The government should reject the “Boris Island” Thames Estuary airport plan and expand Heathrow instead, a report by MPs argues.
The government should reject the “Boris Island” Thames Estuary airport plan and expand Heathrow instead, a report by MPs argues.
Original post: Thames airport ‘should be rejected’
Environmentalists disappointed by decision to approve plan to extend runway at Lydd, also known as London Ashford airport
Environmental groups including the RSPB and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) are considering legal action to challenge the government’s decision to allow the expansion of Lydd airport in Kent.
The minor airfield, wedged between Dungeness nuclear power station, Romney Marsh and a nature reserve, has been given permission to extend its runway and handle up to 500,000 passengers a year.
The plan was approved by Eric Pickles, the communities and local government secretary, and Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, following a protracted dispute over an application first submitted in 2006. The growth of London Ashford airport, as it is formally known, is designed to ease air congestion in the south-east and create local jobs.
But the decision is fiercely opposed by environmental activists, who fear it will destroy the tranquillity of the Kent coast and a nearby bird sanctuary. The RSPB and the CPRE are examining the 365-page report to see whether they can seek a judicial review in the high court.
The airfield has been owned by a Saudi businessman, Sheikh Fahad al-Athel, since 2001. As a director of the Al Bilad company, Athel came to attention for his role as a fixer for Saudi Arabia’s multibillion-pound Al Yamamah arms deal.
Lydd opened in 1956 and at the height of its success Silver City airways, Dan-Air and other firms were carrying 250,000 people a year. Business collapsed in the 1970s.
Shepway district council voted in favour of the expansion plan in 2010 but the scheme was called in by central government for assessment because of its national importance. Its approval allows the construction of a runway extension that can take Boeing 737 charter flights, and a new terminal building.
Opponents, who fear passenger numbers will eventually increase to two million a year, have six weeks to appeal against the decision.
The RSPB’s conservation director, Martin Harper, said: “This is the wrong decision as it opens the door to real damage to Dungeness, to its wildlife and the quality of life for many of its residents and risks destroying a unique asset that is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people.
“Dungeness is a special place for nature, which is recognised globally for the importance of its wildlife. This decision means nowhere is safe and signals that nature is in trouble in the face of unfettered growth – these are worrying times for all who care for Britain’s wildlife. We will be taking time to review the detail of the decision – and to plan our next steps.”
Neil Sinden, policy and campaigns director at the CPRE, said: “This is a terrible decision which threatens one of the few remaining areas of rural tranquillity in heavily pressured south-east, and in a county once proudly described as the Garden of England. And it will not just alarm environmentalists.
“There were many in the aviation sector who considered this scheme to be nonsensical and a non-starter. If there are any economic benefits, which is unlikely, they will be heavily outweighed by the environmental damage that it will cause on so many levels. Campaigners are bound to consider all legal options to have this disturbing decision overturned.”
Keith Taylor, the Green party MEP for the south-east, said: “The expansion also brings with it a serious nuclear safety issue that the government seems to have ignored. This government decision is bad for wildlife, potentially dangerous for local people and a step in the wrong direction in fighting climate change.”
Hani Mutlaq, Lydd airport’s executive manager, said he was delighted with the go-ahead. “I’m very pleased,” he told the Guardian. “I hope construction will start this year. At the moment we only have scheduled flights to Le Touquet in France but with a longer runway we will have the capacity for 737s that can reach destinations across Europe.”
Richard Griffiths, the planning lawyer who led the team advising the airport’s owner, said: “This is a significant decision from the government given the crossroads which aviation policy currently faces. [It] is perhaps an indication of the government’s support for aviation expansion where the environmental impacts are demonstrated to be acceptable.
“Clearly the government has accepted that there is a need to grow capacity in the country’s airports. However, whilst this is an important decision for both the aviation industry and also for infrastructure investment in Kent, questions should be asked why it has taken over six years to make a decision on these proposals.”
The decision states: “After careful consideration, [the secretaries of state] are satisfied that there would be no likely significant effects on any designated conversation sites and also that the proposals would not have a significant effect on nuclear safety, landscape or tranquillity.”
Environmental activists claimed the proximity of Dungeness nuclear power station posed a severe risk if there was an air accident. In a local referendum, residents rejected the expansion scheme by a ratio of two to one.
WH Smith says its strategy of boosting profit margins to offset falling sales continues to bring results, with railways and airport outlets performing well.
Read the original here: WH Smith continues to boost profits
Troubled Cardiff Airport is bought by the Welsh government for £52m, with the first minister saying he expects to see a return on the investment.
Visit link: Government buys airport for £52m
Seven opinion formers set out their ideas for the 2013 budget to chart the country back to a path of growth and prosperity
‘Help squeezed families; boost childcare support’
Vidhya Alakeson, deputy chief executive, Resolution Foundation
In his 2013 state of the union address, President Obama declared the middle class to be the “true engine of American economic growth”. His comments signalled a break with the economic thinking that has long dominated America – which justified tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation for firms and left the minimum wage to fall far behind inflation in the hope that unleashing the economic potential of the rich would eventually benefit ordinary American workers. Prosperity would trickle down.
If the state of the union was a moment for grand rhetoric, Wednesday’s budget will be a more technocratic affair. But if the chancellor were looking for a cautionary tale, America offers an important one. Until the late 1970s, economic growth in American did create a rising tide to lift all boats. Ordinary Americans got richer as the country prospered. But this has not been true for the last 30 years. A generation of working Americans is no better off today in real terms than a generation ago, despite long periods of strong economic growth.
Now, as high school completion rates in America fall, university becomes too expensive for ordinary families and more people are working around the clock just to get by, the link between the prospects of ordinary families and those of the country as a whole is finally being recognised. Rebuilding prosperity from the “middle out” rather than from the “top down” is starting to gain traction.
Thankfully, working families in Britain enjoy protections unknown to the middle class in America, notably greater employment rights and a healthcare system that is free at the point of use. But there is no room for self-satisfaction. In the decade before the economic crisis, employment income for all but the richest 10% of households barely grew. As in America, the wealthiest in society have been taking an ever-greater share, while the already small share going to the bottom half has fallen. This has left low to middle-income families facing falling real wages and high levels of debt, and created a daily struggle to keep up with the ever-increasing costs of housing, food and fuel.
On Wednesday, the chancellor must take the opportunity to respond to the squeeze on living standards facing families, not only because it may help his declining popularity but because it is vital to the economic recovery that eludes him. These are the very families who would spend rather than save their income. They are the ones who are at risk of falling out of work and costing the state more if they are not supported to stay in a job. They are the ones who will take on more hours when they become available because more income from work will help to ease their financial pressures.
There is reason to hope that the debate in Britain is starting to recognise these pressures. Childcare is, after all, one of the areas in which the chancellor is expected to offer families some respite on Wednesday. As yet, it is unclear exactly what will be on offer, though rumours suggest some combination of tax relief and additional support through universal credit. The test for the budget on childcare will be the balance between the two. New analysis by the Resolution Foundation shows that around 82% of the families likely to gain from extra support through tax relief are in the top half of the income distribution and 88% of families likely to gain from support through universal credit are in bottom half. Those in the bottom half face the biggest barriers to work due to high childcare costs.
With additional support from government, they are far more likely to work more hours to relieve pressure on family budgets. Money invested in low to middle income Britain offers a better route to kickstarting the country’s economic engine.
‘Abolish the budget, cut spending and taxes’
Philip Booth, editorial and programme director at the Institute of Economic Affairs
The chancellor should announce that this will be the last annual budget of its type. Unfortunately, the budget is now used to make announcements that have nothing to do with Treasury responsibilities. Osborne will try to generate good political headlines, and that normally leads to bad economic policy.
Furthermore, the budget should not be used to bring in tax legislation because Finance Act measures are not properly scrutinised or debated in parliament, leading to poor tax design.
The government should set out its spending plans each autumn for the following three years. The March budget should then simply set the level of borrowing and the rates and thresholds of existing taxes necessary to meet spending levels. That way, we could properly scrutinise a much smaller number of budget decisions.
But, given where we are, what should be done? The chancellor should cut spending and remove the ring-fences; especially implicit ring-fences around those welfare benefits increased by Gordon Brown. The priority with regard to tax should be to cut damaging taxes that raise little revenue. The 45p income tax rate should be abolished. Also, the higher rate tax threshold needs to be raised: the coalition will preside over a near doubling of the number of people paying higher-rate tax, which is no longer just paid by the rich.
Corporation tax should be reduced to the basic rate of income tax. Inheritance tax thresholds should be increased hugely, and the tax should be turned into a tax on gifts received rather than on estates (as a transitional measure before abolition). Inflation indexation relief should be reintroduced for capital-gains tax to ensure that investors are not taxed on illusory gains. We should have radical supply-side reform too. But, there are 364 other days for this. Budget day should focus on taxes.
‘Decide now on airport expansion’
Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist, Capital Economics
I’d like to see a decision on airport expansion in London and the south-east. This is a prime example of a key project, which has large public sector involvement but which may also hold the key to major private-sector spending. Another example where we have seen better progress is the HS2 high-speed rail link, which will be part-funded by the private sector. There are many more projects like this that the government could kickstart.
The coalition has in effect postponed the decision on airport capacity, with the commission that has been tasked with making recommendations on the subject not due to make its final report until 2015. But the government should be bringing the years of debate on the topic to a close, not prolonging them.
It doesn’t matter whether the answer is expanding Heathrow capacity or building a new Thames estuary airport. Either way, making the decision would unleash private sector investment and spending on construction, and jobs.
The economy would receive a short-term boost, helping to stimulate the much needed recovery. And longer-term benefits would be assured. In particular, there are concerns that London is jeopardising its position as a leading global financial sector with its limited airport capacity. The government may not want to borrow more to increase its own spending by much, for fear of upsetting the financial markets or being seen as doing a U-turn on “plan A”. But if that is the case, it must do more to try to get the private sector to spend.
The chancellor has tried to pass the baton to the Bank of England, putting the emphasis on “fiscal conservatism and monetary activism”.
But there is certainly more that the government could do as well to support economic growth.
‘Invest in infrastructure to generate growth’
Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation
It’s clear the government will be sticking to its course in the budget. But the backdrop remains an economy that isn’t growing, and a deficit that isn’t shrinking. We need a push across all parts of government to get the economy moving.
The top of most wishlists is infrastructure spending. The government has to up its game on infrastructure; increasing investment would give the economy a shot in the arm today, and help lay the foundations for our competitiveness tomorrow. Yet, there is a lack of urgency and direction that belies the importance of infrastructure to the economy.
The immediate priority is to focus scarce resources where they are most needed and can make the biggest difference. Our roads are the glue that holds together our transport system, but they have suffered years of neglect. Tackling the £10bn backlog in maintenance is as close as infrastructure projects get to being “shovel-ready” while bringing forward planned upgrades to heavily congested roads offers one of the best returns on taxpayer money.
It is also the time to start taking the politics out of infrastructure. The prevarication and U-turns that burden important issues such as airport capacity risk damaging the competitiveness and attractiveness of the UK to overseas investors. Establishing an independent, apolitical, expert body to identify long-term needs and the best way to meet them would give us a much better chance of achieving political consensus on the big issues.
But a single-issue budget won’t be enough. Businesses need clarity and certainty on a range of other policy areas to bring forward the investment our economy badly needs – lending to small businesses, apprenticeships and innovation funding. In particular, the competitiveness of SME banking is on the critical list; the budget must bring forward a three-month review of all options that could deliver more diversity and choice for borrowers.
‘Open immigration to boost growth’
Jonathan Portes, director, National Institute of Economic and Social Research
One policy could both boost growth in the short term and improve the UK’s productive capacity over the medium term. It would reduce burdensome regulation on business and help rebalance the economy towards exports. And it would actually improve the fiscal position. Liberalising immigration policy, particularly in respect of skilled workers from outside the EU and foreign students, would achieve all of these things.
The government is pursuing a contradictory and economically self-defeating strategy – trying to make the UK “open for business” at the same time as trying to reduce immigration. New restrictions so far don’t apply to unskilled workers but to skilled workers and students. This hurts growth in the short term, since further and higher education is a major export industry – worth up to £15bn a year – while making it harder for businesses to hire skilled workers. But more seriously, it does longer–term damage, since immigration, like trade, can boost productivity and growth over the medium term.
The government should examine each aspect of immigration policy – but in particular those relating to students, skilled workers, and settlement – with a view towards reorienting them towards growth. As a first step, we should make it much easier for foreign students to stay on after graduation. Since UK-educated students are likely to be relatively well educated and motivated, English-speaking, and partly integrated into UK society already, they are precisely the sort of people we want.
Of course, some immigrants will fail; they will end up unemployed or doing low-skilled jobs. That is the nature of immigration; not all immigrants succeed, just as not all native-born entrepreneurs do either.
There are many other changes, major and minor, that are required. But in my view, more important than specific policies is a change of attitude and mindset on the part of government and policymakers. If we want to be serious about growth, we will need to be positive about migration.
‘Tempt companies to spend their cash’
Louise Cooper, commentator and author of Coopercity blog
The chancellor needs to tempt and coax businesses to take cash out of their pockets and put it to work in the wider economy. He needs to lay the sweeties out in front of companies to induce them irresistibly to spend. He needs to create a sugar rush of excitement with deals so attractive that finance directors delight in signing cheques.
The government is mired is debt, as is the average household, struggling to make ends meet with wages rising slower than inflation.
The only hope for the British economy is for businesses to start spending their cash, investing in plant and machinery as well as hiring staff. So lay out the bait, Osborne, prepare to entrap CEOs into fulfilling your desires.
In practical terms, he should cut national insurance completely for any new employee in the next one to two years, for all small and medium businesses. These are the engines of growth, so tempt them to hire. Make it easier too – the rules and red tape are frankly bewildering – so get rid of as much as the EU allows.
Second, entice businesses to buy new IT systems, to expand production, to upgrade their websites. Whatever project they have been postponing, make it so attractive to invest, that they can’t help themselves.
For two years, allow all new investments to be written off 100% against tax. This may be costly, but it would force firms to spend money, which should provide a jolt to the economy.
Financial markets will also be reassured that it is only a short-term measure.
Sadly, after the disasters of last year, and the pasty tax, I fear this year could well be a boring, steady as she goes, budget. And while I agree that Osborne is very restricted financially, he needs to be bolder and braver. When the patient is dying on the operating table, it needs an electric shock to return it to life.
‘Borrow to invest’
Nicola Smith, head of economics at the TUC
With the economy flatlining, the chancellor can do what he should have done two years ago and prioritise economic growth. In the immediate term, this means boosting the capital budgets – which have the highest multipliers of all government spending – to support new communications, transport and energy infrastructure, rather than continuing to cut them back. With spending in this area already down by more than £20bn since 2010 and with interest rates at record lows now is the time, as the business secretary has suggested, to borrow to invest and secure a stronger recovery.
But we also need to face up to the longer-term challenges we face, among them a chronic lack of credit for businesses, a persistently short-term corporate culture and investment levels which trail our competitors.
Our new business and green investment banks need to be able to raise capital from the markets. We also need a network of new regional development banks. The way government spends £200bn every year on goods and services from the private sector needs a rethink so that it generates greater social and employment benefits for workers in the UK.
Finally, our corporate-governance rules need to incentivise long-term thinking over short-term share price gains. These are just some of the measures the chancellor needs to support if we are to have any chance of winning the global race that we’re currently doing so badly in.
While the debate rages about airport expansion in Europe, the ambitious Gulf hubs are growing fast – and look set to become the global interchanges of the future
Multiplying lanes, stretching runways and new terminals in the sands may not be everyone’s idea of making the desert bloom. But in Abu Dhabi, where the aviation industry has grown up almost as spectacularly as the skyscrapers on the shoreline, the sheikhs who bankrolled the towering investment do not doubt that the fruits will come.
While London’s great and good grapple with the question of airport expansion, the world beyond is changing, as those running Britain’s biggest airport and airline know all too well – frequently expressing their frustration that rivals are “eating our lunch” and leapfrogging them to aviation’s top spot.
The announcements last week that Etihad Airways – based in Abu Dhabi – was splurging $70m (£47m) to secure three Heathrow slots, while British Airways saw its profits wiped out and its parent company, IAG, record a near-€1bn (£863m) loss, will not have made them much happier.
“In aviation,” says Jos Nuihuis, the boss of Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, mischievously enjoying his role as the current chief beneficiary of Heathrow’s inability to build another runway, “you have to take the chance when it’s your
Airline Ryanair says it plans to cut the number of flights from Stansted Airport by nine per cent.
Read more from the original source: Ryanair makes 9% flight cut threat
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