A report published today, " Breaking the holding pattern - A new approach to aviation policy making in the UK" published by the SDC and ippr finds that available data on the benefits and impacts of aviation is widely disputed and inadequate for reliable decision making on the future of UK air travel.
The report highlights the controversy over quoted figures used in policy making including the benefits to the economy and the industry's contribution to climate change and concludes that the high levels of conflict around the effects of aviation are bad for government, the industry, and citizens, creating rising distrust and undermining policy decisions.
The SDC and ippr recommend that the government should convene a special commission to compile an updated evidence base on the economic, social and environmental benefits and costs of UK aviation and the findings should be incorporated into the Air Transport White Paper
They also advise that proposed expansion at Heathrow should be put on hold until the Air Transport White Paper has been reviewed. The review would also have implications for decisions on expansion at other UK airports, including Stansted.
"The SDC and ippr held meetings with the Government, the aviation industry, academics, NGOs and citizens' groups over a period of a year," said Commissioner at the Sustainable Development Commission Hugh Raven.
"While we expected to find areas of conflict, we were unprepared for the level of fundamental disagreement over the data underpinning the Government's whole aviation strategy. Until some basic questions are answered, the UK cannot be in a position to make major decisions about the future of air travel. The Government must live up to its commitment to listening to voters' concerns, and ensure we make the best possible decisions for everyone involved."
Associate Director of ippr Simon Retallack said
"Good policy-making needs to be based on evidence that is widely agreed to be sound, which is not the case when it comes to aviation policy. Before any major new decisions are taken on airports, it is vital that the evidence is looked at again through an independent and widely supported process. Establishing a special commission to do that provides the Government with the best way forward."