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Aviation Growth and the South East – a strategic consensus

South East England Councils and South East Strategic Leaders have submitted views to the Airports Commission on a number of high level, strategic issues that must be taken into account in its interim recommendations later this year. These are set out in more detail here, but can be summarised as:

Expansion is vital for economic growth – do nothing is not an option
There is agreement in SEEC and SESL that, from the perspective of the South East as a whole, there is a need to expand airport capacity to support future economic growth both in the South East and UK-wide. Individual councils will form their own positions on  airport expansion, but there is general agreement that doing nothing is not an option. If we do nothing the UK will lose out to competition  from other countries – but we must develop extra capacity in a way that minimises the environmental impact including noise and congestion.

Where to expand – single hub versus dual hub
Opinion is divided on the merits of a single hub versus a dual hub but there is clear opposition to a Thames Estuary airport. It is also recognised that, in the long term, expansion is likely to be needed at more than a single airport – for example further expansion outside the South East should not be ruled out.

Infrastructure investment is critical to successful aviation growth
Infrastructure investment is critical both in the short term and the long term. A step change in transport is needed both to improve surface access for travellers and to reduce the impacts of road congestion for businesses and local residents. Action is needed to deliver access improvements in the short term and to ensure that your long term recommendation can be genuinely globally competitive. Our members highlight three key points in this discussion:
1.  A truly integrated approach to transport infrastructure is essential to ensure a comprehensive package of road, rail and other public transport improvements support all airports, especially those earmarked for expansion.
2.  Transport investment is needed in advance of airport development and must address both existing infrastructure deficits and new needs resulting from aviation growth. Currently, for example, several UK airports are let down by inadequate transport infrastructure and need investment merely to stand still.
3.  Wherever possible, the aim should be to develop existing airport sites and infrastructure to deliver growth more quickly and more cost effectively than building major new developments from scratch. New infrastructure – particularly new transport links – will still be required but the aim must be to maximise usage of existing assets first, as a quicker, cheaper route to growth.