The air travel industry and the passengers who land at Swedish airports create over 180,000 jobs in Sweden. Over the next five years, it is estimated that the expected development of Swedish access will create an additional 20,000 jobs.That means air travel within as well as toand from Sweden is a crucial factor contributing to increased GDP and employment in the years ahead.
The air travel industry also has considerable responsibility in the environmental field. Over the past few decades, major technological advances have brought a reduction in the environmental impact of air travel.This trend is expected to continue, with investments in modern aircraft fleets and gradual phase-in of renewable fuels being important milestones.
The airport as a place of national interest
Under the Swedish Environmental Code, the State can recognise a given area or facility considered important to Sweden as being of national interest. All of Swedavia's airports are of national interest to transport, which means that the airports must be safeguarded against measures that "could significantly encumber the use" of those airports.
National interest may apply to a wide range of interests such as environmental protection, cultural heritage, outdoor activities, wind power, reindeer husbandry, the mining industry and transport facilities.
Areas near the airport also included
The actual national interest area for an airport consists of current and future airport areas and is a rather limited area. Also included in the national interest are areas of influence for noise, obstacles and electromagnetic interference. Areas of influence are areas in which tall buildings or other constructions that are sensitive to noise could lead to restrictions on airport operations.
After consulting with the county administrative boards, the Swedish Board of Housing, Building and Planning and other authorities concerned, the Swedish Transport Administration has identified which airports are of national interest. The Transport Administration is also the body that specifies in more detail each individual area of national interest and its areas of influence. In specifying them, the Transport Administration takes into account not just what operations look like today but also how it believes operations will develop in the long term. Swedavia is a State-owned company and has no role as a government authority when a place of national interest is decided or specified; however, Swedavia is consulted about forecasts and takes part in consultation procedures. The extent of the work carried out to specify the national interest of each airport varies; see www.trafikverket.se/en for further information.
Consideration regarding further construction
Under the Swedish Planning and Building Act, the municipalities have a responsibility to take national interests into account in their planning; for instance, it must be clear in a general plan how the municipality will satisfy the national interests included in the plan.
The county administrative boards have oversight responsibility to ensure that a national interest is satisfied in the municipalities' planning. If a municipality does not satisfy a national interest, for instance, in a decision to adopt a detailed plan that could hamper the development of an airport, under the Swedish Planning and Building Act the county administrative board has the possibility to reconsider and reverse the municipality's decision.
Swedavia expresses an opinion on consultations involving new construction
Swedavia has no legal liability to oversee a national interest; instead, this is primarily the role of the municipalities and county administrative boards. However, Swedavia, in its capacity as owner of the property, in many cases has an interest in expressing an opinion on processes involving detailed plans, the building permit etc. that pertain to construction in the area of national interest or its areas of influence. That is because construction or obstacles that are sensitive to noise and that are far too close to an airport have significance in the permit application process under the Swedish Environmental Act which all of Swedavia's airports undergo on a regular basis.
Risk of restricting the airport's operations
The Swedish Environmental Act regulates the environmental permit application process for an airport and determines under what conditions operations may be carried out. This permit application process is different than the process described above, which concerns how a national interest is decided, specified and overseen. However, in the environmental permit application process, the court must take into consideration the fact that the airport is of national interest. This means that a certain weight is assigned to airport operations in the weighing of interests between airports operations and any competing interests.
If the national interest has not been taken into consideration in the municipalities' planning and constructions that are sensitive to noise are built too close to an airport, this entails a risk to the airport in the environmental permit process. The airport can, for instance, be required to take noise abatement measures for a larger number of buildings than was earlier the case or face restrictions on the running of airport operations. In the longer term, all of the airport's operations may be at risk if more and more buildings are constructed near an airport since, under the Swedish Environmental Act, operations must be placed in a suitable location.