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PM lands at Birmingham Airport as it fights to keep second runway plan alive

PM lands at Birmingham Airport as it fights to keep second runway plan alive

🕔03.Apr 2014

Birmingham Airport, which has had a Prime Ministerial visit today, may lose the chance to build a second runway because land earmarked for the project is at risk of being swallowed up by commercial development.

The airport wants the Government to safeguard the site by preventing the land, which is close to the planned HS2 interchange station, from being built on when high speed rail arrives in 2026.

The request is contained in an official response to the Airport Commission’s Interim Report into Airport Capacity and Connectivity in the UK, which recommended one additional runway in the South-east of England by 2030 and investigating the possibility of building a new London airport in the Thames Estuary.

The commission rejected expansion at Birmingham Airport in the short term, although added that a second runway should remain a possibility in long term particularly in the light of the arrival of HS2 trains.

In its submission to the Commission, the airport states: “Birmingham Airport welcomes the fact that the Interim Report identifies Birmingham Airport as a key airport for delivering aviation capacity in the short-medium term as well as highlighting our long-term vision for a second runway were we to need to deliver additional capacity beyond 2040.

“However, this acknowledgement does not represent a long-term, Government-supported strategy and the resultant uncertainty means that it would be much more difficult for the airport to officially safeguard the site and surrounding land where the runway would be located under the terms of the Town and Country Planning (Safeguarded Aerodromes, Technical Sites and Military Explosives Storage Areas) Direction 2002.

“The 2003 White Paper highlighted the need for provision of a second runway on the west side of the Airport. This development is likely to be less tenable now, due to the success of manufacturing near the site, and the need for industrial expansion.

“The new vision for a second runway is a particular issue as the site is close to HS2 and the proposed Birmingham Interchange Station. Without safeguarding through Government support, this area is likely to be an area that will come under pressure to be developed for other commercial uses.

“The lack of a Government supported long-term strategy therefore means that the opportunity to expand Birmingham Airport on this site to meet recognised future aviation capacity issues could be permanently lost. We therefore call on the Airports Commission to consider and make recommendations to Government on the best way to ensure that future airport development is safeguarded.”

Birmingham Airport also takes the Commission to task over the way the interim report was produced and objects to the way proposals for further research into the recommendations have been framed.

The Commission is accused of using inappropriate economic modelling to produce its recommendations favouring runway development in London and the South-east. The result was bound to preserve the status quo and come down against developing regional airports like Birmingham, it is claimed.

Birmingham’s runway extension, operational from May 1 and inspected by the Prime Minister today, along with other infrastructure improvement could enable the airport to increase the number of passengers from nine million to 36 million a year. That figure could increase to 70 million passengers a year if a second runway was built, it is claimed.

Phase Two of the Commission’s work will look in detail at the economic impact of building an additional runway in the South-east. According to Birmingham Airport, this is a mistake.

The Airport has written to the Commission: “We believe that sequencing it in this way places the cart before the horse and that the economic impact should have been the first consideration and a major factor on which the long-term options were short-listed.

“We would like to understand why the Commission has ruled out a more comprehensive evaluation of the economic impact of solutions elsewhere; this certainly appears to be at odds with any aspiration to rebalance the UK economy.

“The objective for the Commission’s local economy impacts assessment module is purely related to promoting employment and growth in the vicinity of the short-listed scheme. Whilst this is important, undertaking only scheme-specific local economic assessments means that the only local economic impact assessment that the Commission is undertaking is in the South East – where all of the short-listed schemes are based – and it therefore does nothing to further our understanding of our potential long-term aviation policy’s impact on regional economies across the UK.”

The response also criticises the Commission for failing to take into account the positive impact that HS2 will have on Birmingham Airport: “To fail to sufficiently consider the range of scenarios that the construction of HS2 could have on airport accessibility, and simply postpone consideration of its impact until after HS2 is built, seems to seriously undermine the validity of the Commission’s findings and the DfT’s very own concept of an integrated transport network.”

Birmingham Airport is calling for “ten actions” from the Airports Commission:

  1. To provide evidence on how our aviation sector will deliver for the whole of the UK economy, and how any additional capacity will reinforce growth across the UK and not just in the South East.
  2. To undertake local economic assessments of the impact of short-listed options on economies across the UK, not just those in the vicinity of the short-listed options (in the South East).
  3. To consider the implications of the make-up of the “short-list” in reaching its short-medium term objectives of making the most of spare capacity at airports across the UK.
  4. To take a more granular approach to the economic inputs used to inform the demand modelling that the Airports Commission undertook in order to help it form its assumptions and generate the short-list.
  5. To provide the justifications as to how its interim findings are going to be to the benefit of the industry’s consumers across the UK.
  6. To release the legal advice it was given on the fifth freedom rules and to consider the implications.
  7. To give more consideration to the benefits of regional APD based on the model on which the Commission formed its conclusions.
  8. To commission further scenario planning into the effect of high-speed rail services on airport passenger distribution, globally, and to weigh the evidence provided in consideration of its final report.
  9. To publish the evidence on which deliberative judgements on issues around airlines and alliances were made.
  10. To consider and make recommendations to Government on the best way to ensure that future airport development is safeguarded as critical strategic national infrastructure.

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