July 4, 2008

Airport Delivery Expert

By Shiel, Vicki

Everything possible has been done to mitigate the environmental and social impacts arising from the expansion of Stansted Airport, BAA planning chief Roger Pellman tells Vicki Shiel The stack of planning application documents stands almost 3m high and comprises 70 folders. Roger Pellman has had his work cut out as head of environmental planning on BAA's controversial Generation 2 project at Stansted Airport.

Even its most dedicated opponents might sympathise with the sheer amount of detail - particularly on ecological issues - that Pellman and his team have had to produce at every turn. Having worked on the proposal since its inception in 2004, he believes that BAA has succeeded in reducing many of the negative impacts that ministers anticipated from the development.

"Seasonal hurdles, such as the fact that you can't move birds or bats when they're mating, mean that we have had to go into considerable detail even at a very early stage," he explains. "Then there are the species protected by European law. Newts, bats, badgers, water voles - these are the things that keep me awake at night," he reflects.

Pellman joined BAA's Heathrow Airport team in the mid 19705. "I was attracted to airport planning not because I had a particular interest in airports at that time but because I've always been interested in the delivery of strategies," he explains. "I'm not much good at devising them myself, but if you hand me one I'm pretty good at delivering it."

He went on to work on the Gatwick Airport masterplan in 1983 before returning to Heathrow in 1987 to manage the Terminal 5 planning application. He was involved from the earliest stages through to its submission in 1993 and the ensuing public inquiry, which lasted for a record 525 days.

He then joined the BAA team that responded to the government's consultation on new airport capacity in the South East. "We published our views and the government took them into account when formulating its policy in the 2003 aviation white paper. So I guess I had a hand in Generation 2 before it even started because we recommended that up to three new runways should be built - one at Gatwick, one at Heathrow and up to two at Stansted."

The white paper outlined the government's support for two new runways in the South East, the first to be built at Stansted and the second at Heathrow. It also stressed that operators should maximise the capacity of existing facilities. A decision is expected imminently on BAA's application to increase throughput on Stansted's single runway.

Asked how seriously opponents' views are taken, Pellman is adamant that he and his team have done all they can to mitigate the negative impact of the development, which includes a new terminal building and associated infrastructure works. "We acknowledge people's concerns. These are important issues and local impacts need to be examined. We do understand the seriousness of what we're doing," he insists.

"The government anticipated the loss of 700ha of land and we have reduced that to 442ha. It predicted the loss of 29 listed buildings and we have reduced that to 13, ten of which we are to rebuild. We have reduced the number of houses that will be lost from more than 100 to 73 and the number of people affected by air noise from 11,000 to 5,000. We have worked very hard and are satisfied that we have done as much as we can," he argues.

The most enjoyable part of the project for Pellman has been working in a large team and seeing how its members interact. In all, he has drawn on advice from 35 planning and environmental consultancies. "I don't think that anyone working with us will have been involved in anything this substantial before. It's much bigger than Terminal s or the Olympic Games," he says.

"We were determined that all of the consultants should be involved from the beginning so everybody knew why we came to the decisions that we did. Inevitably the ground noise consultant disagrees with the ecologist, who disagrees with the landscape consultant. It has been very gratifying to see how these people have worked with each other to iron out their differences."

To those who oppose expansion of airports in London and the South East, Pellman is adamant that this stance conflicts with wider objectives for London to be a world city, to remain a leading financial centre, to be racially diverse and to provide a hub at which global companies will choose to locate themselves. "All those things are enabled by having the global connections that airports provide," he claims.

"Once you start to prevent the growth of airports, those objectives become more difficult to achieve and we will lose out to our European competitors," he warns. He points out that airports in Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam all have the capability to increase passenger throughput and already operate more runways.

Despite the opposition, it would be an understatement to say that Pellman is confident that Generation 2 will eventually get the green light. "It would be enormously surprising if the application is not approved. The support for what we're doing in the white paper has been repeated by the government at every opportunity since and we have significantly reduced the predicted environmental impacts," he asserts.

"That does not mean that we don't have to work very hard to explain what we're doing to mitigate the local effects that will occur. The process will still have a great deal of value in testing whether we've done our best," he concludes.


Age 57

Family Married with three children

Education Degree in English, University of Hull, 1972

Interests Fell-walking, cinema, novels, Chelsea Football Club, jazz

2004 Head of environmental planning, Stansted Airport Generation 2 project

2002 Head of strategic planning, Heathrow Airport

1997 General manager, Heathrow Terminal 5 inquiry

1987 Strategic planning manager, Heathrow Terminal 5 project

1975 Various planning roles at Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow Airports

Copyright Haymarket Business Publications Ltd. Jun 13, 2008

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