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Birmingham Airport passenger masterplan 'devastating for environment'

Birmingham | Transport | Published:

Plans by Birmingham Airport to nearly double passenger numbers by 2033 are a ‘disaster’ for the environment, a councillor has claimed.

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He says that, if the airport goes through with its proposals, it will end up producing nearly double the amount of greenhouse gases as the entire city of Wolverhampton.

Earlier this month Birmingham Airport announced its ‘masterplan’ for the future, which will see it invest £500 million in the hope of increasing passenger numbers to 18 million per year by 2033.

The airport also says that its plans will see it increasing its contribution to the local economy from £1.5 billion to a forecast £2.1 billion a year, while also creating 34,000 jobs by 2033.

However, Green councillor Max McLoughlin believes that not only will the airport’s plans not contribute enough to the West Midlands, but that the environmental impact will be devastating for the region.

He said: “I think firstly we are 12 years away from runaway climate change, and that’s the UN’s words, not my own.

“So we are in a very dangerous and precarious position. It’s very problematic that we’re pushing the largest source of pollution within the region to grow.

“But on the other side of it I think it’s much more important to focus on what the foundation of our economy is, and developing wealth that stays within the region.

“We’re supercharging growth in the wrong direction. It is the largest source of greenhouse gases within the region and, according to our projections, it’s going to be producing more CO2 than Wolverhampton by 2030. That illustrates the amount of pollution that it’s producing. So I’m very much concerned.

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“In terms of the economics, I think a really important thing to say is that I don’t think it’s any secret that this region is not where it was 40 or 50 years ago, economically, and certainly not where it was 100 or 150 years ago.

“The only way in which we’re going to develop in a globalised world is to find ways for more wealth to stay within the region. And airports are not that. There’s very little wealth or economic growth within the region from airports.

“So developing a foundation economy we’re talking about helping SME’s to set up and develop, things that employ more people and keep more wealth within local areas. Airports don’t do that, and see wealth sucked not just out of a region but out of the country, to a greater extent than they bring into the region.

“So I’m concerned at them using an economic argument because it’s perfectly credible to say there are better economic arguments for developing an economy.”

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Councillor McLoughlin says he’s also disappointed in the mayor for supporting the airport’s plans. Mr Street spoke at the launch of the masterplan earlier this month, despite promising in his manifesto to ‘get a grip on air pollution’.

“The other thing I’m really concerned about is that Andy Street did make a commitment to basically support a green agenda, and I think it’s really damaged his reputation, and seen him go against his election promises,” Cllr McLoughlin said.

“I think what we’re seeing more and more is what we call greenwashing, which is basically making something look environmentally credible while doing the absolute opposite. A perfect example is the Conservatives using the tree logo and saying they’re environmentally friendly and then backing fracking.

“And here, I had a lot of hope for Andy Street in terms of what he was saying, I think he’s a really nice guy. But firstly in terms of public transport, the number of bus routes we’ve seen cut in the last two years is really problematic.

“And now backing something which is the most environmentally damaging plan that we could possibly see across the region. It’s not to say that people shouldn’t fly, I’ve not got a problem with people flying per se. The problem is when we look to grow the airport by such an amount it’s not going to help the quality of people’s lives who live close to the airport.

“But, most of all, it’s going to have disastrous effects for our ability to be able to slow climate breakdown.”

By Tom Dare

Local Democracy Reporter

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