THE big news this week has been the decision by the planning committee to approve, in principle, the extension of the existing runway by 405 metres at Birmingham International Airport.
This extension has been on the drawing board for many years, and was included in the Airport Masterplan in the mid-1990s, before I was elected as member of Parliament for the constituency in which the airport is located.
The issue was confused in 2002 when the Government consulted on airport expansion generally and the second runway at BIA was proposed.
Many of you will remember that I vowed to lie down in front of the bulldozers should a second runway ever get the go-ahead and I will stick to that pledge.
However the plans approved on Monday show a sensible way forward – balancing economic, social and environmental issues. We do want to keep our region vibrant and being able to trade through air connections with west coast America, China and the Indian sub-continent more effectively has got to be good news.
The final approval for the runway extension is subject to certain conditions being met. These are called Section 106 agreements and are really the airport’s contract with the community. They must be stringent and adhered to by the letter. The main topic areas I feel are important to address through this mechanism include:
l Restricting night flights at current levels in absolute numbers, not a percentage of total flights
l Investment by the airport in training local people for high quality jobs providing a career pathway at the airport
l Holding the airport to its public transport pledge for access to the airport. If this is not upheld, the surrounding area is at risk of complete grid-lock
l Implementing a local carbon offsetting programme to help rebuild the Arden Forest
The airport must realise that business growth comes at a cost to its business, not at a cost to the community.