It’s D-Day for Birmingham Airport this week, as the Diggers move in to start work on extending the runway, allegedly needed to accommodate long-haul flights.
Birmingham Friends of the Earth ran a long-running campaign against the extension of the airport, only for it to be given the go ahead on the basis of unfounded promises of job creation and massive benefits to the local economy.
Although Birmingham Friends of the Earth have known about this decision for a while, with planning permission being granted back in 2009 and the airport shareholders giving the final sign-off in March, it is still a sad sight to see the start of work on the extension.
This is a runway extension which does nothing for the local economy, contributes to the expansion of aviation at a time when Climate Change dictates that we need to reduce our air-dependency, and required a massive subsidy for an already over-subsidised industry.
Being able to fly to more places more often will simply increase the tourism deficit that in 2010 meant six times the number of Brits travelled abroad from Birmingham Airport than foreign leisure tourists arrived.
In order to be able to build the extension and contribute to this growing tourism deficit, the airport received a massive state subsidy, in addition to the usual subsidies the industry receives in the form of zero tax on fuel and no VAT on ticket sales.
The need for expanding air travel is much reduced in our era of advanced telecommunications, and we cannot go on growing air travel indefinitely so why don’t we stop now?
Let’s hope that the Draft Aviation Policy Framework results are better than the consultation premise of the need for more expansion, and there is a sensible approach to all future airport expansion proposals.
It is ironic that Birmingham Airports expansion starts at the same time as the international climate talks in Doha. Solutions to aviation’s increasing contribution to climate change will be discussed 4,000 miles away whilst the problem is exacerbated in our own back garden.