TAG questions CAA Chief Executive over public consultation and airspace change proposals

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In a letter to  Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of the CAA, TAG raises a number of concerns about the proposals currently being consulted on to amend the Airspace Change Process, and how the documentation went out of its way to act as a deterrent to the public with over complicated technical questions. The full letter is below.


7 June 2016

Dear Mr Haines

Consultation on CAP 1389: Airspace Change Process

I am writing with comments relating to the above consultation which is due to close on 15 June 2016.

Teddington Action Group has responded in detail to the 40 somewhat “closed” questions that make up the consultation but there are other key points, which we wish to be taken in to account.

Firstly, it is wholly inappropriate that the CAA is consulting on the Cap 1389 framework in advance of the publication by the Department of Transport of the revised Airspace Policy Framework. The Cap 1389 consultation seeks detailed feedback in a context of the existing policy framework, which itself is due to be reviewed by the DfT later this year. Fundamental concerns have been raised by communities about the aviation governance framework and in particular, the inherent conflicts of interest that exist within the CAA and the lack of an appropriate balance between industry ambitions and the noise and environmental impacts on the public. Any revisions to the policy framework would potentially result in amendments to the airspace change process, the way priorities are interpreted and potentially, the decision making process itself – which is why the Cap 1389 consultation is ill-advised and premature.

As a consequence, the CAP 1389 consultation is based on an assumption of “no change” to the status quo. This gives communities little confidence that the CAA has any intention of applying a “balanced view” to airspace change proposals. Providing communities with more information about potential changes is not enough – they need absolute faith that someone is looking out for their interests and these will be properly balanced against the ambitions of the aviation industry when a decision on a change is made. However, the proposals put forward by the CAA appear to be designed to have quite the opposite effect in that:

  • It is proposed that the public consultation on a change could be managed by the change sponsor who will also have discretion over the evidence to be submitted as part of the change proposal as well as the design principles and the list of options to be appraised.
  • There is no independent assessment of the sponsor’s evidence including the estimated noise, health and environmental impacts of the change.
  • There are no incentives or requirements for a change sponsor to put forward a proposal where the primary benefit is an improvement in the noise or environmental impacts. In fact, there will be a financial disincentive because of the costs associated with a change proposal. Communities can only assume therefore , that it is the Government and the CAA’s clear intention that it will only support changes that will worsen conditions for communities.
  • The CAA appears to arrogantly assume that it has the expertise and remit to make judgements on health and environmental impacts as part of the change process, which it does not. These are the responsibilities of other government departments and local councils and the CAA would need to draw on advice from external experts to give appropriate consideration to these factors.
  • There is no right of appeal against the CAA’s decision, other than judicial review.
  • There is no mechanism for changes to be reversed if the impacts are not as were presented in the public consultation/change proposal. Furthermore, there are no penalties if a change sponsor is found to have deliberately manipulated the consultation process or evidence. In fact, there is a clear perverse incentive within the proposed process for the sponsor to play down the potential impacts of a change from the very beginning, knowing that once a CAA decision is made there will be no consequences in terms of an appeal or the possibility that the change will be reversed.
  • The CAA has fundamentally misinterpreted section 70 of the Transport Act 2000 to interpret the “most efficient use of airspace” as the “most” use of airspace. With this interpretation, it is highly unlikely that the CAA will ever reject a change proposal because the impact on the public is too great.

If the Department for Transport and the CAA are to have any hope of engaging communities in a sensible dialogue about airspace change proposals, there needs to be a fundamental change of approach as to how communities and the public’s interests are balanced with those of the industry. This needs to start with the revised Aviation Policy Framework.

Finally, we feel compelled to point out that in no circumstances should a 140 page highly technical document with 40 complex questions be considered an appropriate means of consulting the public on hugely important issues that will affect their health, well-being and enjoyment of their property. Given the significant time required to compile a considered response to the CAP 1389 documents, this will inevitably raise questions as to whether the documents were specifically designed to minimise the number of public and community responses.

Yours sincerely,

TEDDINGTON ACTION GROUP

Cc:

Tania Mathias MP

Richard Burden MP

Ruth Cadbury MP

Greg Clark MP

Alan Haselhurst MP

Nick Herbert MP

Nus Ghani MP

Dr Phillip Lee MP

Jeremy Quinn MP

Andrew Slaughter MP

Sir Nicholas Soames MP

Caroline Spelman MP

Thomas Tugendhat MP

Gregory Campbell MP

Drew Hendry MP

Jim Shannon MP

David Simpson MP

Members of the Transport Select Committee

Members of the Environmental Audit Committee

Members of the Aviation Communities Forum

Kate Jennings, Department for Transport

Isobel Pastor, Department for Transport

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