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Time to ditch airport expansion

Neil Sinden
By Neil Sinden
25th February 2021

What Paris does today…

…London ought to do tomorrow

The recent decision from the French government – to abandon the planned Terminal 4 at Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport – sounds what ought to be the death-knell of London Heathrow’s long-drawn-out Terminal 5 project.  It also raises fundamental questions about the future of all London’s airports as strategic planner and former CPRE trustee, Martin Crookston, explains:

‘CDG-4 has in fact been much less contested than Heathrow T5 up till now: it’s not associated with controversial major Green Belt releases (as per Hounslow’s new draft Local Plan), and the surface access issues were largely resolved – which is more than you can say for West London.

But the French minister (Barbara Pompili) described it, ‘in terms’ as the  barristers say, as «un projet obsolète, qui ne correspondait plus à la politique environnementale du gouvernement… » – an obsolete project, which no longer corresponds to the government’s environmental policies.

Its ‘obsolete’ nature is of course also a product of the big questions now hanging over the future growth of air travel. Pre-pandemic, this was largely a straight line projection of past trends. Now, with passenger numbers at rock-bottom and airlines on life support, the economic case (never mind the environmental) for ‘onward and upward’ is simply not there. Boris Johnson may insist that we’ll “pwosper mightily” with our ‘world-beating’ international trade; but it’s far from evident that Heathrow – half of whose traffic is leisure passengers – needs major expansion to cope with the country’s economic needs.

So: no new terminal, no new runways. Mme. Pompili has asked Aéroports de Paris (ADP) to bring forward an alternative plan more consistent with the objectives of fighting climate change and of environmental protection.

France’s other big airport expansion plan – the new regional hub near Nantes – had already been scrapped; which might also make one question the inevitability of, say, the planned new terminal at Leeds-Bradford / Yeadon. Or indeed the continued need for London City Airport which, like Gatwick’s South Terminal, has only a dozen or so flights a day since the pandemic hit. Obviously air traffic will bounce back – but how far, and how viably, is a big question.

Paris has decided to step off the escalator leading up to ever more departures, ever more flights, and to look at airport planning from the triple perspective of environment, climate change and economics. It’s time London did the same’.


Le Monde le 11 février 2021

Jugé « obsolète », le projet de nouveau terminal à l’aéroport de Roissy abandonné par le gouvernement

Le projet de construction d’un quatrième terminal à l’aéroport Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle, le T4, est […] abandonné. Pas de nouveau terminal, pas de nouvelles pistes.

« Le gouvernement a demandé [à Groupe] ADP d’abandonner son projet et de lui en présenter un nouveau, plus cohérent avec ses objectifs de lutte contre le changement climatique et de protection de l’environnement », a annoncé au Monde la ministre de la transition écologique, Barbara Pompili, jeudi 11 février. Le conseil d’administration de Groupe ADP, gestionnaire des aéroports parisiens de Roissy et d’Orly, devrait entériner cette décision la semaine prochaine.