Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Introducing environmental decision making
Introducing environmental decision making

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

5.6.2 Runway capacity issues

There is still a long way to go before the bulldozers move into Stansted. Although the government has indicated that a new runway should be built at Stansted by 2012, it is now up to the BAA, the de facto owner of Stansted, to submit a plan for expansion for approval by the governmental planning authorities. This will inevitably involve a public inquiry, which will consult a range of local stakeholders and assess the impacts of expansion. A decision will then be made by a judge on whether a second runway should be built or not.

Box 8 The public inquiry process in the UK

Public inquiries are initiated by the UK government when significant reviews of the events are deemed necessary. Typical events that result in public inquiries are usually those that involve multiple deaths such as transport crashes or mass murders, but an important sub-set involve major infrastructural developments which now have a major public impact. Airport expansion falls within this category.

A public inquiry is usually chaired by a well-known and well-respected member of UK society such as a judge, university professor or senior civil servant. These inquiries require the presentation in public of all evidence and the chair then submits a report containing recommendations to the UK government which usually approves the findings. This public submission of evidence significantly escalates costs. For example the Heathrow Terminal 5 inquiry involved the collection of 724 pieces of evidence from witnesses, 5900 documents, 27,500 written presentations and 100 site visits.

The BAA is currently trying very hard to improve its social and environmental image in order to help the plan receive a much more favourable response from the inquiry process. Stansted is just one of many airports across Europe where issues of runway capacity are being addressed. These issues are likely to be headline news for many years to come.

Figure 30 Please leave your earthly responsibilities here

Activity 25 Listening to Ugandan views on aviation expansion

Airport expansion within the UK will have global repercussions, not only as a result of contributions to climate change but also because the aeroplanes taking off from British airports will have to land somewhere. So expansion in the UK will almost inevitably lead to expansion in many airports throughout the world. The views of stakeholders outside the UK were not even considered. Take this opportunity to listen to the audio programme, Perspectives from Uganda, and consider: How does the situation in Uganda differ from that in the UK?

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Perspectives from Uganda
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
Show transcript|Hide transcript
Perspectives from Uganda (18 minutes 50 seconds)
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


In Uganda, the scale of the issue is quite different. Entebbe Airport is relatively small with far fewer flights per week than Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or other airports in the South East of England. Airport expansion in Uganda would be seen as a positive sign of development and a boost to the national economy. These social and economic concerns are more important than environmental issues. The constraints on airport expansion in Uganda are more to do with limited national resources than opposition by local inhabitants or any environment concerns. There are some environmental impacts that are of concern but these are about wildlife and natural habitats rather than the impacts on human population which are the focus of opposition to UK airport expansion.