Farnborough Airport’s flight expansion plans have met stiff opposition from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt.
In his formal response to the consultation, Mr Hunt said the proposal to increase the number of flights from 50,000 to 70,000 per year “could have far-reaching implications for many who live under the flight paths and close to the airport”.
He hailed the significance of Farnborough Airport to the UK’s ability to attract international investment “and how important the airport is to our local economy”, and praised the airport for establishing itself as a leader in the business aviation sector.
But added he is “acutely aware this expansion comes at a cost for local people, and I am keen to help ensure our responsibilities to these people and other responsibilities – especially environmental concerns – are properly addressed by [the airport] in this process”.
Mr Hunt described the 70,000 flights forecast as an “ideal case scenario” for the airport which is more than double the number of flights currently operated per year from Farnborough, and said “whatever final number is agreed, it must be a balanced negotiation between all parties”.
On the proposal to raise a cap on weekend flights from 8,900 (17.8 per cent of the current total limit) to 18,900 (27 per cent of the current limit), Mr Hunt said this is “something I completely understand local people under the flightpath find unreasonable and a severe imposition”.
He continued: “Many residents have referred to an erosion of their mental health and feel the large increase in weekend flights would significantly negatively impact them.
“I therefore find this element of the consultation proposal hardest to reconcile.
“I strongly feel the proposed overall quantum of weekend flights needs to be revisited and adjusted downwards.”
He also criticised plans to extend the 8am-8pm weekend operating hours to 7am to 9pm, and to allow heavier aircraft to operate unrestricted at weekends, and reiterated his request for “actual noise levels” to be monitored at different locations.
But perhaps Mr Hunt’s most stinging rebuke was reserved for his environmental concerns, on which he said an increase in flights “will inevitably increase total emissions and Farnborough Airport’s carbon footprint”.
“The nature of a business airport is such that fewer passengers per flight and thus emissions per passenger are significantly higher per customer,” he said, adding that much of Farnborough’s wider flightpath is over the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a place of “quiet escape and tranquility”.
“For these reasons I therefore fully support continuation of appropriate environmental restrictions at Farnborough Airport – in line with whatever is finally agreed in respect of flight numbers.”
Notable objections to Farnborough’s expansion proposals have also been submitted by: