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165,000 jobs a year flying away, warns leading professor

news release

News Release

Embargo: 00:01 1st May 2003

Photo Opportunity

11am-2pm Saturday 3rd May, St. Ann’s Square. Mock airport check-in desk and campaigners dressed as air stewards and stewardesses.

Manchester Friends of the Earth (FoE) [1] today continued their criticism of the Government’s plans for expansion of the aviation industry. Joining Professor John Whitelegg [2], they today criticised the Government’s claims over the economic benefits of airports. Aviation receives jumbo subsidies to the tune of £8 billion per year. This money could be used for hospitals, education, decent ground transport and renewable energy.

Speaking today North West born and internationally-respected Professor Whitelegg [2] said:

“The airline industry has been very successful in winning subsidies and support and for its expansion on the back of flawed arguments claiming that airports are vital for the local economy. This is simply not true and airports account for small numbers of jobs, only 0.6% in the Northwest, and are just as likely to accelerate job loss to other parts of the world as they are to bring jobs to Manchester. Its now time for aviation to grow up, pay its own way and pay for the huge damage that it causes to the local and global environment.”

Investment and jobs are as likely to leak out as they are to leak in [3], and this particularly true if ground transport systems are neglected. This investment deficit is enough to account for the loss of 165,000 jobs each year in the North West [4]. Wythenshawe Benchill, despite decades of nearby airport expansion, has remained the most deprived ward in the country. What is needed is a good ground transport system that would make Manchester comparable to German and Dutch cities. This would contribute directly to international competitiveness, says Professor Whitelegg [4].

Manchester FoE is urging Manchester residents to think seriously about the consequences of expansion to the aviation industry for Manchester [5] and has created a website for them to learn more about the issues and to have their say in the Government’s consultation:

“There is no healthy economy, no business prosperity and no sustainable development without a decent ground transport system. If aviation did not enjoy such jumbo tax breaks there could be a huge increase in public transport investment in and around Manchester: enough money to lengthen the Leeds-Harrogate-York trains to 4 carriages and introduce Sunday stopping services on the Manchester-Huddersfield line. It’s just part of what’s needed if North West businesses are to prosper. It’s time for the Government to stop paying lip-service to sustainable transport and stop getting into bed with the aviation industry,” argues Graeme Sherriff, Manchester FoE co-ordinator.


Photo Opportunity

Manchester FoE culminate this wave of criticism in St. Ann’s Square on Saturday 3rd May between 11am and 2pm. Dressed as air stewards and stewardess at their mock airport sales desk, they will be handing out mock cheap flights coupons to encourage the public to respond to the Government’s consultation and express their concerns about the impacts of aviation on their quality of life. Earlier photo shoots can be arranged on request.

Notes to Editors

[1] Manchester Friends of the Earth is a prominent pressure group, raising awareness and lobbying for policy changes at a local, regional, national and international level. The group consists entirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations. Up-to-date information is available on their website: Manchester Friends of the Earth is part of a national network of local groups, affiliated to the national organisation (further information can be found at

[2] Professor John Whitelegg is leader of the Implementing Sustainability Group at the Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York. He is also Managing Director of the transport consultancy Eco-Logica.

[3] Transport and the Economy’, The Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment, DETR, London

[4] The Economics of Aviation: a North West England perspective’ Professor John Whitelegg, 2003

[5] The Government is currently considering the future of air transport in the UK. It is planning a massive increase in air travel over the next 30 years. This would mean the expansion of airports and building of new ones – all with knock-on effects on communities across the UK not just people living near airports. In Manchester this could mean a trebling of passenger numbers to 70 million per year, a third runway and a fourth terminal making it the Heathrow of the North. Effects will include:
· Increased climate change – aviation is the fastest growing cause of climate change which is starting to be felt in the UK and could increase flooding and extreme weather events;
· Taxpayers subsidising the airlines – the average UK taxpayer already pays an extra £500 a year to the aviation industry.
· Road congestion – Most people travel to airports in cars. More air travel will have huge knock-on effects on traffic and congestion across wide areas, not just around airports;
· Loss of wildlife and countryside – Building new airports, runways, warehouses, service areas and roads will take up valuable land and destroy precious wildlife habitats;
· More noise pollution – Hundreds of thousands of people already suffer from noise pollution. This number will soar as a result of more flights, airports and runways.
· Negative effects on rural economies – more flights provide a gateway for cheap imports, such as fruit and vegetables, which could have been produced locally by UK growers.

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