Air Quality

News about aviation and air quality

Ruth Cadbury MP says Heathrow low emission zone would be ‘unenforceable’

The new Labour MP for Brentford & Isleworth, Ruth Cadbury, says banning all but greenest vehicles from roads around Heathrow would have a "serious impact" on the local economy. Heathrow has suggested that a Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) around the airport might be introduced, or even an Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in order to try and keep emissions low enough that they could add another runway. There is a LEZ - not a ULEZ - that has been operation in London, since 2008. That restricts the most polluting heavy diesel vehicles driving in the capital. A ULEZ, by contrast, means all but the lowest emission vehicles are excluded. Ruth Cadbury says that to be effective, a ULEZ around Heathrow "would have to be so enormous it would have a serious impact on the economy of the Thames Valley area and would be virtually unenforceable." Ruth believed the impact of non-ULEZ planned public transport improvements on reducing harmful emissions was "not going to be very significant". She questioned whether a ULEZ scheme, which would require Transport for London's approval, could ever happen. She was speaking at a parliamentary debate at Westminster Hall on air pollution on 9th June (called by Diane Abbott). .

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Links to responses to the Airports Commission consultation on air quality

The Airports Commission consultation on air quality ended on 29th May. It lasted only 3 weeks (14 working days) and as well as being technical, it was not in a format that non-experts or lay people could easily understand. Let alone respond to, other than in general terms. However, lots of organisations and individuals did manage to make sense of it, and submit responses. The response by the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) was one of the most extensive and technical. Many other organisations responded, making the point that air quality is a key problem for all three runway proposals. Adding a runway could only have the effect of increasing the amount of air pollution, due to substantially increased numbers of road traffic movements. The emissions from diesel powered vehicles have not reduced as much as had been hoped. Models of future air pollution have to make a range of assumptions, such as layout of roads, use of vehicles within the airport, proportion of passengers travelling to and from the airport by rail, and future improvements in vehicle emissions. The health impacts of air pollution are increasingly being recognised, and the judgement by the Supreme Court that the UK must work faster to meet EU air limits has been important.

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Data on air pollution challenged by group of MPs representing areas around Gatwick

Questions about the robustness and impact of Gatwick’s proposals have been raised by the Gatwick Coordination Group (GCG) of MPs, which now includes all local long-standing and newly elected MPs around Gatwick. Particular concerns are raised about air quality, and Gatwick’s own emissions modelling, which the GCG described as “inadequate” for failing to capture the impact on the new transport and housing provision in the local area, if a 2nd runway got the go ahead. The report by Jacobs for the Commission, suggests that the impact of an expanded Gatwick would be considerably worse than assessments by Gatwick airport. NOx and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), are estimated to be 50% higher than the initial estimates of emissions suggested by Gatwick. Jacobs’ assessment confirms that Gatwick expansion would cause significant deterioration of air quality for over 51,000 people; officially put “at risk” the health of at least 151 people; and have the highest % increase in NOx emissions (28% up) out of the 3 runway options. Chair of the GCG, Crispin Blunt MP, said: "...Gatwick’s plan would ruin thousands of lives and push local services and infrastructure beyond their limits. There is no economic or practical case for Gatwick to become the same size as Heathrow."

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GACC response to Airports Commission: Gatwick runway could breach EU pollution law

GACC, in their submission to the Airports Commission, predict that pollution levels around the airport could become much worse than the Commission forecast. They point to a judgement by the Supreme Court on 29th April that the UK Government must enforce the EU Directive 2008/50/EC on Air Quality. A clause in Directive states that: "Air quality status should be maintained where it is already good, or improved" and limit values must not be exceeded once attained. According to GACC chairman, Brendon Sewill: "The Airports Commission are seriously underestimating future pollution levels. First they are looking at 2030 when the new runway would only be half full; and second, their estimates of future road traffic are only about half of what would be created by an airport larger than Heathrow today. There will be around 100,000 extra cars per day in the Gatwick area plus a ten-fold increase in freight and commercial vehicles – all adding to pollution." The Airports Commission expects the Gatwick runway scheme would mean higher mean NO2 concentrations for about 21,000 properties. There have been many studies of the adverse impact on health of NO2 and other pollutants from aircraft and vehicles, particularly for those with respiratory diseases.

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Richmond Heathrow Campaign response to Commission’s air quality consultation

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign (RHC) have submitted their response to the Airports Commission's consultation on air quality. They comment on the inadequacy of the consultation, and the difficulty for lay people in understanding it. They say that with at least 100,000 people affected by a worsening of the air quality resulting from Heathrow expansion, plans, it is not realistic for the government to approve such a plan. The various possible mitigations for NO2 "may not be sufficient to avoid delaying compliance with standards that are already being breached. This will mean that if expansion were approved by the Government, it would knowingly be planning to continue breaching standards without a realistic plan to put this right." The RHC put - in plain English - some of their concerns about the Jacobs study, done for the Commission, and the things it has left out. Just a few of these include: the date chosen to assess air quality is 2030, when a runway would only be perhaps 35% full; much of the anticipated reduction in air pollution is from a higher proportion of air passengers travelling to and from the airport by rail; the cost of the necessary enhancements of rail services would be a huge cost for the taxpayer; health impacts, especially of vulnerable groups, have not been assessed.

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Retired Gatwick GP warns of health impact of Gatwick runway, especially on those vulnerable to asthma and respiratory illness

A retired GP, who worked in Langley Green for nearly 40 years, believes a 2nd Gatwick runway would lead to a ‘disastrous’ increase in Crawley’s air pollution. He feels that increased pollution from planes and vehicle traffic would worsen high levels of respiratory illnesses in neighbourhoods near the airport. He says this would lead to ‘considerable’ increases in air pollution and noise in Crawley, a decrease in the standard of living and a fall in townspeople’s health within 15 years of the runway and associated infrastructure being built. People living in Langley Green, Ifield and Crawley’s new neighbourhood, Forge Wood, would be worst affected. Over this time as a GP he had seen quite a substantial rise in the number of respiratory illnesses, particularly asthma, particularly in children. He said "the last thing you would want to do is make that worse” and that the airport’s effect on the increasing rate of lung-related conditions across the area played on his mind during his medical career. He said in Crawley almost 10% of his patients were from South Asian origin, a group that is known to have a higher than average incidence of asthma and greater than average need for emergency admission to hospital for asthma. But little thought seems to have been given to their welfare. He also questions the provision of extra medical facilities that would be needed if there was a new runway. Facilities are already stretched - and Gatwick will not pay for more.

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Clean Air in London respond to Commission consultation – Heathrow or Gatwick runway would breach air pollution laws

Clean Air in London (CAL) has made its response to the Airports Commission's air pollution consultation (ends 29th May). They make 2 key points - that either runway at Heathrow would cause aggravated breaches of the NO2 annual limit value, in 2030 (and perhaps other timescales) and therefore be unlawful; and that a runway at Gatwick would not be consistent with sustainable development, as it would worsen air quality. The Airports Commission expects the Heathrow north west runway scheme would mean worse air quality, (in terms of annual mean NO2 concentrations) at about 47,000 properties, and 39,000 for the Hub ENR runway scheme; and at about 21,000 properties for the Gatwick runway. For Gatwick to do this would not be consistent with the duty on Member States under Directive 2008/50/EC to maintain the levels below the limit values. Under Directive 2008/50/EC NO2 limit values must not be exceeded once attained; and where air quality is ‘good’, Article 12 of the directive applies i.e. Member States shall not only maintain the levels below the limit values but also “endeavour to preserve the best ambient air quality compatible with sustainable development”.

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Council leaders, representing the 2M group, say Airports Commission air quality consultation is “not credible or realistic”

The Airports Commission has published a highly technical consultation on air quality, with only 14 working days for responses (3 weeks). It is presented in a way to make it very hard indeed for non-experts to understand. Now speaking on behalf of the cross-party 2M Group, which represents 20 Councils, the leader of Hillingdon Council (Ray Puddifoot), the leader of Richmond Council (Lord True) and cabinet member for environmental services at Windsor & Maidenhead (Carwyn Cox) have complained to the Commission about their consultation. They say it is "not credible or realistic”. Ray Puddifoot said it is not credible or realistic to imagine Heathrow could vastly increase flights, passenger numbers and its freight operation, but with no extra traffic on local roads, or more pollution. He said a 3rd runway would increase pollution levels for roughly 47,000 homes and break EU NO2 limits. Lord True asked why the Commission is estimating pollution levels in 2030, long before the expanded airport is at full capacity, and road traffic is at its peak. Carwyn Cox said the Commission is "gambling” on road vehicles producing fewer emissions in future, and on a congestion charge zone which “are not going to happen”. Many of the same arguments apply to Gatwick too.

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West Sussex council considering congestion charge idea for people travelling to Gatwick

The idea of introducing a congestion charge, if a 2nd runway is built at Gatwick, has been mooted by West Sussex County Council. It is one of several possible mitigation measures mentioned in a draft report produced by the WSCC in response to the Airports Commission’s recent consultation on air quality. If a Gatwick 2nd runway is recommended, West Sussex County Council has called for action to achieve high public transport access and congestion-free road access. Gatwick only has one major road link, and one rail link. If more passengers arrive by rail, there will be serious congestion on the trains. If the passengers arrive by car, there will be road congestion, as well as more air pollution - including more NO2. Gatwick airport has made the rather daft statement that "Gatwick has never breached legal air quality limits and its location means it can guarantee that it never will." Gatwick, predictably, hopes air quality would stay within legal limits without the introduction of a deeply unpopular congestion charge. WSCC says though the effectiveness of a congestion charge at Gatwick has not been assessed, it might have an impact on car mode share and overall traffic demand. The matter will be discussed by full council on 23rd May.

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West Kent parish councils complain that the Airports Commission air quality consultation period is too short

The Airports Commission was aware, when it put out its main consultation in November 2014, that it had still to produce work on air quality. They finally publicised their consultation the day after the election - 8th May - saying they could not put it out during the pre-election "purdah" period. That left just 14 working days for respondents to reply. The consultation is highly technical, and not something it is easy for a non-expert to read. Another document was added on Monday 18th, leaving only 8 working days till the consultation ends. Now four West Kent parishes have called for more time to put together a "correct and democratic answer". Richard Streatfield, chairman of the High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group, which covers Chiddingstone, Hever, Leigh and Penshurst authorities, said they would be asking Sir Howard to extend the consultation by nine weeks. A number of new High Weald councillors had just been elected, and they need more time to get understand the issues and gather a lot of information before they can agree on it. The Commission is in a rush, as Sir Howard joins the board of RBS at the end of June, and becomes its chairman on 1st September. The Commission therefore wants to make its announcement in June, but the undesirable rush for this consultation means the democratic process is being subverted.

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