Airport plans 'would damage countryside'

NEW airport plans threaten "vast and sprawling" damage to the countryside, rural campaigners warn in a report released today .The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has published data which it claims shows the threat to the environment if proposed airports were built and others expanded.

By Jonathan Barnes

NEW airport plans threaten "vast and sprawling" damage to the countryside, rural campaigners warn in a report released today .

The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has published data which it claims shows the threat to the environment if proposed airports were built and others expanded.

Plans floated by the Government to build three more runways at Stansted Airport would cause "huge damage" to the surrounding area, the CPRE has warned.


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Andrew Critchell, the CPRE's Aviation Campaigner, said: "There has been much discussion about the environmental costs of individual airports and runways.

"But when all this potential damage is totalled up the impacts are vast. Existing towns, villages and huge swathes of countryside are under threat."

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The CPRE's case is based on the Government's own assessment of damage and impact as described in the four Regional Air Study documents for England.

If the new runways at Stansted are built, it warns of a "devastating" impact on the local countryside as a consequence.

The claims include a rise in passengers from 12m a year to 122m a year and a requirement for 83,000 new properties to house airport workers.

Those affected by noise pollution would rise by 22,000 to 28,000, the CPRE claim, while 300 people would be exposed to air pollution above legal limits.

Development would mean the loss of 1,200 acres of agricultural land, while 747 acres of a countryside protection zone around the airport would be lost.

Half of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Elsenham Woods, would make way for the runways and 64 Grade II listed buildings would be under threat.

Road improvements would include dual carriageway access to the east of the A120 and to the north of the M11, strategic road improvements to the M25, A10 and A120, and a widening of the M11 between junctions six and eight.

The CPRE's data also suggests the new development at Stansted would demand so much water that it would outstrip local supply.

Mr Critchell said: "There is a threat of huge damage at Stansted, not just from direct expansion of the airport, spreading out to a huge area of surrounding countryside. The Government has got to ask itself whether such massive expansion is desirable."

The CPRE analysis underlines the all-encompassing nature of airport development, with its associated sprawl of new hotels, car parks, warehouses, motorway widening schemes and housing.

The national picture highlights 44 wildlife sites, seven Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 28 square kilometres of Green Belt and 319 listed buildings at risk from the combined developments.

The CPRE, which is campaigning for an environmentally sustainable air transport policy, said the scale of damage caused by some expansion options could be greater than the Government's assessments.

It added that recent modelling by the Department of Transport's supercomputer had shown that, by ending the industry's massive tax exemptions, no new runways would be needed in the next 30 years, even with continuing growth in air travel.

The CPRE urged Ministers drawing up the Government's Air Transport White Paper to:

- End tax exemptions and introduce taxes or charges to ensure that the air transport industry pays for the environmental and social costs it imposes on society;

- Introduce measures to manage the demand for air travel and improve the efficiency of aircraft and airports;

- Promote the use of high speed rail to reduce short-haul and domestic flights.

Mr Critchell said: "The threat to our countryside from new runways is unprecedented and their impact will not stop at the airport's boundary fence.

"It is vital that people write to their MP and express their views now."

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