For almost everyone, the world of 2018 was very different from the one we inhabit today.
In just a few years, so much has changed.
The pandemic has spread untold misery and grief, but it has also sparked important discussions about what kind of world we want to live in when we emerge from the crisis.
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Many believe that covid has brought an opportunity to rest and change the way we live – especially in terms of protecting the earth and fighting climate change.
It will involve huge lifestyle changes, including the way we eat, use energy and, of course, travel.
In 2018 Liverpool John Lennon Airport (JLA) had just published a £100million plan for the future.
Airport bosses enthusiastically revealed a strategy to boost passenger numbers (which had already grown rapidly) – from 5 million to 7.8 million by 2030.
This plan involved extending the existing terminal to handle these additional passengers – as well as extending the runway and creating new hotels, restaurants and retail spaces.
A key objective would be to allow the airport to operate long-haul flights.
Airport expansion was seen as an absolute necessity for the wider economic development of the city and region and for many it still will be – but have the events of the years since 2018 changed anything?
The airport’s development plans have always been opposed by some, who worry about the impact on the green spaces around it.
Last year it was confirmed via Halton Council’s local plan, that the track’s expansion vision would see it stretch east towards the village of Hale, with around 80 acres of greenbelt engulfed in the process.
Although the council itself supported the plans, they were described as “nothing short of an act of vandalism”, by Hale Parish Council President Luke Trevaskis.
And he’s not alone in objecting to the potential impact any expansion can have on the surrounding area.
Campaign groups like Save Oglet Shore have long feared that any growth at the airport could damage the scenic, nature-filled places nearby.
The Oglet Shore runs northwest of Dungeon Lane, to the airport’s light gantry and almost to the mound of dirt that separates Speke Hall from the runway.
It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and considered a Site of International Importance for the wetland birds that live there.
It is also a popular place for a walk and was known to be the favorite childhood spot of Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney.
The fields between the airport runway and the shore are designated prime greenbelt and farmland which campaigners say could be Liverpool’s last truly rural area.
The Save Oglet Shore group says airport expansion plans will see “this beautiful area, with its woods, ponds and streams, home to bats, owls and many Red List birds, disappearing farmland disappearing under concrete”.
For its part, the airport, which is owned by Peel, says its plans will focus on protecting areas around Oglet Shore.
A spokesperson said: “In our plans, we are placing particular emphasis on the measures that would be put in place to protect the areas around the Oglet coast, with proposals in the Oglet area for a coastal reserve of 50 hectares, with the potential for a Visitor Center and the creation and management of habitats to maintain and enhance the ecological and ornithological value of the estuary, making the area more accessible and attractive to visitors than it is not today.”
But the pressure potentially on the airport and its long-term vision now extends beyond local environmental campaign groups.
When Liverpool Council meets for its first full meeting of the year later this month, the council’s opposition leader, Cllr Richard Kemp, intends to start a discussion on whether to expand the airport.
Ahead of this debate, Cllr Kemp told ECHO: “There are three very clear reasons why John Lennon Airport should never get any bigger:
“Brexit has made travel to continental Europe, and beyond, more expensive and bureaucratic.
“Covid has changed people’s desire to travel through crowded airports and on crowded planes like we once did.
“The environmental crisis means that the government has started to limit the expansion of flights.
“Now we need to recognize that fact and ensure that Oglet Shore and this whole area can make a valuable contribution to the environmental goals of Liverpool and Halton Councils.
“Regardless of land zoning in the local plan, councils can take effective steps now to ensure the development of an ecologically regenerated area that will encourage a diversity of wildlife and provide recreational activities for our residents.”
This intervention will be warmly welcomed by environmental groups, who have also been backed by the city council’s Net Zero Carbon 2030 plan – which is also expected to be ratified at the meeting at the end of January.
In the plan’s opening statement, the City Council’s transport cabinet member, Cllr Dan Barrington, identifies the need to reduce air pollution and stresses the ‘importance of tackling emissions’ from transport .
He adds: “This includes emissions from inland shipping, rail, aviation, road and off-road transport.”
For Stephanie Thompson – who represents Merseyside Greenpeace and Liverpool Friends of the Earth – these statements must be accompanied by a commitment not to expand the airport.
She said: “An increase in airport traffic – flights and associated road transport, would lead to increased global CO2 emissions – a clear breach of Liverpool’s Net Zero Carbon targets.
“Airport expansion is not expected to continue.
“It will seriously harm the health and well-being of communities, with resulting evidence affecting the reputation of Liverpool Council.
“Younger generations in particular have rapidly growing awareness, concern and activism regarding the effects of environmental change locally and globally. These generations will become a significant proportion of future electorates.”
So what does the airport have to say about all this – and where does its expansion visit fit after these challenging and transformative few years?
JLA, like all airports, has suffered during the pandemic, but there is a strong belief that “air travel will continue to recover”, although it is recognized that it may be a few years before the numbers do not return to pre-covid levels.
A spokesperson said: “Here in Liverpool, our airline partners are already anticipating a busier summer, as they are at all UK airports.
“Brexit appears to have had little impact on passenger demand or processing and we are delighted to see airfares remain as competitive as ever.
“What passengers continue to love about flying from here before and during the pandemic is the Faster Easier Friendlier passenger experience, with plenty of room to relax and socially distance if needed before their flight and these are benefits that will continue as we hope to continue to grow and expand in the years to come.
“While the timelines for any physical expansion plan for the airport are now likely to slip due to the pandemic and ensuing recovery period, we still believe that the plans we have reviewed and published previously remain valid.”
So what about those thorny questions about climate change and the environmental impact of any future expansion?
JLA says it “naturally recognizes its wider environmental responsibilities” and says it has its own plans to achieve net zero carbon by 2040.
This includes the potential for on-site renewable energy generation through the installation of a solar park to decarbonize the airport’s energy consumption.
A spokesperson added: “The airport is also a signatory to ‘sustainable aviation’, working with airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturers and other aviation industry players with a road to making the wider aviation industry carbon neutral by 2050.
“It is of course important to also recognize that the airport brings significant economic benefits to the region of the city – next week we are organizing a recruitment day with vacancies for more than 200 jobs on site at the airport. for local people.
“Not to mention the airport’s strategic importance to the city in helping to sustain and grow the visitor economy, as a gateway for visitors from all over Europe and soon the world following the Lufthansa’s recent engagement with its new service to its global hub in Frankfurt starting in May.”
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