Airports Commission rushes out new technical consultation (for just 3 weeks) on air quality

The Airports Commission has, at the last minute, produced a very short (only 3 weeks) consultation on air quality. It says this was not done earlier due to the pre-election “purdah” period when there are restrictions on activities such as consultations by government. The timing, shortly after the ruling by the Supreme Court, that more has to be done by the UK on air quality may, or may not, be coincidental. The consultation ends on 29th May. The Commission aims to make its runway recommendation in June, before Sir Howard starts work at RBS (joining its board at the end of June). The consultation outline is given in a cover note, with one main document, an appendix document, 10 pages of maps, and databases of backing data – over 280 pages. All to be checked through in 21 days, including a Bank Holiday.The November 2014 consultation stated that dispersion modelling still needed to be done. That was not included in time for the main consultation. The Commission has now found some differences between the two Heathrow options. It has looked at a range of “mitigation measures” to reduce the level of NO2, and considers whether these would be enough to keep within legal limits. It is a technical consultation, very difficult for lay people – who are not expert in the area of air quality – to understand.



The consultation started on 8th May, and ends at midday on 29th May.

Links to the various documents are below:

Air quality consultation cover note  (2 pages)

Air quality assessment: detailed emissions inventory and dispersion modelling  (206 pages)

Air quality assessment: figures appendix (51 pages)

Air quality assessment: spatial maps  (10 pages)

Air quality assessment: airports backing data  (multiple spreadsheets)

Coming after its final consultation, the Commission says that it had always promised more detailed analysis would follow prior to its recommendation expected this Summer.

In a note accompanying the consultation paper the Commission says:

“The Commission noted that before reaching any final recommendations it would supplement the high-level air quality modelling presented for consultation with more detailed dispersion modelling to provide greater assurance about the air quality implication of each proposal and the scope for mitigation. This work is now complete and is set out in detail in the report accompanying the consultation paper.”

The Commission’s revised analysis confirms its earlier view that EU pollution limits may be exceeded at a small number of monitoring stations if either Heathrow option goes ahead.

The Commission is now inviting further comments on its analysis prior to midday on Friday May 29.

Comments can be submitted via email to or by post to:

Airports Commission
6 Floor
Sanctuary Buildings
20 Great Smith Street