The politics of airport expansion in the United Kingdom

Hegemony, policy and the rhetoric of ‘sustainable aviation’

The massive expansion of global aviation, its insatiable demand for airport capacity, and its growing contribution to carbon emissions, makes it a critical societal problem. Alongside traditional concerns about noise and air pollution, and the disruption of local communities, airport politics has been connected to the problems of climate change and peak oil. Yet it is still thought to be a driver of economic growth and connectivity in an increasingly mobile world.

The Politics of Airport Expansion in the UK provides the first in-depth analysis of the protest campaigns and policymaking practices that have marked British aviation since the construction of Heathrow Airport. Grounded in documentary analysis, interviews and policy texts, it constructs and employs poststructuralist policy analysis to delineate the rival rhetorical and discursive strategies articulated by the coalitions seeking to shape public policy.

Focusing on attempts by New Labour to engineer an acceptable policy of ‘sustainable aviation’, the book explores its transformation into a ‘wicked policy issue’ that defies a rational and equitable policy solution. It details the challenges posed to government by the rhetoric of scientific discourse and expert knowledge, and how the campaign against the third runway at Heathrow turned local residents, the perpetual ‘losers’ of aviation expansion, into apparent ‘winners’. It concludes by evaluating the challenges facing environmentalists and government in the face of concerted pressures from the aviation industry to expand.

This book will appeal to scholars and researchers of environmental policy and politics, poststructuralist political theory, social movements, and transport studies.

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