Carol Barbone on UK Airport Expansion

17:20 Tuesday 28th August 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Downing Street is insisting the Coalition will stick to its commitment not to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport. David Cameron’s coming under increasing pressure to reconsider the Government’s position, with some Conservatives arguing that expansion will help revive the economy. The Chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo, urged David Cameron to decide whether he was “man or mouse”. Officially, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats oppose the move. But Tim Yeo says the business case for expansion is now overwhelming, and environmental concerns have also been addressed. (TAPE)
TIM YEO: We ought to make Britain the most business friendly country in Europe. Part of that is modernising our transport infrastructure, and here’s a project, unlike almost all the others, which does not require a single penny of taxpayers’ money. There could not be a more attractive option than to give the go-ahead now.” (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: But the Tory MP for Harwich and North Essex, Bernard Jenkin, is pressing for a new airport in the Thames estuary instead. (TAPE)
BERNARD JENKIN: Both North Kent and South Essex are depressed areas. This would be a golden opportunity to regenerate the Thames corridor. We also need to have a third Thames river crossing, and another Thames barrier, and these are all things that could be combined in a single project, which would be of enormous public benefit, and provide the strategic airport capacity that we need. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Campaigners against expansion at our local airport at Stansted say it wouldn’t surprise them if there was another attempt to build a second runway there, but say they are ready to rebuff it. Carol Barbone is from the Stop Stansted Expansion (Campaign), and I spoke to her a little earlier on, to get her reaction to today’s developments. (TAPE)
CAROL BARBONE: I think the Stansted community has made it overwhelmingly clear that they don’t want a second runway at Stansted. It seems that in certain case, whenever the wind blows, politicians change their minds according to what’s politically expedient.
CHRIS MANN: You fought four battles over ten years. You’ve won them all. Do you think you’ll have to fight another one?
CAROL BARBONE: It’s entirely possible, and we’re in the middle of a consultation period at the moment. What is clear is that the community remains absolutely committed to warding off plans for a second runway, and overturning any firm plans which may eventually come back onto the table. We’ve made our case very strongly over the years, and we’re determined that we’ll stop any additional proposals for runways, at all costs.
CHRIS MANN: We’ve seen a change of mind inside the Conservative Party apparently about Heathrow. Do you think that might happen about Stansted?
CAROL BARBONE: I’m not sure that we have seen a change of mind within the Conservative Party. I think there are some mavericks who are trying to push the Heathrow option. But what actually goes forward is more driven by politics and aviation industry lobbying than it is by what is actually good for the economy.
CHRIS MANN: Do you think the aviation industry would still want to push Stansted?
CAROL BARBONE: Well, I’ve worked on this campaign for ten years now, and it’s been clear to me since the beginning that the overwhelming desire of the industry is to see expansion at Heathrow. That’s where they make their money, on average, ten times as much as at Stansted. But there’s no appetite for expansion at Stansted, in the sense that we have permission for 35 million passengers to pass through the airport every year, and only around 17 million are doing so. So it’s not as if there’s any pressure on capacity at Stansted. It’s just that the airlines don’t want to fly to and from the airport.
CHRIS MANN: Some people today again are pushing for the ideas for the Thames estuary to host an airport of some kind, the Boris Airport, so-called. Do you think that has a realistic chance of making it to the drawing board?
CAROL BARBONE: Well estuary airports have been on the table since the 1960s. But there doesn’t seem to be a particular appetite for developing an airport there. The vested interests are really in and around Heathrow, and I think that’s why we’re seeing so much pressure from the aviation industry to develop there, in spite of the fact that we know the climate change impact of an additional runway at Heathrow would be absolutely enormous.
CHRIS MANN: Have you any doubt that the people of South Cambridgeshire, of parts of Hertfordshire, and North Essex, would be totally against any expansion at Stansted?
CAROL BARBONE: There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that we would wage another war if we had to, and we would win. We are absolutely committed to opposing a second runway at Stansted, and we don’t play pass the parcel. We’re not saying, not at Stansted, put it at Heathrow. We don’t work like that. We stand united with those who are facing the pressures of airport expansion elsewhere in the South East, and we’re very very clear that this is not right for our countryside, and it’s not right for our community.
CHRIS MANN: What do you think the campaigners at Heathrow will be feeling today?
CAROL BARBONE: I think it’s an ongoing story, that the Heathrow third runway comes up on the agenda from time to time. There are always those who are petitioning for it. It’s just another day in the life of a campaigner for them. And I think we feel very sorry for them, because we know that it’s awful to be under threat of major expansion, when life there is already particularly bad with the flying. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Carol Barbone from the Stop Stansted Expansion (Group).