Why we need a national aviation strategy

Aeroplane Trail
Transport Knowledge Hub logo Published on: 25th March 2020 by Hannah Bartram.

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) recently published a challenge policy paper, calling for a national strategy on the aviation sector.

Hannah Bartram, ADEPT’s Chief Operating Officer, explains why a national strategy is needed to tackle both climate change and the economy.

ADEPT’s The Future of Aviation policy challenge paper argues that the aviation industry is an essential part of the transport mix. We argue that whilst it is vital to the UK remaining an economically outward-looking, trading nation now that we have left the EU, the aviation industry must alsotake into account climate change commitments.

Aviation is a complex issue. The situation with Flybe showsthe importance of flight to the regional economy – regional airports provide economic clusters and support wide transformational benefits.

But with more than half of the UK’s local authorities to date declaring climate emergencies and the recent refusal of a planning application to enable the expansion of Bristol Airport by North Somerset Council, striking a balance between the needs of the regional economy with those of the environment is a challenge.

Many people are unaware that regional airports have local government involvement – they lead on air quality, congestion, integrating transport systems, regeneration and development, while working with partners and stakeholders across the sector, businesses and communities. In addition, a significant number of regional airports are council owned.

Another issue is the impact on surface transport, either from employees travelling to the airport or from airport users. The impact of a regional or national airport is far reaching, and we need a strategy that accounts for this.

We are also aware that bordering local authorities may have opposing views on a regional airport, and straightforward economic arguments no longer dominate the decision making-process. For example, the relevant planning authority has a responsibility to ensure that mitigations are delivered with their boundaries – however, bordering areas still have to deal with increased transport travelling through their towns and villages.

In our paper we set out the challenges facing the aviation industry, with the need to balance environmental costs with the economic benefits of aviation growth at the top of the list. We recognise the significant impact aviation has on the environment, but acknowledge that aviation is inextricably linked with economic growth.

We also set out what needs to change. A key recommendation is around a focus on regional hubs, using existing aviation infrastructure as testbeds for innovation and driving sustainable change.

The paper also demands that aviation should deliver on any promises linked to expansion, particularly on air quality and noise reduction and to mitigate the impacts on local communities and the environment. Alongside the North Somerset decision, it is apparent how much attitudes to airport expansion are changing.

At ADEPT, we believe that collaboration between all elements of the aviation sector – commercial, government, local authorities and sub-national transport bodies – is needed to balance business, environmental, economic and community needs. We also know that currently there are only limited mechanisms in place to track the long-term sustainability of the sector so targets, performance tracking and corrective actions need to be implemented.

A national strategy would set out a clear vision for a more sustainable aviation sector, benefitting the country, the environment, industry and local authorities.

The challenge paper can be downloaded from: www.adeptnet.org.uk/future-aviation-paper.

About the Author

This post was written by Hannah Bartram. Chief Operating Officer for the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (www.adeptnet.org.uk)