BAA agrees to Heathrow watchdog if it gets its 3rd runway
Heathrow’s owner says it will accept an independent body with the power to limit
flights for environmental reasons – if a third runway is approved.
BAA says that if it wins the battle for a third runway and more flights, it will
welcome being held to strict noise and pollution controls.
The expansion plans have drawn fierce criticism from environmental campaigners
and local residents.
A decision on whether or not it will proceed is expected next month.
BAA says that by asking for a government-appointed assessor, it can reassure
the public that it will adhere to environmental regulations.
Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, said: “We have listened to the many arguments
around expansion at Heathrow.
“Although the economic case remains compelling, we understand that we can only
increase the number of flights if we can safeguard levels of noise and air quality.”
Mr Matthews said that if the airport did not respect limits set by government,
the number of flights in and out of the busy west London airport could be capped.
The expansion would include a new runway, allowing the annual number of inward
and outbound flights to be increased to 605,000 by 2020 and 702,000 by 2030 –
up from 480,000 today.
Mr Matthews also said BAA only plans to use runways for both take-off and landings
in quick succession – so-called “mixed-mode” – at peak times of the day and only
once the airport has improved its record on flight delays.
Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has said any expansion approvals will come with
“stringent” environmental criteria.
Both BAA and the airport’s biggest tenant, British Airways, have described the
third runway as “vital” to the UK economy.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats oppose the idea of a new runway, as do
environmental groups, while some backbench Labour MPs are calling for a rethink.
Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: “We have seen this all before.
“What BAA needs to realise is that people do not want a third runway, we do not
need a third runway, and under a Conservative government there will not be a third
Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker said: “This is a worthless
promise, as BAA has to stick to EU emissions limits anyway.”
John Sauven, of Greenpeace, said: “If BAA builds a third runway at Heathrow there
is simply no way the airport will avoid breaking pollution limits. That’s a fact.”
Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister, speaking on behalf of the 2M Group of
councils opposed to Heathrow’s expansion, said: “No-one will believe claims by
either BAA or the government that flights will be cut in the future in the light
of environmental concerns.”
There is also an audio clip from Radio 4’s Today programme at