Third runway may be built (2002)
PLANS for a fourth terminal and a third runway at Manchester Airport have been unveiled.
27 January 2004
The Government's hidden plans for a massive increase in noise and pollution.
I’m afraid to report that Knustford has just fallen for one of the oldest political tricks in the book – use a red herring to distract people’s attention from your real plans. The red herring is the Government’s talk of a third runway at Manchester Airport, and their real plans are for a massive increase in noise and pollution in the skies over Knutsford. Let me explain.
In 2002 the Government announced that it was thinking about which airports in Britain could expand over the next thirty years. A great big consultation document was produced with all sorts of facts and figures about how millions more people were going to using airplanes in the years to come, and Britain’s airports were not big enough to cope. One of the solutions, they suggested, was a third runway at Manchester Airport. You could almost hear the cry of protest go up in King Street!
For the people of Knutsford, still reeling from the impact on the second runway, it was like a red rag to a bull. Dozens of people wrote to me saying that a third runway would make the noise problem unbearable, increase pollution and swallow up acres of Cheshire countryside. “There must be no third runway”, they demanded, and I took up their fight. I made it clear to the Government that their plans were completely unacceptable and that I would do everything to stop them.
Then, just before this Christmas, the Government announced that it had made a decision. There would be an extra runway at Stansted, possibly an extra runway at Heathrow, but no third runway at Manchester. To use their precise words, they said: “we do not anticipate major runway capacity constraints at Manchester before 2030”. Again, the sigh of relief in King Street was audible. “The town has been saved”, we all exclaimed. “We can relax now”. How wrong we were.
For, now that I’ve thought about it for a couple of weeks, I realise that it was highly unlikely that they were ever going to say ‘yes’ to a third runway. Indeed, Manchester Airport themselves had never asked for one to even be considered. They were happy with the two existing runways, and had no money or need to build a third one. The Government had raised the fear of a third runway only so they could then knock it down. In other words, it was a red herring and it succeeded in distracting our attention from their real plans.
These plans are buried away on page 85 of the Government document called ‘The Future of Air Transport’, which was published last month. They reveal that the Government is happy to see the number of passengers rise from 19 million a year to more than 50 million a year – in other words, a massive increase of more than 150 per cent. That means probably a whole new terminal at the Airport and many many more planes in the skies above Knutsford.
Even the Government admit in their plans that this would have a huge impact on noise and the local environment. They say “we recognise that the location of Manchester Airport already causes large numbers of people to be exposed to aircraft noise nuisance”. On their latest figures, 45,000 people live in area where noise from the airport exceeds 57 decibels. That would rise to 70,000 people if this huge expansion goes ahead. They admit too that air quality would deteriorate and that emissions of nitrogen dioxide would have to be carefully monitored.
However, in the Government’s words, “we do not believe, on balance, that these impacts are so severe that constraints should be imposed on the development of the airport”. In other words, the airport has a carte blanche to more than double in size regardless of the impact on local people of noise and pollution.
I strongly disagree with the Government. I want Manchester Airport to be a success. Many people I represent work at the Airport. I want it to go on being a magnet for jobs and investment that benefits the whole region. But I firmly believe that Airport will only be a success with the support of the local community, and that includes the people of Knutsford. Any expansion of the Airport must, in my view, be accompanied by tough measures to reduce noise and pollution. For example, older, noisier and dirtier planes should be banned. Planes that don’t stick to agreed flight paths must be heavily fined. No additional flight paths, especially the so-called Green Route over the town, should be opened up. Proper compensation should be paid. The rights of local people must be respected. Only then will Manchester Airport have a sustainable and successful future.