago that the right policy for the UK was to have controlled and carefully planned growth of the regional airports but coupled with a new airport to serve the London area. Any airport growth, if it is to give us the economic benefits, should be in an area designated for major growth - such as the Thames Gateway. A new airport will provide much needed jobs, suddenly make the area attractive to major investors and international companies and make use of the spare capacity on the country's newest and best railway line. There are no major problems to the construction of a new airport in that area that cannot be overcome.

SASIG has already told the minister that the aviation White Paper must meet several powerful tests.

In summary they are:

-- A 30 to 50 year robust s trategy for the UK, based on growth to 500 mppa by 2030

-- Net economic benefits to be no more important than social and environmental costs

-- Regions to claw back passengers from London

-- National airport policies to be implemented through Regional Spatial Strategies

-- Airport growth must be in priority investment areas so as to capture economic benefits

-- Transport modes must be integrated

-- The impact on those living near airports is more important than the convenience of those flying

-- Residents near airports are more important than wildlife and ecology

-- Irreplaceable ancient woodland and listed buildings are more important than features that can be moved or substituted

-- Night landings and take-offs should be phased out, unless over the sea or of minimal impact

-- No noise sensitive development near airports

'Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick all fail the basic tests. Yet if the government now give the go-ahead to another runway at Stansted, there will be renewed pressure from the aviation industry - sooner or later - to have one at Heathrow and then at Gatwick. 'Relentless and insidious growth is no long term strategy,' commented Mr Worrall.

He concluded: 'Everyone has put enormous effort into helping the government find the right solution. If the government had wanted the past policies of incremental grow that existing airports to continue they shouldn't have wasted our time in the first place. There is still time for the government to show the vision that is needed to get the UK ahead of the world in aviation.'

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