Thursday, October 09, 2008

London City Airport Expansion Gets Go Ahead

Yesterday i trekked across London to Newham town hall in East Ham. We held a rather disorganised flash mob all wearing red STOP AIRPORT EXPANSION t-shirts. After this and a brief photo-opp we headed inside.

Overall democracy works in a very interesting way. It starts off by getting a free ticket to the event, walking past perhaps 15 police officers and heading for the rubbish bins. Once you are past the rubbish bins you notice that you are in a dank back alley with little light but a small door is open as your way 'out' or in fact in-to the public galleries. Once you go through this door its just a matter of trying out the first door you come to, which reassuringly opens, rather un-reasuringly it opens onto breeze blocks. The next door is more successful, this leads you into the gallery where you can look over--but not interact with--the planning session. A sign notes that silence is requested from the galleries, it doesn't say anything about not filming but the Chair of the meeting does! Isn't there meant to be something about a free media, or transparency in how democracy works? From the vantage point you can now look down unhindered by use of recording equipment and enjoy acting as a bystander in proceeding--as soon as you finish being insinuated against as an anarchist element that is. It's quite a heady experience, looking down on these clowns--or more appropriately jesters--if you are ever down at Newham town hall then please to check out the coat of arms which has the colours of a jesters hat!

The good bit is when the council spokespeople get started,some nice ideas some hilarious non-secateurs and diversions. A couple of my favourite arguments where, firstly, that air pollution models aren't accurate but from current modeling a couple of roads looked likely to be impacted in an unacceptable manner. Not good, you would think, however the boroughs already poor air quality comes to the rescue. We are told that since this level of air pollution isn't anomalous it is nothing to be worried about! However the pice de resistance was a consultant brought in to talk about the carbon management plant the airport where working on. There was talk of the fact city businessmen who mainly use the airport where coming in by tube--so that's green, the airport operators where doing ISO14001, which i`m sure you all know is a sustainable management code, and at one point i expected him to tell us about the aerating faucets they used to save energy and water. Come on people get real! Flying is the most environmentally destructive thing you can do--unless you own a forest which you can burn down. The oddest bit of this testimony was the talk of fiscal measures and--wait for this--carbon capture and storage! What in gods name does possible government responses to climate change have to do with this hugely polluting plan. He could have just shouted--look over there nothing of interest going on here. It was a joke.

By this time it was getting late and i had to leave despite no objectors or proponents having spoken. I hear that democracy only got better...

It was clear what the council position was, and it wasn't going to be easy to shift as the widely criticised aviation white paper was there to help them, as was the support of London mayor Boris Johnson. So the council position focused the issues narrowly, looked farcical on sustainability, relied to a terrible white paper and advice from the deputy prime ministers office. It is clear that a generally pro-aviation stance exists within government and that local democracy has very little to do with how events proceed.

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