The Environmental Audit Committee today (July 23) launched an inquiry into the implications for government commitments on air quality, noise and carbon emissions should a third runway be constructed at Heathrow Airport.
It follows the recent unanimous recommendation from the independent Airports Commission –set up by the government to investigate options for UK airport capacity expansion – that a third runway should be constructed at Heathrow, subject to environmental and quality mitigation measures (see AirQualityNews.com story).
The Commission’s final report sparked debate over the impact of expanding the airport on air quality in London, where EU limits for nitrogen dioxide are already being exceeded. Campaigners say adding another runway will increase road traffic around and into Heathrow and adversely affect local air quality, while supporters of expansion say it could generate the UK £147 billion in GDP.
However, as well as mitigation measures on carbon emissions, the Commission – led by Sir Howard Davies – recommended that new capacity at Heathrow should not be released unless there are binding air quality commitments that compliance with EU limits will not be delayed any further.
On noise, the Commission proposed an aviation noise levy to fund mitigation measures, the creation of an independent aviation noise authority and a legally binding “noise envelope” at Heathrow.
These issues will be the focus of the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) inquiry launched today, and submissions to the cross-party Committee are being sought by a deadline of 5pm on Thursday September 3 2015 on the following:
- Whether the indicative policies and proposed mitigations set out in the Airports Commission’s recommended option are realistic and achievable.
- What the implications of adopting or not adopting those policies and mitigations are for wider government policy.
- Whether realistic and achievable alternatives to those policies and mitigations exist, should the government adopt the recommended option.
- What steps the government should take in these areas to reach its decision in a way that is consistent with its commitments on sustainable development.
Labour MP for Ogmore, Huw Irranca-Davies – who took over as the new EAC chair after Joan Walley stepped down from Parliament at the recent General Election – commented: “Environmental concerns are a key part of the debate on airport expansion. Critics of airport expansion have raised concerns about whether it is possible to expand airport capacity in the South East while meeting the UK’s binding commitments on air pollution and climate change.
“We will be examining the Airports Commission’s assessment of these issues in order to inform the debate about the future of aviation in the South East.”
Other MPs on the 16-member-strong EAC include Defra minister for air quality Rory Stewart and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
The EAC last year held an inquiry into air quality in the UK – it’s third on air quality within five years – after which it called for a change in planning rules to stop schools, hospitals and care homes from being built close to air pollution hotspots.
Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into
Meet the new Environmental Audit Committee
The House of Commons formally appointed new Members of the Environmental Audit Committee on 20 July and the Committee met for the first time today. It will announce details of its first inquiries shortly.
Full membership of the Committee:
|Huw Irranca-Davies (Chair)||Labour||Ogmore|
|Jo Churchill||Conservative||Bury St Edmunds|
|Zac Goldsmith||Conservative||Richmond Park|
|Margaret Greenwood||Labour||Wirral West|
|Luke Hall||Conservative||Thornbury and Yate|
|Carolyn Harris||Labour||Swansea East|
|Peter Heaton-Jones||Conservative||North Devon|
|Mr Peter Lilley||Conservative||Hitchin and Harpenden|
|Caroline Lucas||Green Party||Brighton, Pavilion|
|John Mc Nally||Scottish National Party||Falkirk|
|Rebecca Pow||Conservative||Taunton Deane|
|Jeff Smith||Labour||Manchester, Withington|
|Rory Stewart||Conservative||Penrith and The Border|
Separately, a group of six town hall leaders in London, eight MPs, academics, peers, environmental experts and London Assembly members have written to David Cameron.
They are urging the Prime Minister either to re-open the commission’s consultation on air quality, which they branded “flawed”, or rule out another runway in west London.
The group of council leaders comprises Tories Ray Puddifoot of Hillingdon, Lord True for Richmond, Ravi Govindia of Wandsworth and Kevin Davis at Kingston, as well as Labour’s Stephen Cowan of Hammersmith & Fulham and Liberal Democrat Ruth Dombey in Sutton.
The eight MPs who have also signed the letter are Conservatives Zac Goldsmith of Richmond Park, Tania Mathias for Twickenham, Adam Afriyie of Windsor and Bob Blackman in Harrow East, plus Labour’s John McDonnell of Hayes and Harlington, Kate Hoey for Vauxhall, Ruth Cadbury in Brentford and Isleworth and Andy Slaughter of Hammersmith.
They argued that an air quality consultation announced on May 8, the day after the General Election, did not give enough time to respond to highly complex reports, spatial maps and data sheets. They alleged that it was seen as a “tick box exercise” ahead of the commission’s final report, published this month.
The commission’s conclusions in- clude that another runway could be built at Heathrow even if it did not meet EU limits on air pollution — provided it did not delay London complying with them.