Sir Howard Davies, Chair of the Airports Commission, (Letters, Middy 11th December regarding public consultation on the alternative options for airport expansion in the southeast) seems to accept without question the assumption that the case for a new runway either at Gatwick or Heathrow is beyond debate.
But it has to be asked whether any airport expansion is either necessary or desirable.
It is claimed that the growth in demand for more flights which we have witnessed in recent decades will continue to rise inexorably at the same rate.
But recent figures show that numbers of flights have slumped as a result of the financial crisis and that passenger numbers are now at their lowest level since 2001. There is no reason to believe that the era of cheap holiday flights (made possible by the fall in oil prices which may well be only temporary) will last for ever, and improved electronic communication has already drastically reduced the need for business flying.
The case against airport expansion rests of course mainly on environmental grounds, both short-term local considerations of noise and pollution and more importantly by the long-term potential disaster of global warming. The world simply cannot afford more CO2 emissions - with a greater impact as they are generated at high altitude - from aeroplanes. Technological fixes to improve fuel efficiency are far off and prohibitively expensive.
Concerned readers can find details of these and other arguments, and the evidence on which they are based, at http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/media/reports/the-case-against-heathrow-expansion-a-briefing (or Google The case against airport expansion; Greenpeace).
The Greens are the only party to have raised the voice of reason and sanity in this matter (See http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/caroline-lucas-the-green-case-against-airport-expansion-8092589.html7 or Google Caroline Lucas: the green case against airport expansion)
Mid Sussex and Crawley Green Party