Stephen Gilbert MP writes…It’s time to let Britain fly

Often the debate on airports expansion in London and the South East focuses on Britain’s connectedness with the wider world and our increasing need to be able to easily reach far flung emerging market destinations such as Brazil and China. That need is no doubt critical if we are to build a stronger economy in the future, but there’s one important aspect of the debate that often gets neglected – Britain’s internal domestic connectivity and the need to link places like Newquay, Inverness and Liverpool to our thriving capital city.

Indeed I believe this important aspect of the debate goes to the very heart of how the regions and nations of the UK could benefit hugely from airports expansion in London and the South East if done in the right way.

As the MP for Newquay and St Austell I know all too well how important our air links are with London. This is equally the case for regions all across the UK. Domestic routes between London and the regions are a vital economic driver. In my constituency Newquay Airport brings over £50M to the local economy every year and my local airport’s links with London airports are a fundamental driver of its commercial success. If ever we lost our links with London, then the very viability of the airport itself could potentially be put at risk.

Our links with London are vital in terms of enabling local business people to get to the capital easily, as well as travel on to the full plethora of international destinations served by London airports, many of which will never be served by smaller airports like Newquay. The reality is that whilst Newquay Airport plays a vitally important role – we will probably never have enough local demand for direct flights to countries such as Brazil, China, Chile or Indonesia – that’s similarly the case for many smaller airports all over the UK, we will always need to connect via our major London airports to reach those destinations – that’s where the demand is and that’s not going to change any time soon.

Air links are also vitally important in terms of providing my region with resilience. In the winter of 2014 a weather bomb that battered much of the South West  resulted in the railway line being washed away by the sea at Dawlish, without our air links Cornwall would have been more or less cut off from the rest of the UK – having a damaging effect on the local economy.

The problem we have is that Heathrow has already been full for about a decade, Gatwick is forecast to be full by 2020 and all of London’s airports at 96% capacity by the end of the next decade without new runways. As a result an increasing lack of capacity at London airports is not only hampering the country’s ability to establish greater connections with countries such as Brazil and China, it’s also having a major knock-on effect on the number of domestic routes between London and the rest of the country, with many routes to and from London to other key UK destinations having been cancelled or reduced.

For example UK destinations from Heathrow decreased from 19 in 1990 to just 8 in 2012. Indeed the Airports Commission has forecast that by 2040, unless capacity is expanded, the number of domestic destinations from that airport may fall further to just 4. However it is important to note that all of London’s airports have witnessed a decline in domestic traffic in the past decade. This is bad for the regions.

This is why I fully support the need for airports expansion in London and the South East. But as a Cornish MP and as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on regional aviation I believe that we must ensure that expansion takes place in a way that delivers an economic boost to every corner of the country. One solution would be ensuring that some of the additional slots generated from expansion are used to reinstate, maintain and boost flights between London and other key UK destinations including Newquay.

This way airports expansion would be a win/win, not just for London but every corner of the country. It’s time to let Britain fly.

* Stephen Gilbert is Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay and chairs the Regional Aviation All Party Parliamentary Group

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51 Comments

  • Oh dear, here we go again.
    “…whilst Newquay Airport plays a vitally important role – we will probably never have enough local demand for direct flights to countries such as Brazil, China, Chile or Indonesia – that’s similarly the case for many smaller airports all over the UK, we will always need to connect via our major London airports to reach those destinations …”

    OK Stephen Glbert write out these lines one thousand times —
    It is just as many miles to travel from Newquay to Heathrow as it is to travel from Heathrow to Newquay.
    Driving all the way from Newquay to Heathrow to get on a plane that will then fly over Newquay to Brazil is not a terribly clever use of time, money or anything else.
    For more than one hundred years we have had planes that can take off and land in places other than London.

  • Simon McGrath 11th Mar '15 - 10:32am

    @John – you appear to be suggesting that flights to Brazil should stop and take on passengers at Newquay and presumably everywhere other point people may want to fly from. ? Not sure you have through this one through.

  • Air links are also vitally important in terms of providing my region with resilience. In the winter of 2014 a weather bomb that battered much of the South West resulted in the railway line being washed away by the sea at Dawlish, without our air links Cornwall would have been more or less cut off from the rest of the UK – having a damaging effect on the local economy…….

    Roads?

  • Signon McGrath

    You misunderstand. You might like to check out the commercially available flights from for example Cardiff and Dublin. You will find that the Irish and the Welsh manage to organise such things as flights to Brazil without trekking to West London first.

    I hope you are not suggesting that the Cornish just cannot manage without extra help from Londoners?
    Have you been watching too much Poldark perhaps? It is set in 1780 you know, not 2015.

  • “a weather bomb”

    Translation: storm.

  • Such a shame the Plymouth MP’s allowed our Airport to close with barely a whimper…

    The South West is poorly served by Road, Rail and Air. As a Devon Businessman I see existing companies close or relocate and new companies discount doing business on the Peninsula simply because of the added cost and complexity.

    The Sea Wall at Dawlish is again crumbling, we have no motorway’s west of Exeter and the A 30 and A 38 are rubbish at the best of times and will soon begin the annual deluge of (vitally important economically) tourists. Air isn’t the only answer but when we had an airport we at least had the option.

    It takes two hours to get by train from Plymouth to Penzance. A comparable journey from Bristol to Reading takes around half that time.

    For those that do not live in the region this is what the main train line is like at Dawlish in a storm…

    http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Train-Plymouth-delayed-waves-crash-Dawlish-sea/story-24562202-detail/story.html

  • I get irritated that Airports strategies concentrate on London.
    Now I admit I hate Heathrow. But it was also a much better journey when we discovered BirminghanM International to Japan. Even the change was worth cutting down on the other journeys at both ends of the flight. My son now regularly uses it.
    Now Birmingham has expanded, it has had flights to China.
    I am sure the allocation of slots could be much better.

  • John Tilley is right. When I worked for an American company it was more pleasant driving to Birmingham, KLM to Holland then to the USA. Much better than driving to Gatwick and much safer than driving home after an overnight flight. There must be connecting flights to other hubs than Heathrow.

  • Stephen Hesketh 11th Mar '15 - 11:31am

    Simon, setting aside this or any other any individual debate or its merits, I must say you frequently come across as having a peculilarly extreme London-centric view of life in the UK. Is the London region the only one you are actually prepared to acknowledge the existance and importance of?

  • Stephen Hesketh 11th Mar '15 - 11:42am

    Sadie Smith and Peter Hayes are corrct in the points they make. As a resident of northwest England we manage to sustain two excellent regional airports making personal and business travel easier and safer instead of having to drive half the length of the country after a long day/late flight.

    John Tilley, those steam-powered planes flying out of Newquay are a real bastard to get airborne though. “Cap’n Poldark and flight engineer Trevithick will be flying us down to Mallorca on today’s flight” 🙂

  • Richard Church 11th Mar '15 - 11:55am

    If we are serious about tackling climate change, we cannot continue to promote internal flights within an island as small as ours.

  • Jenny Barnes 11th Mar '15 - 12:15pm

    Newquay has flights to Manchester.

  • Stephen Hesketh 11th Mar '15 - 12:45pm

    Richard Church11th Mar ’15 – 11:55am

    “If we are serious about tackling climate change, we cannot continue to promote internal flights within an island as small as ours.”

    I essentially agree Richard but continously expanding and concentrating on the London region does no one any favours – including residents of the south east.

    I would like to see us promoting the widespread provision of carbon footprint information for all our journeys and the introduction of a transparent carbon off-setting charge. Obviously all monies to validated carbon reduction schemes – not to the Treasury!

  • Simon McGrath 11th Mar '15 - 1:34pm

    Stephen – what an odd comment. London and the SE are the economic powerhouse of the UK generating huge amount of taxes which are then redistributed to the rest of the country ( and rightly so). Alas many LDs fail to recognise that which leads them to favour policies which would damage London while failing to benefit other regions.

    @Peter ‘There must be connecting flights to other hubs than Heathrow.” You mean you would like there to be. Alas you cant force airlines to run flights from airports where not enough people want to travel from.

  • “John Tilley is right. When I worked for an American company it was more pleasant driving to Birmingham, KLM to Holland then to the USA.” (Peter Hayes 11th Mar ’15 – 11:29am)

    Changing this around to fit events in my past: When I worked in Seattle there were more flights and it was more pleasant flying into San Francisco and catching a shuttle up to Seattle. I chose to use Heathrow, mainly because that was the airport Virgin used and the Virgin service and lounges were streets ahead of BA …
    Likewise when I worked in Moline (aka John Deere city), there was no choice but to use connecting flights [Aside: don’t know where Moline is? don’t worry neither did American Express travel…].

    What I discovered was that talk was cheap, but tell a company based in a location that required you to make some effort to get to them that you were going to visit and suddenly your conversations (and visit) took on a new dimension…

  • Another point, I see that Stephen Gilbert omits to mention that Virgin stopped their regional flights that connected with Heathrow due to lack of demand…

  • Stephen Hesketh
    Careful, some of the people in this thread who never manage to think beyond their London comfort zone might start to believe you when you mention steam-powered planes flying out of Newquay.

    I love the mental picture conjured up by your reference to Cap’n Poldark and flight engineer Trevithick.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 11th Mar '15 - 6:48pm

    Good piece, Stephen. The “London” point is something of a red-herring. The question is whether the UK maintains a hub airport. As an internationalist I think that we should, because the it benefits the UK to be more connected with other parts of the word, both economically and culturally. Starting from that premise, the question is where the hub should be. Any hub that is not Heathrow would require significant expenditure of public money; that is just not a realistic proposition.

    And given that we have, in the form of Tim Leunig’s proposal, a plan for Heathrow that would increase capacity and reduce noise from *existing* levels, I think the party is wrong on this question.

    John’s point is logically flawed. Cardiff may (or may not) have flights to Brazil, but a hub airport can offer (1) far more flights and (2) flights to different airports within Brazil. The alternative, realistically, is to change in Paris, Amsterdam or Rio, none of which reduces the environmental impact (and in fact are potentially worse) while negatively affecting Britain’s economy.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 11th Mar '15 - 6:51pm

    And I write as someone who would be absolutely delighted if Britain’s hub airport relocated to Manchester or elsewhere in the North West. I would think it an enormous benefit to live less than an hour’s drive away from an airport serving so many hundreds of destinations. But that is not going to happen.

  • Stephen Hesketh 11th Mar '15 - 8:12pm

    @Simon McGrath 11th Mar ’15 – 1:34pm
    “Stephen [[Hesketh]]– what an odd comment. London and the SE are the economic powerhouse of the UK generating huge amount of taxes which are then redistributed to the rest of the country”

    Staggeringly illiberal. To say more would be entirely superfluous.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 11th Mar '15 - 8:40pm

    Stephen, how can a statement of fact be “staggeringly illiberal”?

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Mar '15 - 9:08pm

    The problem with Simon McGrath’s statement is that without the support of the rest of the UK London wouldn’t generate as much tax revenue in the first place, so to call it simple “redistribution” is wrong.

    Let’s keep our heads.

    On the subject of “Let Britain Fly”: it’s a very technical article and I don’t know who decides which destinations get which slots, but some sort of UK internal flight capacity is necessary. We need to be careful we don’t simply sound “pro airport” though. In many ways people have to focus on the local economy, services and holiday destinations more.

  • Nick Thornsby 11th Mar ’15 – 6:48pm

    I will try and be logical in elaborating on why what your suggestion is a very bad idea.

    You support the Tim Leunig proposal for Heathrow as if it were cost free. I don’t know if you are aware of the geography but Tim’s proposal but it involves putting eight lanes of the M25 under ground for some considerable distance underneath his extended runways.

    The golden opportunity that this would afford any Jihadi with a white van and sufficient explosives is one major argument against.

    The amazing costs of putting the M25 motorway under ground at its busiest point in an area where flooding is not unknown and within metres of a large reservoir is another argument against.

    There is also the party political fact that Liberal Democrats in London have for more than 30 years campaigned against any further expansion at Heathrow for all the excellent reasons put forward by Robin Metzer, Mike Tuffrey and others at the conference in Glasgow last autumn.

    These facts may not concern you or Tim but I hope the wiser and more considered approach might prevail.

  • Robin Meltzer is our candidate for Richmond Park constituency a key seat for Liberal Democrats.

  • Simon McGrath 11th Mar '15 - 10:06pm

    @Stephen Hesketh – you missed out the last words on my comment about redistribution which were -“and rightly so”
    A total distortion in fact of what I said.

  • “This way airports expansion would be a win/win, not just for London but every corner of the country. It’s time to let Britain fly.”

    This could have been published by the same lobbyists who have been plastering the Tube with their propaganda, trying to pretend expanding Heathrow won’t cause a massive worsening of the blight spread by aircraft noise and pollution across vaste swathes of west London, affecting the quality of life of millions.

    I’m deeply unimpressed by this kind of propaganda from a Lib Dem MP

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 12th Mar '15 - 9:57am

    A measure of Heathrow’s stagnating capacity is revealed in the increase of 1.4% in passenger numbers 2014; Gatwick 7.5% increase; Manchester 5.8%; Stanstead 11.2%; Luton 8.1%; Edinburgh 3.9%; Birmingham 6.3%; Glasgow 4.7%
    Data taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_busiest_airports_in_Europe

    Heathrow remains the busiest airport in Europe, and though other major airports in Europe are increasing passenger numbers more, including in UK, Heathrow will probably remain the busiest for most of the next decade whatever planners and voters etc. decide. It is clear that other UK airports are increasing capacity more and their hinterlands can take over more of the flying slots and therefore more of the business, tourism etc which their increases will provide.

    Though Heathrow might not change its capacity much more there will need to be further selection of the type of slots which it should retain, and other UK airports will doubtless do the same for their region – leading to increasing specialism for each region maybe. There are already debates about creating regional parliaments, reducing London’s parliamentary dominance, promoting business hubs in the regions. A wider-ranging plan should emerge during the next parliament as UK is limiting its own advancement in many spheres of influence, especially in Europe of course.

  • Toby Fenwick 12th Mar '15 - 10:22am

    John Tilley misses the point- he cannot dictate where airlines choose to fly from and to. As a result, in the capital intensive world of aviation, airlines (largely private companies seeking to maximise returns) go where the best returns are. The fact that Newquay to Nairobi is technically feasible doesn’t mean it is going to happen with sufficient demand – and a larger return to place it ahead of deploying those scarce resources*ahead* of London to wherever.

    Nick and Simon are therefore quite right. If the UK benefits from the connectivity bonus of a hub airport (we do), then the policy goal is to ensure we retain a hub, and that we achieve this at the lowest environmental and financial cost. Full HS2 integration with LHR is a key requirement, as is Western rail access to provide direct rail services to Bristol, Cardiff and beyond: it is rather bettrr for the environment to take the train from Cardiff to Heathrow and fly to Rio than to fly from Cardiff to Paris and Paris to Rio!

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Mar '15 - 10:56am

    Simon McGrath11th Mar ’15 – 10:06pm
    [[@Stephen Hesketh – you missed out the last words on my comment about redistribution which were -“and rightly so]] ” A total distortion in fact of what I said]]

    Simon, it was genuinely not my intention to distort what you had said. I rather feel as though I didn’t need to distort it !

    My shock is that a Liberal Democrat considers it acceptible to support a massively centralised country which sucks in a disproportionate amount of investment by way of people and finance in to its capital city thereby depriving the rest of the country of the same.

    The fact that London then emerges as the ‘national powerhouse’ is hardly surprising.

    But it is also a fact that such a system deprives other UK countries, regions, communities and individuals of opportunity and wealth.

    The active support of such a society is, I still contend, staggeringly illiberal.

    What happen to our support of regionalism and spreading opportunity, wealth and power?

  • Simon McGrath 12th Mar '15 - 11:03am

    @stephen – you seem to think that Govts can wave a magic wand and move business wherever they like. Successive governments have spent billions on regional policy with very very limited success.

    Hopefully our policy of devolving power such as the new deal for Manchester will make a difference to this but it seems highly unlikely that the balance will change hugely.

  • Stephen Hesketh
    The problem with the Simon McG view of economics and society is that it is “Staggeringly illiberal” mainly because it is a Conservative view of life.
    He believes that nothing could possibly ever change for the better or in his words “.. it seems highly unlikely that the balance will change hugely.”
    It is the classic view of a Conservative, comfortable with the status quo, complacent, fearful of any change that might help someone else.

    Of course he is wrong, which is why the Fifteenth Century Cotswold Wool Trade is no longer the economic powerhouse of the UK. Simon has probably not noticed that, maybe Poldark was a bit too modern a reference for him?

  • “it is rather bettrr for the environment to take the train from Cardiff to Heathrow and fly to Rio than to fly from Cardiff to Paris and Paris to Rio!”

    That does depend on the boundary being set on the problem. Whilst an individual journey taken in isolation, may be more beneficial to the environment using a particular combination of routes and modes of transport, crunch the numbers and it may in fact be more beneficial to the environment to travel via Lisbon(!) to Rio, because overall it’s usage reduces the total travel impact from all passengers. Currently, it is being taken as a given that the UK will have a hub airport and that all journeys starting or ending in the UK would go via it, when in fact there is no real reason why a hub airport needs to serve all destinations.

  • Toby Fenwick,  
    Cardiff Uni do this splendid idiot’s guide on how to get from Heathrow Airport to Cardiff — it is a real world example of why I think you might be wrong.  

    “….By train
    Take the Heathrow Express train from Heathrow Airport into Paddington Station in London. 

    Once at Paddington you take the train to Cardiff. 

    A single journey from Heathrow to Cardiff will be £44 – £138 and the journey time is 3 hours. ”

    You will note that if you add in half an hour to struggle from one side of Heathrow to the other to find the Heathrow Express platform and then add the times of the two train journeys, you are only going to add another 4 hours to your journey time and maybe around £100 pounds to your ticket price.   This is assuming you are lucky with your connections and all trains run to time and that you are whisked through passport control and luggage collection at Heathrow in less than five minutes.    

    Any white person who has ever travelled through Heathrow will know how quick, efficient and friendly the immigration officers are and how they do everything they can to make sure passengers get through the airport in no time at all.   

    There are never any queues or security panics and you never have to remove your shoes, belt, jewellery or pace-maker because they upset the machine you have to walk through.

    Nobody ever has to wait for their luggage at Heathrow, they rush your suitcases to you in a trice.

    If I was “flying down to Rio” I might think the eleven hour flight was long enough.

    You seem to think that it would be great fun to add another four hours or more to your journey so that some Heathrow developer can increase their already massive profits. Not to mention your additional train costs of up to £134.

    Perhaps you think  that the profits of oligarchs are “good for the economy” of the UK and therefore everything else should be sacrificed to the gods of hub airports?

  • Toby Fenwick 12th Mar '15 - 12:40pm

    Roland – short haul flying is much more environmentally damaging per mile than long-haul because of the proportionately greater time spent in take-off and landing. Eliminating short-haul flights wherever possible should be our aim, and as Ian Sanderson notes, this means integration with high speed rail.

    Indeed, it’s an attractive idea to charge penalty rates of APD for any city pair that is less than three hours by rail in the UK – it is madness to serve Manchester, Leeds or Newcastle from London when we’re already spending billions on rail subsidy. Not only that, with HS2 to Scotland, stopping flights from London to the Central Belt would release nearly 700 slots a week at London airports. Every little bit of capacity helps!

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Mar '15 - 12:54pm

    JohnTilley12th Mar ’15 – 11:15am

    The problem with you and your views John Tilley is that you and they are a staggeringly mainstream Liberal Democrat 🙂

  • Toby Fenwick 12th Mar '15 - 2:53pm

    John Tilley – As usual, John, you’re first to comment and last to let the facts get in the way of your strongly-held views.

    If you read my comment carefully rather than jumping to conclusions, you’ll note that I specifically mentioned “Western rail access to [LHR]” precisely because this “provide[s] direct rail services to Bristol, Cardiff and beyond”.

    So I’m afraid that your example is, simply, wrong.

  • I think I must have read a different article from everyone else. The one I read was informative, concerned about regional prosperity and Liberal in its approach. There is no way that a few Liberal MPs can undo the work of centuries that have made London our capital city.. In addition the West Country has always been the poor relation regarding investment in infrastructure because we don’t have much industry or business, or indeed a large population compared with other parts of the country , my local airport Bristol has seen a downturn in the number of destinations during the recession. We are therefore forced to look at London flights for long haul destinations. The only other place to site a hub airport would be in the large Midlands and North West conurbations with onward flights to London. Until a less destructive method of travel is devised we are rather helpless in the face of modern requirements. I hope a future Lib Dem Government would invest heavily in the research needed to bring this about (and I’m not talking about another coalition).

  • Toby Fenwick 12th Mar ’15 – 2:53pm
    “… I specifically mentioned “Western rail access to [LHR]” precisely because this “provide[s] direct rail services to Bristol, Cardiff and beyond”.

    Which would be fine and dandy if such rail access actually existed in the real world.

    But it does not exist does it, Toby? It is on your list of “Wouldn’t it be nice if …”

    When do your anticipate your fast rail link to Heathrow being built and put into service?

    When I was first a councillor in the early 1980s I was treated to quite a few presentations and unveiings of plans for SWELTRAC. It was a proposal to link Croydon to Heathrow via Kingston using a combination of existing rail track and some new-build. It was going to provide fast rail links between South London and Heathrow. It was “the future” we were told.

    They were grand plans. Do you know what became of those grand plans, Toby?

    More than twenty-five years later the people of South London are still climbing on the bus, taking a taxi or driving their own car to get to the madness that is Heathrow. There is no rail link. It never happened. Just as there is no rapid rail link between Cardiff, Bristol and Heathrow? But don’t let the facts worry you.

    I’m afraid that it is you who is simply wrong because you are confusing what you would like to be a fact with what is actually a fact.

  • I think some of Stephen Gilbert’s claims are just inaccurate. For a start there is extensive spare capacity at both Stansted and Luton airport in particular

    I think this is a great report which more people should look at:

    https://www.london.gov.uk/media/assembly-press-releases/2013/05/airport-capacity-in-london-is-currently-underused-says-new

  • Toby Fenwick 13th Mar '15 - 12:52am

    @John Tilley: I read Stephen Gilbert’s article as a strategic piece, making the case for the party to revisit the question of additional runways in the SE after the Davies Commission makes its recommendations (it is already clear that for sound economic reasons Davies will recommend an additional runway in the SE, as you know). As a result, the fact that Western Rail Access at Heathrow (WRatH) is a CP5/6 project to be delivered in 2021, with construction starting next year is entirely relevant in the timescales under discussion.

    Unless of course you oppose WRatH and would prefer people to drive to the airport? Curious position, if so.

  • Alex Sabine 13th Mar '15 - 3:43am

    @ Simon McGrath
    “Successive governments have spent billions on regional policy with very very limited success.”

    The same could be said for industrial policy more generally (of which regional policy and regeneration policies have been a subset). Nowhere have white elephants and politically directed investment decisions been indulged with more carefree disregard of the cost to the taxpayer or the likely return. Public money been doled out to private industry in an attempt to buck the market with little examination of the results before further initiatives have been embarked upon and overlaid on top of the existing hotchpotch of schemes and funding streams.

    A few years ago Tim Leunig carried out a detailed study of the effects of regeneration policies in the period 1997-2007 and found scant evidence for their success in reversing trends of economic geography. It turned out that, far from catching up, the towns and cities that had been the focus of regeneration efforts had fallen further behind the national average.

    A study commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and carried out by the University of Sheffield looked at a longer period, 1968 to 2005, and reached a similar conclusion. There had been successive waves of regeneration initiatives but the regeneration had not happened; indeed there was “some evidence of increasing polarisation”. Studies by the left-leaning IPPR think-tank and the right-leaning Policy Exchange came to the same conclusion because, as Tim Leunig put it, “the conclusion that regeneration policy has failed stems not from ideology, but rather is inescapable to anyone who looks at the evidence”.

    Some might object that evidence of the persistent failure of a disparate range of policy initiatives pursuing the same goal does not constitute a reason to abandon the exercise. But it must surely call into question the methods and perhaps also the premise that industry can, and should, be induced to locate in particular regions according to politically determined criteria. Rather than stepping up the dose of a failed prescription, government might try some different medicine.

    It could start by reforming its own practices that impede the mobility of labour, such as national pay scales and centralised pay bargaining, and land-use policies in London and the South East that ignore market signals by zoning land for industrial rather than residential use (much of it warehouse space and the like). Changing the latter would prompt some migration of labour to London but also of London-based industrial firms to areas where land is cheaper. As Tim L observed: “It is truly bizarre that a country wanting at least some jobs to migrate to less prosperous areas has devised a planning system that subsidises land-hungry firms to remain in more prosperous areas.”

    If it is deemed tactless to abandon ‘regional policy’ altogether, we might at least refurbish it so that it uses more appropriate levers and pays some heed to market signals. We might even insist that future regional policies be assessed in terms of their success in achieving their declared objectives, and that the justification for their extension ought to rest on something other than good intentions and the failure of the existing policies.

  • Alex Sabine 13th Mar '15 - 4:44am

    My point about national pay scales that don’t reflect differences in the cost of living is that they impede private sector job creation in less prosperous regions (where there is a relative pay premium that prices out private sector employers)

  • Simon McGrath 13th Mar '15 - 5:32am

    @Alex – thanks – some great info -hadn’t heard about Tim’s study. Sounds well worth a read.

  • Toby Fenwick 13th Mar ’15 – 12:52am

    Toby, 2021 is six years away.
    Why don’t you and I get together then on the platform of this new rail link you say will be built and discuss this subject again over a nice cup of coffee?

    If there is such a platform in 2021, I will buy the coffee. 🙂

  • Toby Fenwick 13th Mar '15 - 1:01pm

    @John: look foward to the coffee.

  • Alex Sabine 13th Mar '15 - 1:14pm

    The critique of the land-use planning policies in London and the South East includes a particularly withering assessment of the attitude and policies of Richmond council.

    The paper notes: “There is, in fact, a great deal of land within London and surrounding areas that could be released for housing. By this we do not mean building over back gardens… Instead we refer to land currently restricted for warehousing and other low-value uses. The current planning system requires local councils to state that a particular piece of land can be used only for housing, or retail, or industrial use. Local authorities are not required, expected or encouraged to use price signals to determine to which use land should be assigned. Local authorities appear proud of the fact that they prevent land uses changing in response to price signals.

    “The council for the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, for example, reports: ‘With high residential values, there is pressure to change employment sites to residential, which the Council has generally resisted.’ Despite the fact that ‘Richmond’s unemployment rate (by claimant count) is one of the lowest in London’, despite the fact that ‘48% of local jobs were taken by in-commuters’ many of whom arrive by car, resulting in ‘problems of traffic intrusion and congestion’, and despite the clear and accepted shortage of housing in the area, only 0.3% of Richmond’s ’employment land’ is rezoned for housing each year.

    “Indeed, the council is not even keen to rezone industrial land that causes a nuisance. A reasonable person might expect that ‘Where an existing employment use of a site within a predominantly residential area is causing detriment to the amenity of that area by reason of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, dust etc’ the council would be keen to see it replaced by housing in keeping with the residential area. But no – the sentence continues that ‘the Council will seek improvements, in order to over- come the nuisance caused to residential neighbours’. The list of criteria that need to be satisfied before the council will allow the land to be used for housing is extensive.

    “Nor are we talking about trivial amounts of land being used for low value added activities. Richmond council notes that it has around 250,000 sq m of warehouse space alone. Even excluding the associated car parking and access, this is 25 hectares of land that could be used for housing but which is being used for low value, low employment warehousing instead. Richmond is not alone by any means, and such policies have been encouraged by central government through its Planning Policy Guidance notes…”

  • George Dunk 13th Mar '15 - 3:19pm

    Well said Stephen
    My folks live in St.Ives…..as I did once and whilst Iove the joys of the overnight sleeper, I am
    far happier using the FlyBe service to and from Newquay.
    I don’t particularly like FlyBE but must praise them for the work they did during the
    Dawlish crisis.
    It was a great shame that after the closure of Plymouth Airport, Sutton Harbour Board sold
    Air SouthWest (formerly Brymon) to Eastern Airlines. Serious promises were made to travellers
    and to staff………….none were kept and the brand effectively died !
    The big problem facing regionals is the SLOT racket that goes on at both LHR and LGW.
    It is not a question about flying from Newquay to Rio or the US but if there are sufficient slots available
    at the London airports to make commercial sense. When the old daytime LHR slots used by BRYMON were given
    over to BA as part of the franchise deal the service was switched to LGW and has stayed there ever since.
    Through that action, Cornwall and Plymouth lost a huge number of inbound LHR long haul passengers who might and were previously headed west !!
    I have use the international services offered over the years by Newquay and found them useful but
    rather limited. The Lufthansa Saturday flight used to connect with a service I liked using but although I can still
    get to and from Germany….my connection has moved to another airport…which rather defeats the object of the exercise. The Dublin service is good from Newquay and I would love to see a regular LGW-NQY-DUB service or maybe one via Cardiff.
    However pretty Cornwall might be, the roads are very dangerous (RIP David Penhaligon MP) and the rail
    infrastructure so old that it takes almost as long to get from Plymouth to Penzance as it does from Paddington to Plymouth.
    Keep up the good work Stephen
    George Dunk

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