Alton Climate Action Network's response to Farnborough Airport’s plans is that this is one area of the economy that we should urgently be cutting back and NOT growing, for the following, obvious, environmental reasons:

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 

Private jets produce far more GHG emissions than any other mode of transport and the UK is responsible for more private jet flights than any other European country. On average, at Farnborough Airport, there are only 2.5 passengers per plane and 40 per cent of aircraft fly empty

Air pollution

The health and environmental costs of air pollution are already well documented. Airborne pollution is considered the most important environmental risk to human health responsible for 28,000 to 38,000 premature deaths per year in the UK. A lot of the more damaging airborne ultrafine particulates come from aviation fuel exhaust, and these do not appear to be measured at Farnborough.

Noise pollution

The health effects of noise pollution are also well known and affect wildlife as well as humans. Here in Alton, we are affected by aircraft noise from:

  • Farnborough Airport who are planning to significantly increase the number of flights per year and the hours of the day and week when they will be flying – for the second time in five years.  The Civil Aviation Authority approved significant expansion to the Airport’s Airspace in 2020. 
  • Lasham airfield (not just small aircraft but also jets being repaired and serviced),  
  • Odiham RAF and its helicopters
  • Flight paths for both Heathrow and Gatwick depending on weather conditions

It may soon be the case there is not a quiet moment in the day or night (especially if the government’s restrictions on night flying, currently under consultation, are lifted).

Further arguments and concerns

The UK is already Europe’s worst private jet polluter and much of that pollution comes from Farnborough Airport. France and Belgium are looking to curtail private jet flights where an alternative train route is available.  We should not be thinking about increasing flights in this country, especially when the UK Government’s own Climate Change Committee has stated there should be no net airport expansion.

ACAN also feels it is totally unacceptable that Farnborough Airport is consulting on this further expansion before the Post- Implementation Review (PIR) process on the 2020 expansion has been concluded.

A report from the CAA is awaited. The PIR has not been conducted by Farnborough Airport in a way that meets the requirements of a PIR as set out by the CAA (a “rigorous assessment of whether the anticipated impacts and benefits, set out in the original airspace change proposal and decision, have been delivered”). Specifically, there has been no measurement of noise during the PIR period, other than at Farnborough Airport itself.  The CEO of the CAA committed, in writing, to Jeremy Hunt MP on 15 July 2022, that noise would be measured up to 7,000ft and to a radius of 20 miles from the airport, for all aircraft (this would have included Alton), but no such aircraft noise data has been collected. 

In fact Farnborough Airport is required, as a condition of its planning consent, to provide noise monitoring equipment to any member of the public who requests it and yet when members of the Farnborough Noise Group requested this equipment, they were told that no data was collected so there is no point measuring noise now because there is nothing to compare it against.

Another breach of planning conditions concerns leisure flights: the airport only has a licence for business flights. Although no tracking is done on business versus leisure destinations, a seasonal analysis of aircraft destinations gives a very firm indication that the very wealthy often use private planes when jetting off on holiday, and FAB’s presence on several flight booking apps suggests these opportunities are offered to the public as well, see:

Ideally, ACAN would like to see private jet travel banned until truly clean aviation fuels have been developed. Failing that, we advocate a ban on all internal flights where a convenient train journey is available, combined with a huge increase in the taxation on flying generally, and private jet flights in particular, with those taxes channelled into much-needed improvements in public transport.

The climate emergency is worsening

In 2019 this government declared a climate emergency and has been rightly seen as a global leader in renewable energy – a crown now lost to China for quantity and Sweden for nearly reaching net zero.  Recent findings have led scientists to conclude that global warming is accelerating faster than predicted in 2019, particularly due to the increased rate of ice melting at both poles. 2023 has seen abundant evidence of the extreme weather caused by global warming (some call it climate breakdown) all over the globe.

By Eleanor Hill

Alton Climate Action Network