Airport boom warning from CPRE chief

COUNTRYSIDE campaigner Sir Max Hastings has warned the South-East could become a "vast aircraft carrier" if the Government goes ahead with airport expansion plans.

By Jonathan Barnes

COUNTRYSIDE campaigner Sir Max Hastings has warned the South-East could become a "vast aircraft carrier" if the Government goes ahead with airport expansion plans.

Sir Max, who is president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), urged people to join the fight against the proposed development.

Public consultation has ended on proposals for expansion at Stansted Airport, where up to three new runways could be built.

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The CPRE has warned a plane every minute could be routed through the region's flight paths within 30 years if the plans become a reality, with hundreds of thousands of people "seriously affected" by aircraft noise.

Sir Max said: "The Government's forecasts for massive expansion in air travel now represent one of the biggest threats facing the countryside.

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"The South-East would become little more than a vast aircraft carrier if the airlines have their way, while the rest of the country could have unacceptable airport expansion thrust upon it.

"I urge everyone who hasn't to write to their MP and the Government now to express their concerns."

Sir Max's warning comes as Transport Secretary Alistair Darling addresses a major conference on air transport in London today, organised by influential think tank IPPR.

Paul Hamblin, head of transport policy for the CPRE, is also speaking at today's conference.

He will say: "The Government's consultation on air transport has aimed to work out where unacceptable environmental damage will occur when it should have been about how to avoid that damage by managing the forecast growth in air travel.

"Ministers argue that the Air Transport White Paper should balance economic, social and environmental concerns.

"But whether you are concerned for rural economies, the quality of life for communities up and down the land or the future tranquillity of the countryside – tackling the growth in aviation is a must."

High-profile figures such as former Beirut hostage Terry Waite and television chef Jamie Oliver have joined the fight against expansion at Stansted Airport.

Opponents to the plans launched the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign to lobby the Government to drop the plans.

But Terry Morgan, BAA Stansted managing director, said: "We believe that three more runways will be needed in the South East over the next 30 years to meet future demand and at least one should be at Stansted.

"Flying is now looked upon as a form of public transport. We cannot go back to the days when flying was limited to the rich and privileged.

"All the runway proposals put forward by the Government should be considered against 11 key tests including fair and just compensation for those affected and tough environmental targets – it's not development at any cost."

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