Having read the Assessor’s report – which didn’t take long – it is clear that it is an amateur and poorly constructed report. Setting aside the numerous grammatical errors and typos – not to mention the reference at para 1.3 to a section on the sixth Carbon Budget that the author has then apparently forgotten to even write – the content of this report does not address the broader strategic need case set out in the Secretary of State’s original decision letter and is little more than a by-the-numbers review of the Examining Authority’s previous report, and series of opaque assertions using pre-2019 data, with little or no detailed analysis or reasoning behind any of the conclusions drawn.
To be honest, we have come to the conclusion that someone has accidentally sent an unfinished draft to the Department of Transport.
For a report designed to inform the Government’s decision making on the nation’s long term global airfreight capacity needs, the thinking behind it appears firmly stuck in a pre-COVID past. It takes no account of the need for greater resilience in our logistics infrastructure the pandemic has highlighted, the permanent disruption to the traditional ‘just-in-time’ business model that has occurred – and the requirement for enhanced cross border trading infrastructure required to address this – nor even the constraints at existing airports pre-COVID that will re-appear as the industry recovers and will only get worse in the medium to longer term. The report therefore neither defines or deals with the need for Manston and pays absolutely no attention to the big picture strategic requirements of the UK in a post-pandemic, post-Brexit global market.
As aviation propositions go, Manston is unique – because it will be built to be Carbon Net Zero from scratch, providing a model for future airport planning. It represents a perfect opportunity for the UK Government to demonstrate how it can deliver on its commitment to grow the aviation sector, whilst still meeting its decarbonisation targets, a model approach which UK expertise can then export around the world. It also provides the prospect of becoming a flagship levelling-up project, by providing much needed economic and employment stimulus to one of the UK’s most deprived areas – yet none of these considerations even feature in the report. Lower GDP will lower air freight demand? How about trying to increase GDP by increasing trading opportunities?
Effectively, this report concludes that the Secretary of State should look in the rear view mirror to try and plan the future. How embarrassing. We need to be looking forward to a new, decarbonised aviation industry, serving the UK’s global trading and levelling up ambitions. We will be responding in depth, in due course.