Saturday, 10 March 2012

Justine Greening's response to Medway

Well, it has arrived. The long expected response to Medway Council's letter pleading the case against any airport in the Thames Estuary or on the Isle of Grain signed by the leaders of the four main Political parties in the council (Con, Lab, Libdem and Independent). It only took 7-8 weeks and is written in typical management speech which I will attempt to translate using my experience in middle management and civil service.

Dear Councillor Chambers,

Thank you for your letter of 18th January 2012 sent on behalf of all political groups from Medway Council requesting a meeting to discuss your concerns about recent media reports of proposals for a consultation on an airport in the Thames Estuary area.

Pretty standard managerial intro telling you why you wrote in the first place but generally could be translated as "Hello, thanks for writing."

I would like to reassure you that the Government has not made any decisions on the need for major new airport capacity in the South-east, and would only make such decisions on the basis of robust evidence and following consultation. As you know, the Government is developing a long-term strategy for a sustainable future for aviation. We need to provide a framework which supports economic growth and addresses aviation's environmental impacts. We issued an aviation policy s coping document last year calling for evidence on a range of strategic issues and received approximately 600 responses; and some parties have put forward proposals for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

As the Chancellor said in his Autumn Statement, the Government is committed to maintaining the UK's aviation hub status. As part of this commitment, we will commission a call for evidence on the options ensuring that the UK maintains its internationally competitive hub connectivity.

We've received suggestions from many quarters as to where a new airport should be, including the Thames Estuary (Obviously it cannot be hidden that that has been put forward.) however the Government has not made any concrete decisions as we have had pressure from environmentalists and the Liberal Democrats not to as well. We are also under pressure that the UK's airport capacity will be full within the next few decades and so in the interest of economy and status we must look at airports soon.
 SO we will be consulting on the issue taking into consideration the economic and environmental views.

We will publish the call for evidence alongside our consultation on a new Aviation Policy Framework in March. This is an important issue and we will consider a range of suggestions for how to maintain the UK's hub connectivity in a cost-effective and sustainable way.

We will be looking at this in the Nation's interest and gathering as much evidence as possible before making an informed decision that could go either way depending on this evidence. Although it must obviously be in the Nation's interest but be cost effective and have as small an environmental impact as possible.

In the meantime, we are pursuing a number of measures to get the most out of existing airport infrastructure in the South-east, including taking forward the recommendations of the South East Airports Task force, and reforming the economic regulation of airports to put passengers at the heart of the regulatory regime.

 We aren't making any rash decisions as this an important subject. We are looking at keeping air users in the loop and helping us make the right decisions that would benefit them as much as they benefit the local communities. It is going to be a long time until a new airport will be fully operational so we need to look at ways we can facilitate what we already have.

Unfortunately, the huge pressures on my diary mean that I am unable to offer a meeting to you at this time. However, as you may know, I met a number of Kent Members of Parliament last week- including Mark Reckless - who articulated to me some of the local concerns about future airport policy and planning which I know you share. I have agreed to meet them again later in the year for further discussions, once the draft aviation framework is published.

Thank you for taking time to write and for passing on the concerns of the people you represent.

Sorry, I'm not meeting you - it would be inappropriate and you're not important enough at this stage. I am dealing with your duly elected MPs ( Editorial; they just happen to be Conservatives and I'm sure this paragraph would say the same what ever party the MPs were in.) and will be liaising with them in the future as the consultation and planning proceeds.

It is a standard letter from a Minister or management position that seems to tell all and nothing at the same time and you have to read between the lines or guess at the meaning. My interpretation - and I don't pretend that I know the correct answer, is that the Government have truly no idea as to what will happen and are under pressure from environmentalists, Liberal Democrats in Parliament, Boris et al, aviation experts, local politicians from all over and campaign groups. All the opinions need to be collated and will be part of the consultation and a decision will be made in the Nation's interest.

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