Council directors’ body ADEPT has called for a national strategy on aviation to address both climate change and the economy.
The call came after last week’s court ruling that the Government's support for Heathrow Airport expansion was unlawful, as it failed to take into account the Paris Agreement climate commitments, but before the collapse on Thursday of regional airline Flybe, despite promised government help.
ADEPT said its 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 it has left the EU.
It added however that it must also take into account climate change commitments.
It pointed out that 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.
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.’
Adept said that 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’.
It said its paper sets out the 'the need to balance environmental costs with the economic benefits of aviation growth at the top of the list [and] recognises the significant impact aviation has on the environment, but acknowledges that aviation is inextricably linked with economic growth’.
Prior to the collapse of Flybe, it said its precarious situation showed the importance of flight to the regional economy with regional airports providing economic clusters and supporting wide transformational benefits - and the willingness of the Government to step in.
ADEPT said it has also set out what needs to change with a key recommendation being around a focus on regional hubs, using existing aviation infrastructure as testbeds for innovation and driving sustainable change.
It added that it believed collaboration between all elements of the aviation sector – commercial, government, local authorities and sub-national transport bodies – are needed to balance business, environmental, economic and community needs.
It pointed out that there are limited mechanisms in place to track the long-term sustainability of the sector ‘so targets, performance tracking and corrective actions need to be implemented’.