PLANS for Birmingham Airport’s £500million expansion have been criticised by Solihull Green councillors amid concerns over rises in greenhouse gas emissions.
Last week we published comments from Meriden MP Dame Caroline Spelman in support of the plan, after proposals to build a second runway were shelved.
But Solihull Green councillor Max McLoughlin has hit out at the airport’s draft masterplan, branding it ‘irresponsible’.
He says the increase in passenger numbers after the expansion could see the level of emissions rise to double that produced by the entire city of Wolverhampton every year.
The masterplan – to be delivered over the next 15 years – includes proposals to increase use of the airport’s existing runway, expand the passenger terminal and baggage sorting areas.
It also aims to improve security, acquire more aircraft parking stands and improve surrounding roads and infrastructure.
The investment aims to prepare the airport to attract 18million passengers by 2033.
The growth ambitions would make the airport the region’s largest single source of greenhouse gas, Coun McLoughlin claims.
Even before the airport expansion, it is projected to emit 1.7million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year by 2030, Department for Transport figures show.
Wolverhampton’s carbon footprint is about one million tonnes per annum, according to latest government statistics.
Coun McLoughlin has called for a rethink, saying: “It’s only been a couple of weeks since the United Nations warned that the world has just 12 years to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half… or we confirm runaway climate change. It’s completely the wrong direction.
“I’m shocked that (West Midlands mayor) Andy Street was willing to put his name to this masterplan. It’s not a masterplan – this is a disaster plan.
“It’s simply irresponsible, and his claims to support a green agenda for the West Midlands are in tatters.
“We are in desperate need of leadership from the mayor to push our economy towards low carbon technology, cleaner transport.
“These airport expansion plans are a real blow to efforts to do our bit in reducing the country’s emissions.”
An airport spokesperson said: “The airport’s carbon footprint is comparatively small, however, we are committed to managing our impact and since 2010 we have reduced our carbon emissions per passenger by over half.
“The report used by the party states that the figures quoted relate to aircraft emissions and not airport operations but we do acknowledge that we are an enabler of these flights and we are committed to attract airlines operating newer, greener jets, that carry more passengers per movement.
“Our masterplan outlines how we can provide better global connectivity for the region and create thousands of more jobs for local people, whilst making full use of its single runway within the existing airport boundary.
“Whilst we estimate a 40 per cent rise in passengers by 2033, the number of annual aircraft movements are only expected to grow by 21 per cent over the next 15 years.”
The airport is presenting its masterplan to the public in a series of exhibitions across the region in the coming months.
West Midlands mayor Andy Street said: “Environmental considerations are very important in the debate about the future of Birmingham Airport, that’s why I was very clear in the Mayoral election that I completely opposed a second runway – despite others calling for it.
“The airport has set out a range of mitigations as part of its plan including reducing taxiing and better use of technology.
“By using the local airport it will also reduce the need to travel to other airports.
“And Birmingham Airport will have exceptional public transport access, including HS2.
“However, we have to reflect on the critical role the airport has in our future economic growth and providing jobs directly and as a catalyst for the regional economy.
“We need more routes to key commercial partners like India and we have to recognise that we are competing with other places for investments and jobs and having an improved airport is a key part of winning these jobs.”
Further information can be found here: www.bhxmasterplan.co.uk/public-exhibition-information/