Protesters Stage Silent Air Pollution Demo in Terminal 5
Around 50 campaigners staged a silent protest against air pollution in Terminal 5 this afternoon. The protesters donned masks and t-shirts to make their point that the high air pollution levels in the Heathrow area should rule out a third runway at the airport.
The protest comes just days after the Airports Commission announced a further consultation into air pollution at Heathrow and a fortnight after the Supreme Court ordered the UK Government to produce plans by the end of the year on how it intends to tackle pollution across the country.
The protesters at Terminal 5 included local people whose homes are threatened by a third runway, activists based at Transition Heathrow and residents whose lives are disturbed by aircraft noise.
Local resident Neil Keveren, whose home faces demolition if a third runway goes ahead, said, “Right now air pollution badly affects our communities. In a number of our areas pollution levels are above the legal limits set down by the EU. Heathrow Airport claims things are getting better. But it simply cannot guarantee that, with a third runway and an extra quarter of a million planes a year, air pollution levels will come down so they meet the EU legal limits. It is just wishful thinking.” Neil Keveren is Chair of local group, SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion), which represents the communities close to Heathrow whose homes are threatened by a third runway.
The EU legal limits, set out in the Air Pollution Directive, came into force in 2010. Because countries across Europe have struggled to meet them, the EU has not fined member states for breaching the limits. But it has indicated that it expects the member states to draw up plans outlining how they will meet them. The UK Government had argued that it could take its time in drawing up the plans but ten days ago the Supreme Court ruled that it needed to have plans in place by the end of this year.
Since 2010 air pollution levels in areas around Heathrow have consistently breached the EU legal limits. The pollution is caused by both the high traffic volumes on the surrounding motorways and the aircraft using the airport. Heathrow is the only airport in the UK where air pollution is above the legal limit.
The Airports Commission, set up in 2012 to look at the case for new runways, issued a consultation last week into further work it has done on air pollution. The consultation closes at the end of this month and its findings will be included in the Commission’s final report which is expected to be published in June. The Commission will either recommend a third runway at Heathrow or a second runway at Gatwick but the Government is not bound by its findings.