The importance of participation in helping expand your operations

6 oktober 2021

Airports that are looking to expand their operations often face resistance from local residents or interest groups. How can you get the support from those groups for your future plans? One way is by using a typical Dutch approach: participation in order to find common ground.

Like we have stated before, the world of aviation is changing. One of the main reasons, besides the Covid-19 pandemic in recent times, is that both government policy and public opinion are shifting. Where governments mostly would look at the economic advantages of an airport expansion, environmental concerns and living conditions – like noise – have become much more important in the decision making. Especially in Europe. This has recently put a hold on expansion plans of airports in Barcelona and Bristol. Another airport that has been struggling with its expansion plans for decades, is Heathrow Airport. Changing government stances and setbacks by court rulings have caused a delay of the construction of a third runway for years. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a fierce opponent of expansion; however, his government wants the expansion to go through.

When you look at the expansion plans of these airports, you will see they have one thing in common; they are plans created solely by the airport. The airport then will present it to stakeholders, who can react to it accordingly. Often, their influence on the plans is very little and that fuels resistance. That is when you will see court proceedings to be instigated by the opponents. Those result in delays, in forced changes to the plans or in some cases even cancelations of the expansions. This used to be the case as well in The Netherlands.

‘Polder model’

To make sure that that does not happen, regional airports like Eindhoven Airport, Maastricht Aachen Airport and Rotterdam The Hague Airport have implemented a new strategy that is very typically Dutch: Everybody gets a say from day one. This is euphemistically known as ‘polderen’ or ‘to polder.’ It stems from the desire to come to a broad consensus on important issues in (and between) governance and society. In the case of Rotterdam The Hague Airport, it means that the airport has given all other relevant stakeholders an opportunity to give their views – and alternatives for the airport – in an early stage. This way, the airport is looking for support from the get-go, rather than to push forward and risk resistance and delays. Each stakeholder has an equal voice, and together they will have to come to a consensus. In the case of Eindhoven Airport, however, an independent advisor drew the final conclusion, despite the fact if there would be consensus or not.

Participation from relevant stakeholders is in our view particularly important. It will create the needed support for an expansion and therefore sustainable growth. As a consultancy agency, Adecs participates in these talks, to help build the support airports need. Because without support for an expansion, airports will most likely fight an uphill battle.

Would you like to know more about how to involve stakeholders and how their participation can create support for your expansion plans? Reach out to us.

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