2M Calls for New Airports Regulator

'needed' to enforce proposed new environmental standards

Ministers are currently consulting on regulatory reforms which would require large airports to obtain a licence from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Airport operators would be assessed against new passenger standards and environmental targets. Under the current proposals, while the CAA could impose fines for failure to achieve service standards, no sanctions have been identified for breaches of air pollution and noise limits.

Wandsworth Council Leader Edward Lister, speaking on behalf of 2M, said the proposals did not go far enough:

“The CAA relies heavily for its funding from the Department for Transport which in turn is seen by many people as too close to BAA. The authority does an excellent job on air safety but it is the wrong organisation to hold airport operators to task for poor performance.

“The noise impact calculations for a third Heathrow runway are weakened by the way they use the last year when  Concorde was flying as the base year. This is a flaw which the CAA should have exposed vigorously. In contrast the Environment Agency has shown a robust independence in highlighting the weaknesses of the air quality case.

“It will take a powerful body to stand up to both industry and government. The 2M Group believes this could be a job for the Environment Agency – or we could move towards a new, independent regulator which could combine protection of passenger and community interests with real enforcement powers."

Richmond Council leader Serge Lourie added:

“Concern for the environment and the airport's impact on local communities must be put on a par with concern for the passenger experience. The new regulator must have the power to impose real sanctions such as financial penalties for noise and air pollution contraventions.”

The 2M Group is an all-party alliance of local authorities concerned at the environmental impact of Heathrow expansion on their communities. The group, which took its name from the two million residents of the original 12 members, now represents 23 authorities with a combined population of 5 million people and is supported by the Mayor of London.

The full membership comprises the London Boroughs of Brent, Camden, Ealing, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Richmond, Sutton, Southwark and Wandsworth, the boroughs of Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead, Wycombe and South Bucks District Council

The 2M Group’s formal response to the consultation can be viewed at www.2Mgroup.org.uk The Government’s consultation document ‘Reforming the framework for the economic regulation of UK airports’ is available at www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/ukairports The final date for responses is June 1st 2009.

May 22, 2009