Planning in the media

Prime minister Gordon Brown's first big speech on the environment met with almost universal scepticism, descending into opprobrium with the government's backing for expansion at Heathrow Airport.

Charles Clover in The Daily Telegraph dismissed it as "rhetoric and a lot of targets pitched into the future" before noting that as chancellor Brown presided over a decade in which greenhouse emissions rose. Peter Riddell in The Times said the speech was "long on analysis and aspiration but shorter on action". To achieve his goals, Brown will "have to move beyond targets and summits and take hard choices over policies affecting us all".

The first hard choice came courtesy of what to do about Heathrow. Transport secretary Ruth Kelly showed just how shallow government green policy is by supporting a third runway. Geoffrey Lean in The Independent noted: "No sooner had her boss promised that 'every new policy will be examined for its impact on carbon emissions' than she proudly announced government plans for a third runway at Heathrow - which alone will be responsible for as much carbon emissions each year as the whole of Kenya."

Simon Jenkins in The Sunday Times was even more coruscating, pointing out that 87 per cent of the UK's international air travellers are flying for "leisure and personal" reasons, rather than business interests as Heathrow's proponents suggest. Dismissing Kelly's idea that Heathrow expansion is sustainable as "drivel", Jenkins went on: "Every big planning decision nowadays has to tackle climate change. It is impossible to set Kelly's decision in this context. Either she believes in global warming but has concluded there is nothing to be done about it, or she is a flat-earther who thinks that global warming is a load of hooey. In either case she is aiming government policy at doomsday with all jets burning like the general in Dr Strangelove."

Meanwhile, Jasper Gerard in The Observer was concerned by rising house prices, the Northern Rock fiasco and the escalating number of home repossessions, which could contribute to Brown losing the keys to Number Ten. He argued that an era of council house building is the only solution to the nation's housing shortages. "Everyone now professes to believe in localism, yet councils are not free to raise and spend the money to provide the housing local people want."


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