UK Govt seeks input to develop sustainable aviation policy

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The UK Department for Transport has just released a "scoping document" seeking inspiration from the industry and the public on how to develop "a sustainable framework for UK aviation".

This is the present Coalition Government's first post-manifesto attempt to form an aviation policy, having comprehensively rejected the recommendations in the former Labour Government's 2003 Aviation White Paper.

The scoping paper sets out government priorities and statistical information in three sections: aviation and the economy, aviation and climate change, and aviation and the local environment.

But the working part of the document consists of questions on which the Government seeks views. For example: "We must also address the question of how we prioritise available capacity where demand exceeds supply. We would welcome views on this issue." The Government is calling for responses by 30 September this year.

The document acknowledges that parts of the UK aviation infrastructure are operating to capacity or beyond: "More intensive use of capacity can leave the system less able to recover when problems occur. Arguably, this has happened at Heathrow and, as other airports fill up, lessons may need to be learned. We would welcome views on how to balance resilience and capacity issues in the aviation sector."

On the same theme, the word "growth" is allowed into the formula: "We recognise the strong view from some stakeholders, particularly within the business community, that additional airport capacity is required to meet the UK economy's needs...we want a successful and sustainable UK aviation sector, but we need to acknowledge the environmental constraints and explore how aviation can address these challenges in order to allow aviation growth to occur."

The one policy area not implicitly questioned is the Single European Sky programme, which the Government makes clear it backs fully.

Meanwhile, the document dallies with the ideas of slot control revision and superfast broadband as factors in a growth mitigation formula.

Most of the questions appear non-technical: "What do you consider to be the aviation sector's most important contributions to economic growth and social well-being?" Others are more searching: "As long as people and goods can easily reach their desired destination from the UK, does it matter if they use a foreign rather than a UK hub airport?"