Airport City – against and for…

Attention Conservation Notice: The following article contains entirely predictable statements from various organisations about the virtue/vice of “Airport City.”

Last week, accompanied by a certain amount of civic boosterism (always in short supply in Manchester), the £659 million “Airport City” project got the go-ahead.  It will, in essence, be a whole wodge of offices, call centres, logistics centres and the like around t’Airport.  Will it suck money and businesses from elsewhere in a beggar-thy-neighbour manner, or generate ‘new revenue streams’? That’s for the economists to discuss.  We at Manchester Climate Monthly were more interested in what various “green” groups thought of it – and, crucially – what they wanted their members and supporters to do about it.  And, for the sake of some new-fangled thing called “journalistic balance,” we’ve also asked the Liberal Democrats, the Airport and Manchester City Council (55% owners thereof) for statements on how a whopping big business park predicated on flying is consistent with a ‘low-carbon Manchester’.  Read on!!

First, we asked various green groups “Is the proposed development of “Airport City” consistent with a low carbon Manchester?”  You will be shocked, shocked to find that they thought “no.”  Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport (the clue is in the name) told us “the scheme plans to attract businesses that will ‘serve the growing demand at the Airport’ – thus coupling economic growth with rising carbon emissions from flights.  It is mistake to tie prosperity creation to high carbon industries like aviation.
Secondly,  80% of trips to the Airport today are made by car – so creating more activity at the Airport will lead to an increase in car emissions.  The major transport addition in the plans is the controversial SEMMMS road link (South East Manchester Multi Modal Study) – which will cause a rise in road emissions.
Thirdly, the Airport City scheme plans to build on Green Belt areas – which is not consistent with a low carbon, green vision of Manchester.”

The Manchester Green Party told us “Anything which increases the role of the Airport and which encourages air travel will make it much harder for Manchester council to achieve its carbon reduction target” and pointed us to their website article posted after we contacted them.

Second up, we asked them, if they didn’t think it was consistent, then “what actions is your organisation taking/encouraging its members to take?”

SEMA said “The Airport City scheme has already been approved from on-high by the Chancellor George Osbourne.  Within this scenario we need to limit the damage the scheme will cause as it goes ahead.  Along with other groups, we have urged the Council that the scheme is carried forward in a way that doesn’t compete with other economic areas in the Manchester region – and that the SEMMMS road is not given planning permission.  People should voice their disapproval of the SEMMMS road to the Manchester and Stockport Councils directly. “

The Green Party said “I think it’s safe to say that Manchester Green Party will never support this Zone by opening an office there, in spite of the low taxes.  More seriously we will campaign against this and similar proposals in our role as a political Party within and alongside electoral politics.”

The Manchester Liberal Demcrats favour the project. Councillor Marc Ramsbottom, leader of the Opposition stated that his party “fully welcomed Airport City and are delighted that the Coalition Government have made the project possible. Airport City could create 13,000 jobs and help the regeneration of Wythenshawe; making Wythenshawe and Manchester more economically sustainable. The project is aiming to attract global businesses, and particularly those connected with the Aviation industry.”
He continued “I hope that this will encourage R&D to make aviation more environmentally friendly and Manchester Airport more sustainable. I also believe that the project is consistent with Manchester Airports objectives to cut down on Domestic flights, which I believe are unnecessary and one the major reasons the aviation industry can be so damaging.”

And here’s where their opponents will doubtless say they are wanting to have their cake and eat it: “Whilst Manchester Liberal Democrats support Manchester Airport as a key player in employment and growth in the North West, we believe it’s expansion (which Airport City is a part of) must be sustainable. We believe that there is an inconsistency between the government’s policy on CO2 emissions, and the government’s policy of airport expansion. These inconsistencies need resolving. We believe that the Council and Airport should set Carbon Reduction Targets based on 2005 levels. We believe a full cost benefit analysis should be done before any significant infrastructure development at the Airport.”

So, what do they think should be done?
* local people to benefit from the jobs created at Airport City.
* Council and developers to encourage R and D investment.
* Manchester Airport to continue to reduce the number of Domestic Flights.
* the Council to invest revenue generated from Airport City into schemes to reduce carbon and promote sustainability.
* The Council to include Airport City and Manchester Airport in the City Council’s Climate Change Action Plan so they can be part of a low carbon Manchester.
* the Council and Airport to set Carbon Reduction Targets based on 2005 levels.
* a full cost benefit analysis to be carried out.
* Airport City and Manchester Airport to be included in the City Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan

And now for the organisations who are usually quoted at the top of these sorts of opinion-scanning pieces.

Manchester City Council supplied the following;
Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s executive member for the environment, said: “Airport City, which will create an estimated 20,000 jobs in a wide variety of sectors, will be designed to the highest environmental standards possible and will be built with a series of green bridges ensuring that every part of its northern zone is within an eight minute walk from the airport’s bus and rail hub.
“Airport City will also be one of the best connected sites for public transport anywhere in the country, with a new Metrolink line currently being built to complement existing rail connections and planned and committed improvements to the road system.”

and the Airport press office gave us this;
John Atkins, Airport City Director for the Manchester Airports Group, said: “Airport City will be a central project for the Group over the next ten years and we will look to construct buildings that are low carbon in design. It’s a project that will have social cohesion and the local community of Wythenshawe at its heart. Alongside existing community initiatives, we will continue to support schemes that improve levels of skills, education and attainment while reducing unemployment locally and equipping local people to compete for new jobs on-site. The new Metrolink extension to the airport will also assist in the delivery of that objective.”

Other groups we asked
Manchester Campaign against Climate Change didn’t reply to two email requests.
Manchester Friends of the Earth were unable to provide a statement by our deadline.

Editorial: Who wants to be an Enemy of the People?
To understand what’s going on here, we need to turn to a 19th century Norwegian playwright [Ed: er is this right?] Henrik Ibsen wrote a play called “An Enemy of the People.”  Its main character is a beloved town doctor who has brought people into the world, treated their illnesses, reduced their pain as they die. Everyone loves him. Then he makes a mistake: he analyses the actual quality of the water at the town’s famous spa, which earns huge revenues from visitors coming from all over Europe. Worse, he lacks the common sense and decency to keep schtum about the fact that the water is quite the opposite of healthy…

For over 100 years Manchester was about export and innovation. After the decline of the 70s and 80s, a ‘renaissance’ has taken place (for some) around inward investment, of which the Airport is perceived to be a crucial component. And woe betide anyone who says the waters aren’t healthy. But then again, also woe betide anyone who grumps about the waters without doing work on what else people are going to drink

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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2 Responses to Airport City – against and for…

  1. Robbie says:

    There are major discrepancies in the projected job creation figures. A Manchester Evening News report states that 21,000 jobs are expected to be created from the ‘Airport City’ scheme. A BBC news report on the same day states that only 13,000 jobs are to be created.

    Actually the Council admitted at the Core Strategy Examination in November 2011 that only 7000 of these would be new jobs, with the rest being made up of already-existing jobs relocating to Airport City as firms move to take advantage of the tax breaks.

    Over inflated job creation figures are nothing new to Manchester Airport. When plans for Runway 2 were announced in 1991, the Chairman of the Airport claimed it would create 50,000 jobs – a far cry from the reality the emerged.

    It is also misleading to say that Airport City will necessarily contribute to the regeneration of Wythenshawe. As a report by the Metropolitan Transport Research Unit notes, “The experience elsewhere of Business Parks aimed at high-end ‘knowledge economy’ occupants is that the more specialised and higher paid workers are drawn from an extremely wide catchment. While there will be less specialised jobs, these will be much lower paid, thus the benefit of Airport City to workers living in Wythenshawe will be relatively limited.” (Analysis of Airport City Enterprise Zone, July 2011, page 20 –

  2. Laurence Menhinick says:

    Like you said, a lot of the usual here since it is to attract global business connected to the aviation industry.. Add to the soup of contradictions the current recommendations to the good all general public to “consider alternatives to flying” published on the government’s very own digital service ( which also informs us that (i quote) “If no action is taken, carbon dioxide emissions from aviation could make up around 10 per cent of the UK’s total CO2 emissions by 2020.”

    And don’t forget to stir in Cameron’s renewed interest in airport expansion and “ Boris Island” in the Thames Estuary this week for a hearty meal to keep you ( globally) warm for decades to come…

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