Heathrow third runway pollution plan ‘inadequate’
There are “clear inadequacies” in pollution safeguards imposed on the planned
expansion of Heathrow Airport, London Assembly members have said.
Measures against the impact of a third runway were not “fit for purpose”, its
environment committee added.
It was also concerned that no single authority would ensure owners BAA and airlines
complied with pollution rules.
A Department for Transport spokesman said its environmental criteria for the
airport were “robust and relevant”.
A new runway would increase the number of passengers from 67 million to 82 million
per year, and potentially up to 135 million. [And over 200,000 extra flights
New capacity will only be released once strict air quality and noise conditions
are shown to be met and on the basis of independent assessment.
Department for Transport
The government gave the plan the go-ahead in January last year on condition that
measures were put in place to limit aircraft noise, air pollution and greenhouse
But London Assembly committee chairman Murad Qureshi said: “Our investigation
has raised grave concerns about some of these safeguards, including clear inadequacies
in approaches to tackling air pollution levels around Heathrow.
“We would also question whether the suggested noise benchmark is fit for purpose
and if the aviation emissions targets are achievable.”
It said BAA’s range of measures, which include levies on more polluting aircraft
and efforts to reduce congestion on the airfield, were insufficient.
The committee also said more action was needed to reduce road traffic, which
contributes to the airport’s pollution.
It called for a joint government and BAA plan for improving air quality and said
a failure to meet EU pollution targets could result in fines totalling hundreds
of millions of pounds.
The Department for Transport said a new Heathrow runway would secure jobs and
ensure Britain remained a place where the world could come to do business.
Its spokesman said: “However, in giving support for a third runway at Heathrow,
the government was absolutely clear that new capacity will only be released once
strict air quality and noise conditions are shown to be met and on the basis of
“An enforcement framework for this is being developed and we will consult on
our proposals later this year.”
A new runway would be too noisy, too dirty and pose too much of a threat to the
Anna Jones, Greenpeace
In December the government’s official climate watchdog Committee on Climate Change
said Heathrow expansion was “entirely consistent” with its target to reduce aviation
emissions to 2005 levels by 2050.
The Department for Transport spokesman said: “This target helps give the UK one
of the toughest emissions regimes for aviation of any country in the world.”
The runway is due to be built in 2015 and Conservatives and Lib Dems are among
those fighting the £7bn plans.
Anna Jones from environmental charity Greenpeace said: “It’s simply impossible to bolt a new airport the size of Gatwick on to the present airport at Heathrow and not breach noise and air pollution regulations.
too dirty and pose too much of a threat to the climate.”
London Assembly Report – “Flights of Fancy: Can Heathrow meet its environmental Targets”
third runway at Heathrow may not be fit for purpose, the London Assembly’s Environment
Committee warns today.
of 125,000 annual flights and 15 million extra passengers in 2020 when the runway
first opens, and this is forecast to increase even further.
to manage the negative environmental impact of the potential development. But
a new report by the London Assembly’s Environment Committee, “Flights of Fancy”,
reveals unmistakeable limitations in some of these conditions and how they would
looking at whether they can work in practice, are achievable and likely to mitigate
the negative environmental impacts of further development. Our report highlights
a number of key issues that undoubtedly question the credibility of the conditions
as they stand, and proposes some practical adjustments to strengthen them.
use summer 2002  as a base year for measuring noise – it was the last full
year of the very noisy Concorde flights, which distorts the picture significantly.
The report refers to research which pointed out that noise disturbance from one
Concorde flight is equivalent to 120 Boeing 757s . The report also highlights
limitations about the size of the contour area and the method for calculating
it, and has grave concerns about the noticeable absence of overarching guidance
at national and EU levels.
air quality targets. The report says the Heathrow expansion plans lack a specific
coordinated programme of measures to improve air quality, and BAA’s own measures
to improve air quality will not have a big enough impact.
including the impact of new technology and more innovative mitigation measures.
The report also calls for a full and independent health impact assessment on the
communities around Heathrow.
from UK aviation to 2005 levels, or below, by 2050, appears to have been set without
proper analysis of how it might be achieved. The report highlights that at full
capacity Heathrow could become the biggest single source of CO2 emissions in the
country, emitting the equivalent of 54 of the least polluting countries .
The report also says the complexity of the governance structure adds to the uncertainty
felt about the conditions – accountability for the conditions spans three government
departments, two regulatory bodies and the Committee on Climate Change.
Noise Groups and UK Noise Association. Published March 2003. Available at http://www.hacan.org.uk/resources/reports/hacan.the_quiet_con.pdf
The London Assembly has consistently opposed the Government’s proposals to expand
to the estimated benefits an expanded Heathrow would bring to London. Read the
Committee’s response to Heathrow expansion in full at: http://www.london.gov.uk/assembly/reports/environment/heathrow-response.rtf
Pollution safeguards fear over Heathrow expansion
pollution imposed on the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport, London Assembly
members have warned.
The Assembly’s environment committee said it had “grave concerns” over the environmental
conditions put in place by the Government for controversial plans for a third
runway at the UK’s busiest airport.
Building a third runway at the west London airport is set to increase passenger
numbers from 67 million to 82 million a year, and potentially up to 135 million,
and could increase aircraft noise, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
A report by the Assembly committee warns the safeguards put in place to protect
against the impacts of a bigger airport were not currently “fit for purpose”.
The committee also raised concerns there was no single authority which would ensure
Heathrow owners BAA and the airlines complied with the rules.
Three Government departments, two quangos and the Committee on Climate Change
have all been charged with responsibility for different aspects of the conditions,
it warned. The environment committee’s chairman, Murad Qureshi, said: “Heathrow
expansion is a hugely contentious issue which has made many Londoners worry that
they will have to cope with even more aircraft noise and poorer air quality. It
is therefore vital that the Government’s environmental conditions are strong enough.
“However, our investigation has raised grave concerns about some of these safeguards,
including clear inadequacies in approaches to tackling air pollution levels around
Heathrow. We would also question whether the suggested noise benchmark is fit
for purpose and if the aviation emissions targets are achievable.”
Even without the construction of the controversial third runway, Heathrow’s air
pollution levels already exceed EU limits, with the airport a hotspot for nitrogen
oxides and particulate matter which can both damage people’s health.
The committee warned BAA’s range of measures, including levies on more polluting
aircraft and efforts to reduce congestion on the airfield, were not enough. It
said more action was needed to reduce road traffic – which contributes to the
pollution – by improving public transport, cutting the cost of the Heathrow Express
and potentially introducing road user charging schemes at the airport.
The committee’s report also found that while the Government had set limits for
the noise levels of an expanded airport, the baseline year for the constraint
– 2002 – was the last year Concorde flew, distorting the figures. The noise from
one Concorde flight is equivalent to 120 Boeing 757s, research has shown. Methods
of measuring noise levels of the airport also did not take into account night
flights or the busiest time for landings, 6am to 7am.
emissions from UK aviation to 2005 levels by 2050, as part of efforts to slash
UK greenhouse gases, was set without “proper analysis” of how it might be achieved.
The committee said the Government should bring in short, medium and long-term
targets for reducing emissions from flying – and give them legal force.