Opinion: Sewage and the super-rich

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By John Gaskell, Chair, Farnham & Bordon Labour Party

The arrivals and departures board for Farnborough Airport provides a fascinating picture of the favoured destinations of the world’s richest people. There are relatively everyday ones, of course, such as Jersey, Cannes and Sion (in Switzerland, apparently). And, there are plenty of more exotic places too, including Tashkent, Abu Simbel and Blackpool!

I imagine most of us would love to skip the hullabaloo at Gatwick or Heathrow to head off on a private jet for our summer break, but the nearest we generally get is speedy boarding. Even if it were affordable, few of us would do so because we know that flying is by far the most environmentally damaging thing that individuals can do. Imagine how much worse it is when there are only a couple of people on each plane!

Like every aviation business, Farnborough Airport disputes the environmental damage flying causes and is at pains to show what it has done to reduce its carbon footprint will improve matters in the future. But they have a real trust issue to overcome, particularly as they have consistently failed to be transparent on a number of local resident’s concerns.
For example, the Farnborough Noise Group has for many years asked for the monitoring equipment that the airport is obliged to supply under the terms of its planning permission. But the airport has refused their requests, even when dragged through the courts.

As someone who has long campaigned on water quality issues, I have spotted a pattern here.

Thames Water was, until very recently, owned by the Macquarie group, the very same people that own Farnborough airport.

You’ll remember that Macquarie was the global financial giant that saddled our water company with huge debts to pay its shareholders £millions, while consistently underinvesting in our deteriorating water infrastructure?

And, just like the airport, Thames Water has never really been transparent about its activities, preferring to move the reporting goalposts rather than ensuring that less sewage is pumped into our rivers and oceans.

No doubt the Macquarie executives who run the airport are not the same as those who ran Thames Water, though they clearly share a preference for short-term profit and a reluctance to avoid scrutiny. This may well come to haunt them as they ask for public support for their expansion plans.

And it underlines the fact that Farnborough’s proposed expansion will benefit a very small group of unaccountable, super-rich, super-emitters, but it will cost the environment dearly.

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