Dear Editor, I would like to respond to articles in the Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Post dated November 27 claiming that Birmingham City Council is spending £7,000 on a ‘champagne-fuelled’ Christmas party for senior managers.

The event in question is definitely not being staged as a Christmas party; it is not “black tie” and there is no free bar.

It is the latest quarterly meeting of the 200 most senior managers at the City Council. It is used to develop and communicate corporate policies to ensure a consistent approach to how we deliver services.

While it will be a working meeting, we also intend to celebrate the successes of the Council in 2008 and to look at the challenges for next year.

It is important to recognise the contribution senior staff make to the success of Birmingham. I will personally be buying those that want it a glass of wine.

The meal and the performance by a local community choir are being sponsored by Service Birmingham. The net cost to the Council is £3,200

Stephen Hughes,
Chief Executive,
Birmingham City Council.


Still opposed to some airport expansion

Dear Editor, In your editorial of 2nd December, ‘Why airport protest has failed to get off the ground’, you claim that the environmental impact of extending the runway at Birmingham International Airport will be ‘limited, particularly as planes become quieter and cleaner’, while the positive economic impact of the development will be ‘huge’. Presumably the ‘huge’ economic benefit referred to includes not just the economic activity - employment and income - arising directly from the operation of a longer runway at Birmingham, but the usual gamut of ‘indirect’, ‘induced’ and ‘catalytic’ activity invariably, and often tenuously, attributed to air transport as well. Strange, is it not, how the airport company and others gunning for BIA’s expansion are happy for the airport to take credit for all this spin-off economic activity, but not for the environmental impacts that will inevitably be associated with it?

The cost-benefit analysis carried out by York Aviation as part of its Economic Impact Assessment of the runway extension proposal included an estimate of the future economic cost of the extra carbon dioxide emissions from planes using the extended runway. However, we know that the total global-warming impact of aircraft greenhouse-gas emissions at cruising altitude is at least twice as great as the impact of their carbon dioxide emissions alone. When we consider that, according to York Aviation’s ‘sensitivity test’, the cost of aircraft carbon dioxide emissions would have to rise by only 36 per cent to reduce the net present value of the runway extension to £0, it is likely the true climate-change cost of the runway extension outweighs all potential benefits identified by the consultants’ analysis put together.

BANG does not oppose the expansion of BIA in principle. We do, however, oppose specific expansion proposals. As we have endeavoured to point out over the last twelve months, the runway extension is one such proposal - the independent Environmental Impact Assessment by Arup confirms that operating a longer runway after 2012 would expose 8,100 more people and 3,450 more households to significant aircraft-noise disturbance by 2030 than would be the case if the airport continued to grow without extending the runway.

While we accept there will always be some negative impact on the local community, we think local residents are entitled to the assurance that the impact on their lives will, at the very least, not get any worse. A genuinely sustainable approach to the airport’s development would, we argue, in no way preclude BIA continuing to do business, creating jobs, expanding its range of services, or even extending the runway at some point in the future. But it would mean matching the rate of growth in flights with the rate at which technological progress in the form of quieter and more fuel-efficient planes can deliver real environmental gains, so as to at least prevent any increase in noise and pollution from BIA’s operations. It is against this benchmark that we believe all proposals to expand the airport must be judged.

James Botham,
Birmingham Airport anti-Noise Group,