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Response to UK Airport Policy 18 December 2003

The Isle of Man's Department of Transport has studied the proposals for future airports policy, issued by the UK Government in a White Paper on 16th December 2003. This White Paper follows on from a long public consultation period, to which our Department of Transport responded, supported by meetings with UK Ministers, and an appearance infront of the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport.

The department welcomes the general theme of the White Paper, which recognises the considerable value that aviation brings to communities, economies, jobs, and individuals. Also that aviation is expected to continue to grow strongly, and that in the words of a UK Minister, "doing nothing is not an option". The White Paper has looked at specific airport sites in every area of the UK, and made clear recommendations as to which sites should be expanded, and where additional runway capacity should be provided. In the South East of England, clear dates are given for when new runway capacity should become available.

The Isle of Man has air routes to some 14 UK airports, and it is encouraging to see that at all of these airports, future expansion is to be encouraged. This will be beneficial to the Island in helping to maintain access, and help avoid the problems of recent years, where regional services have been "squeezed out" of congested airports such as Heathrow. Even though Heathrow is not being given the next new runway in the South East (at Stansted), there is still a clear proposal to provide a new runway at Heathrow, from 2015. This is of great interest to the Island, because it will re-open the possibility of restoring a Heathrow service. Furthermore, the UK Government has stated its intention to review the provision of 'safeguarded' access from the Regions, via the mechanism of "Public Service Obligations" (PSOs). This will become possible once additional Slots are created at Heathrow, and other congested airports.

The department feels that it is disappointing to see that no action will be taken to remove the legal restriction on a new runway at Gatwick, before 2019. This means that the period from now until 2012 (new Stansted runway) or 2015 (new Heathrow runway), will continue to be characterised by concerns about the Island's Slot access into the main London airports. During this interim period we will continue to do everything possible to seek to protect our interests, and the integrity and viability of our air services. The department feels that the UK Government is to be generally applauded for tackling a difficult issue in a positive manner, whilst ensuring that due attention will be given to the effects that aviation expansion can have on the environment. The whole subjectrequires an effective balance to be struck between the manifest benefits of aviation, whilst addressing those disbenefits that can be much reduced by technological improvements; carefully designed operating procedures; and good planning practices. This is the 100th Anniversary of Aviation, and a good foundation has been laid for airports policy into its second Century. The department will be writing to the UK Minister, to convey and expand on all these points.

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