From a third runway at Heathrow to a £25m terminal expansion at Glasgow and 50 extra aircraft stands at Luton, the airports' expansion proposals are revealed in a 25-year master plan to be presented this autumn to the Department for Transport. The Government asked for the proposals three years ago when it published an aviation White Paper encouraging expansion.
The revelation of their scale will embarrass Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who led calls for action against global warming. If Britain's 71 airports carry out their plans, carbon emissions from the industry will increased by an estimated 10 million tonnes.
On top of the well-documented plans at Stansted and Gatwick, Luton airport reveals that it wants to quadruple passenger numbers, from 7.5 million to 30 million a year, while Bristol will treble its own numbers from four million to 12 million a year.
Manchester airport, already northern England's biggest, projects another vast increase in numbers, from 22 million a year to 50 million, which it expects to more than double its revenue to £2.1bn. Some airports have vastly exceeded the White Paper's ambitions - including Glasgow, which expects to grow from eight million to 24 million passengers, and Newcastle from five million to 18 million.
Last night, Tony Blair was facing calls to re-examine the aviation strategy in the wake of the Stern report, which warned that if the industry ploughs capital now into "high-carbon" developments, emissions cuts later on will be much more expensive.
Michael Meacher, Labour's environment minister at the time of the White Paper, led the calls for a rethink and revealed that he had objected to the Department for Transport policy inside government. He said: "If you build new airports on the scale envisaged in the White Paper, you can kiss goodbye to the Kyoto targets. Aircraft greenhouse gases are the fastest rising of any sector - in the order of 10 per cent, and possibly treble that in 20 years. It is utterly incompatible with the requirement to deal with climate change and the Stern report makes that absolutely clear."
Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said the Government's strategy of "predict and provide" was now "completely implausible".
He said: "The whole strategy will have to be rethought in the light of the Stern report. It is inevitable there will be tax introduced and a slowdown in growth of aviation which will leave their projections looking very odd."
Posted on 2nd November 2006
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