Orders of the Day — Maplin Development Authority (Dissolution) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th October 1976.

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Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Mather Lieut-Colonel David Mather , Esher 12:00 am, 14th October 1976

I shall touch on that point later.

My third question concerns an alternative strategy. We have a number of documents on airport strategy, but before this project and the strategy that went with it were abandoned one would have expected the Government to give some thought to an alternative strategy and not to start from scratch, which will mean taking years.

My constituents and I have a vested interest in the answers to those questions. Many of my constituents make frequent use of Heathrow airport, which is a great convenience in their business trips and other travel arrangements. But many others have to put up with the noise problem with no compensating benefits. We have not only the problem of the Mole Valley route, the easterly take-off from Heathrow, but helicopter routes crossing the constituency, Concorde, and the west- bound aircraft which double back to the east. We seem to have the noise problem in every way in Esher.

For many years the noise level has been intolerable. It has increased over the years and the frequency of aircraft has increased. One of the documents shows that passenger traffic was increasing by 13 per cent. every year until one or two years ago.

I wish to refer to "Airport Strategy for Great Britain", the London area consultation document, and in particular to the forecast in it that the noise will reduce drastically over the years to 1990. There are some interesting noise footprints in the document, showing the area of the 50 NNI contour gradually reducing over the years until it is quite small. Since those forecasts were made traffic has reduced, but unfortunately we have not heard the result in the noise that we suffer, because the same number of aeroplanes seem to fly.

That means that the airlines' income has been reduced, and the money for investment by them and the aircraft manufacturers on the development of quieter engines has also been reduced. Surrey County Council or the GLC has suggested that the forecasts will be set back by 10 to 15 years as a result of the recession. The hopes expressed in the documents that we need not worry about the cancellation of Maplin, because aircraft noise will be greatly reduced over the years, have been undermined by the oil crisis and the recession.

All of us who are involved in the game of juggling with aircraft routes know that the only really beneficial answer is quieter aircraft engines. Although I hesitate to suggest a massive injection of Government help for research and development in this area, I should have hoped that the Government might have put aside for this purpose some of the funds earmarked for building Maplin.

I do not think that any of us thought that Maplin would be a panacea for our problems, but it was certainly a hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. It was an imaginative project, an attempt to solve a great environmental problem—namely, the enormous build-up of air traffic over our small island. What will be left by the Bill is a void. I hope that we shall hear what will fill it.