2M Group Urges European Environment Commissioner Dimas To Take Urgent Action Against Heathrow Pollution

6.2.2010   (eGov monitor)

Source: Royal Borough Of Windsor And Maidenhead

The UK Government could face daily fines after allowing air pollution at Heathrow
to breach European limits.

That’s the warning from the 2M group of local authorities opposed to Heathrow
expansion – of which the Royal Borough is a founder member – amid claims that
ministers have so far taken no action to improve air quality of the area despite
previously admitting that nitrogen levels around the airport were above permitted

Cllr David Burbage, leader of the council and the Royal Borough’s representative
on the 2M Group said:   "Ministers have got themselves into a right muddle. They
know they are breaking EU law and damaging the health of UK citizens yet they
are still hell-bent on building a third runway.

"If they can’t come up with an answer on how they can meet the EU limits without
a third runway, what hope is there when they’ve added an extra 125,000 flights."

Since 1 January 2010 all EU Member States have been required to comply with the
limits set down in the 2008 Air Quality Directive which requires governments to
‘do their utmost to comply with EU standards in the shortest possible time’ and
set a deadline of January 1st 2010.

 A formal complaint has also been lodged by the No Third Runway Action Group (NoTRAG) to Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.   Geraldine Nicholson, chairman of NoTRAG, says that the UK Government has failed over ten years to
put in place the measures necessary to comply with EU law and protect human health.

She said: "Not only have ministers done nothing to reduce pollution they now
want to build a third runway that can only make it worse. This shows a complete
disregard for the law and the wellbeing of local people.

"We are calling on the Commissioner to take immediate action to enforce EU law
and protect the health of people who live around the airport.”

Ministers said last year that a new runway would push up the airport’s capacity
from 480,000 movements a year to 605,000 by 2030.

In its 2007 air quality strategy the UK Government conceded that annual average
EU limits for nitrogen dioxide were being exceeded ‘in a number of places, mainly
to the north and north east close to the airfield and around major roads including
the M4′.

The Government is going ahead with its expansion plans for the airport despite
admitting that the 2010 limits would be breached even without new development.

While the EU directive allows governments to seek an extension of the deadline,
this should have been done before 1 January 2010 – which the UK Government has
not done.   Any application must also be supported by an air quality action plan.
This should also include details of the efforts made to achieve compliance in
advance of the deadline.

The annual average nitrogen dioxide limit is 40 micrograms per cubic metre.



The 2M Group and NoTRAG are part of a broad coalition of local authorities and
environmental groups seeking to have the Government’s third runway decision declared
unlawful. An application for judicial review will begin in the High Court on February
23. The action is also backed Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Campaign to Protect
Rural England, aircraft noise campaigners HACAN and Transport for London.

2M is an alliance of local authorities concerned about the environmental impact
of Heathrow expansion on their communities. The group, which took its name from
the 2 million residents of the original 12 authorities, now has 24 members representing
a combined population of 5 million people.