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.


Heathrow pollution report ‘not credible’

22.5.2015 (Evening Standard)
By Nicholas Cecil

Tory town hall chiefs today launched a scathing attack on the Airports Commission, accusing it of underplaying the impact of a third runway at Heathrow.

They claimed an air quality study published by the commission, headed by former LSE boss Sir Howard Davies, was “not credible or realistic”.

Ray Puddifoot, leader of Hillingdon council, said: “Davies is telling us that Heathrow can vastly increase flights, passenger numbers and its freight operation, but that there will be no extra traffic on local roads. This is not credible or realistic.”

He said a third runway would increase pollution levels for roughly 47,000 homes and break EU nitrogen dioxide limits. Lord True, leader of Richmond council, added: “Why is Davies estimating pollution levels in 2030, long before the expanded airport is at full capacity? People want to know the full and true impacts on their health once the runways are fully utilised and road traffic is at its peak.”

Carwyn Cox, cabinet member for environmental services at Windsor and Maidenhead council, said the commission was “gambling” on cleaner vehicles and a Heathrow congestion charge zone which “are not going to happen”.

The council leaders were speaking on behalf of the cross-party 2M Group, which represents 20 town halls.

Campaigners against a bigger Heathrow believe the report suggests the commission is on the brink of concluding Heathrow could expand within pollution rules. It reports this summer on whether a runway should be built at Gatwick or Heathrow and Boris Johnson has vowed to lie “in front of bulldozers” if Heathrow gets the go-ahead.

The airport said the commission’s report “does not yet fully account for all of Heathrow’s air quality mitigation proposals” but “confirms that Heathrow expansion can be delivered without exceeding air quality levels”.

“Heathrow has already reduced its emissions by 16 per cent over five years, and we recently announced plans to lower them further,” it added.



Even just considering air pollution in 2030, when the runway would not be used intensively, the Airports Commission expects the Heathrow North West runway Scheme “would worsen air quality (in terms of annual mean NO2 concentrations) at about 47,000 properties.”



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.

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Airports Commission to carry out a new consultation on air quality impact of runway schemes

The Airports Commission has opened a new public consultation on the the impact of air quality of a new runway. It is thought that the Commission is keen to avert a potential legal challenge to their decision, if the runway would put air quality standards at risk. Only recently the UK Supreme Court ruled that as Britain is still not meeting EU air quality standards, it must quickly produce plans to limit pollution, especially NO2. The FT reports that the consultation would be a very quick, technically focused one, perhaps being completed by the end of May. It is not anticipated to involve any meetings with the general public. Sir Howard Davies is off to become Chairman of RBS, starting that job on 1st September. He joins the RBS board at the end of June. Therefore the runway decision was anticipated during June. If the consultation on air quality is to be thorough enough, and give those consulted adequate time to respond, getting an announcement by the end of June would be very difficult. Parts of the Heathrow area regularly breach air quality limits. Though Gatwick has less of an air quality problem, expanding it to the size Heathrow is now would risk breaching air quality limits – and the Commission should not recommend a development that would mean NO2 limits would be broken.

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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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