The meeting was packed. The importance of what was being discussed was indicated by the presence outside of two outside broadcast vans with large satellite dishes on top. Two lone FoE protesters holding barely legible hastily scribbled posters stood outside.
The meeting opened with Keith Holland giving a summary of his recommendations and why the application should be approved. His summary, like his report to committee was arrant nonsense. He claimed there to be great economic benefit to the locality (not proven), minimal increase in noise (not true), no increase in risk (not true), then went on to claim that he had negotiated conditions (greenwash) which left everyone better off.
Twelve were invited to speak against, four in favour. The report from Keith Holland was torn to pieces. Several impassioned and emotive speeches from local residents (and not just from Farnborough, but from further afield) of how their lives were being made hell by the level of noise, air pollution and risk of a crash. The increase in risk that would result from extra movements was highlighted. The lack of any economic benefit was highlighted. The blighting of children's education. The failure to account for all movements at Farnborough Airport. The methodology of noise measurement came in for heavy criticism. Average noise has meaning for a busy road, it has no meaning for loud noise events, noise events which will double in frequency. Failure to account for societal risk. Failure to take account of WHO guidelines on noise. No research carried out on the impact on children of noise and pollution. The greenwash conditions were ridiculed. And so it went on.
TAG gave an excellent sales pitch for TAG, what marvelous facilities they have, the business airport in Europe. All of which may well be true, and no one disputes their credentials as airport operators, but it carries no weight compared with the negative impact of an expanding airport. Two people spoke, one from a regional planning quango the other some aviation business federation. Claims that the local community were not affected, other than to receive massive economic benefits, were met by hoots of derision from the public gallery. The other speaker was a regional airline operator who said he wished to see his business expand.
The noise expert engaged by the Council showed an appealing degree of ignorance on noise. He tried to claim that a 3dB increase in noise was barely perceptible. Not true. A 3dB increase is perceptible. A 1 dB is barely perceptible. The noise level at Farnborough, far from being not noticeable as claimed, drowns out conversation. He said average noise is the accepted methodology and works for roads. This is true, but it is not applicable for Farnborough. Also the noise is averaged over a longer time frame than that within which the noise events occur! Average noise does have a use, and that is for drawing noise contours, that is a noise footprint, thus giving a broad brush idea of those affected by noise. Average noise is a weak indicator of the nuisance caused to those in the flight path.
The risk expert was little better. He said there was no need for a study of societal risk because TAG said so! He then went on to say any economic activity has risk and here it was outweighed by the economic benefit. Apart from the fact his statement was inaccurate, it was to step way outside his remit which was to address risk! It was for the committee to weigh all the factors.
TAG had claimed there was no increase in risk, that the risk contours would not increase, but refused to allow their model to be scrutinised by third parties. A model not recognised by DfT!
A doubling of movements with the same mix of aircraft with the same crash rates would increase the area covered by the risk contours putting more people at risk, would incorporate more properties within the prohibited area for development. It would also cause the 1 in 10,000 risk contour which should be retained within the airfield boundary to project beyond the airfield boundary. If there has been a reduction in crash rates (and no evidence has been produced), then that should accrue as a benefit to the local community, not be used by TAG as an excuse to expand the airport.
It was claimed large economic benefit to the locality, and yet no evidence to support this. Farnborough and Aldershot, the two nearest town centres, are run down and semi-derelict. No economic study has taken place. No mention of the WDM New Economics Foundation study Plane Truths that shows aviation is not of economic benefit.
A huge question mark has to be placed against head of planning Keith Holland. He produced a shoddy misleading report that flew in the face of the evidence, and what he had to say in trying to influence the committee to accept the proposals was highly slanted and selective. He even blatantly lied when asked could the number of weekend movements be reduced, could that be made a condition on TAG, he replied no, it would be too difficult to monitor and prohibitively expensive. It is already a planning condition that these movements be monitored and TAG has to supply monitoring data to the Council on each and every movement! Or is Keith Holland saying the Council is failing to monitor? At the end it was grasping at straws, he tried to pursued to councillors to approve the report by saying a Public Inquiry could be very costly to the Council. It will only be costly if the Council loses. At the very least, he should consider his position.
No mention of the Climate Change Act requiring a 80% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050. No mention that IATA has agreed to 50% cuts in CO2 emissions by 2050.
The discussion by committee was tedious, badly chaired with most councillors waffling and seemingly incapable of making any coherent points. But they did at least appear to grasp the points made by those who spoke and contributed evidence. The deputy chairman Adam Jackman to his credit did keep to the point, he said TAG had failed to supply information on their risk modeling and that made it impossible to make a decision in the absence of that information, he also recognised that Carbon Trading and Carbon Offsetting does not work, it simply transfers a burden to the Third World and allows us to continue polluting, that if we are serious about climate change and meeting carbon reduction targets, then we have to cut our carbon emissions. Gareth Lyon identified the failure of the Council to consider let alone safeguard the human rights of those effected by the airport. Sue Dibble talked a load of drivel on the creation of jobs in Aldershot. What she said may have been true if TAG created a large number of low-wage temporary jobs, ie baggage handling etc, but such jobs are not being created at Farnborough Airport, and had she listened to TAG she would have appreciated that the jobs were specialised above average income jobs, but she did at least vote against the application.
But as they say, it is the result that counts on the night and in this case the application to double flights at Farnborough Airport was REJECTED by an overwhelming seven to one majority.
The applicant is now likely to go to appeal. There are two things the Council must do: commission a proper economic study that takes account of all the disbenefits, commission a study of societal risk. There also needs to be an investigation into fuel dumping and spillage. They also need to recognise that average noise is not a very good metric for the noise nuisance being caused to the locality.
The Farnborough News and Mail will have a report next week (it was too late to meet their press deadline for this week).
Airport flight increase rejected
TAG Farnborough Airport loses bid for expansion