aircraft taking off

Aviation policy aims to balance growth and environment

The UK Government has urged airlines to become 'greener', adding that it supports aviation growth but not "at any price".

The aviation industry needs to do more not only on emissions but also on noise, said Transport Secretary Philip Hammond.

The Government has already ruled out an extra third runway at Heathrow and is opposed to additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted airports.

Launching a 'scoping document' designed to seek views on a new aviation policy, Mr Hammond said: "We are not anti-aviation, we are anti-carbon."

He went on: "We are firmly focused on the benefits aviation can bring, particularly in terms of economic growth. But we are not prepared to support growth at any price.

"The aviation industry needs to do more, not just on emissions but also in terms of its other environmental impacts, particularly noise. The current pace of technological change is not fast enough to reconcile growth on the scale of recent years with meeting our climate change targets or, in relation to some airports, our aspirations on local environmental impacts."

Mr Hammond said aviation should be able to grow, but to do so, it had to "play its part in delivering our environmental goals and protecting the quality of life of local communities".

He added he wanted to move on beyond the "increasingly polarised" debate on aviation towards "a broader consensus which honestly recognises both the value of air transport and its negative impacts and is prepared to agree the framework within which aviation can develop".

The new policy framework will replace the Labour Government's 2003 aviation White Paper which supported runway expansion at Stansted and, later, at Heathrow.

Mr Hammond said the White Paper was "fundamentally out of date because it fails to give sufficient weight to the challenge of climate change".

The scoping document is intended to define the debate on aviation policy. Those involved in the aviation industry are being asked to answer a series of questions addressing three themes: the economy, climate change and the local environment. Explicitly excluded are questions of economic regulation, aviation safety and security regulation, to avoid duplicating work that is already being taken forward elsewhere.

Those involved in the aviation industry are being asked, within the document, to answer a series of questions about the industry's future.

Views are being invited until the end of September. A draft aviation policy framework will then be published for consultation in March 2012, with a view to formal adoption by March 2013.

Welcoming the consultation, Colin Matthews, chief executive of airport operator BAA, said: "Aviation plays a vital role in supporting the economy and we're looking forward to helping the Government set a clear trajectory for how international transport can support the Chancellor's framework for growth while meeting the strict environmental targets we have signed up to.

"To do this it is vital we look at every option possible for supporting growth. As an island, air links with the emerging world will be vital to our future so we hope the study will provide businesses and travellers with certainty around the future of our global links."

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "While we are encouraged to see the Government acknowledging the importance of aviation for economic growth in the UK, the document fails to set out a clear plan as to how we can build our aviation capacity in the months and years ahead. Britain's status as an international business hub is under threat while our European competitors are leading the way.

"High-speed rail will help promote connectivity between the UK and the continent, but this is not enough. If businesses are to export successfully to emerging markets around the world, and the UK remain an attractive destination for both business and tourism, we need strong airline links."

Ian Godden, chairman of aerospace trade organisation ADS, said: "The UK is an aviation economy already and the industry is working hard to make itself even greener. For the country's economy to grow it needs a sustainable, long-term aviation growth policy and without it the UK will consign itself to lower overall economic growth and second-tier status in Europe.

"The Government's policy should reflect this fact because aviation is a high growth sector and the UK will miss out on the economic benefits if it is distracted by the fog of environmentalism and nimbyism from the opponents of flying.

"Furthermore," Godden added, "a competitive, fully effective civil aviation sector in the UK is essential for social and business reasons - from trade to culture and from education to family."

The consultation document is available on the Department for Transport website.

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