10 MPs and council leaders write to PM to warn over air quality problems of Heathrow 3rd runway
Opponents of a Heathrow 3rd runway have written to David Cameron, asking him to block it on the grounds of “illegal” air pollution. Ten MPs have signed the letter, including Tim Farron, (leader of the Liberal Democrats and staunch opponent of Heathrow), London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, and the representatives of Twickenham (Tania Mathias), Windsor (Adam Afriye), Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), Harrow East (Bob Blackman), Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), and Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury). Poor air quality is a huge cause of public concern, particularly in London, with increasing awareness of the impact of NO2 and particulate matter on health. Air pollution is a make or break issue for Heathrow, already often in breach of air quality limits. In the letter, the MPs said: “Air quality is a huge cause of public concern, particularly in London, and this has only been exacerbated by the recent revelations regarding VW emissions tests.” They say that failing to meet European Union air pollution rules could mean that “large financial penalties” are imposed on Britain “which would ultimately have huge implications for the UK taxpayer”. Heathrow has various optimistic – somewhat unrealistic – claims about how air pollution limits could be met, even with more air freight and 50% more flights.
Heathrow opponents fire fresh salvo against runway
Critics of Heathrow’s expansion plans write to the Prime Minister to warn over air quality
By Ben Martin(Telegraph)
Opponents of a third runway at Heathrow have fired another salvo against the airport’s plans to expand by urging the Prime Minister to block it on the grounds of “illegal” air pollution.
Local MPs and council leaders have sent a letter, seen by the Telegraph, to David Cameron imploring him to “rule out” another Heathrow runway, because of the “illegal impact on air quality that expansion would have”.
Air quality is a huge cause of public concern, particularly in London, and this has only been exacerbated by the recent revelations regarding VW emissions tests
Ten MPs have signed the letter, including Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats and staunch opponent of Heathrow, London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, and the representatives of Twickenham, Windsor, Hammersmith, Harrow East, Carshalton and Wallington, and Brentford and Isleworth.
The Government is expected to make a decision in a matter of weeks about whether it should allow the west London airport to build another runway, and air pollution is a central issue.
In July, the Government-appointed Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, concluded that Heathrow had the best case for expansion, to help the country solve its looming aviation capacity crisis.
However, worries that a third runway would worsen air quality and increase the blight of noise for local residents have blocked plans to expand the airport in the past. Similar concerns have greeted Sir Howard’s recommendation and the Volkswagen scandal has heightened worries about air pollution in recent weeks.
“Air quality is a huge cause of public concern, particularly in London, and this has only been exacerbated by the recent revelations regarding VW emissions tests,” the Heathrow opponents said in the letter.
They claimed that failing to meet European Union air pollution rules could mean that “large financial penalties” are imposed on Britain “which would ultimately have huge implications for the UK taxpayer”.
However, Heathrow has always insisted that it can expand within environmental restrictions.
John Holland-Kaye, the boss of Heathrow, last week told MPs on the House of Commons’s Environmental Audit Committee that the airport has “a very good and robust plan in place to make sure that even with expansion we will continue” to meet EU limits. The two air monitoring stations around Heathrow that currently exceed EU restrictions are outside the airport on the M4.
Environmental Audit Committee hearing into
“The Airports Commission report: Carbon emissions, air quality and noise inquiry”
John Holland-Kaye and Matt Gorman gave evidence in front of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee on 4th December.
The section dealing with air quality, and associated with it, the ambitions of Heathrow to have no increase in car journeys associated with the airport with a 3rd runway, is on pages 10 – 20 of the transcript at
A few quotes from that below:
“Q106 Caroline Ansell: Will traffic not also increase, though, with an expanded Heathrow?
John Holland-Kaye: No, it won’t. We will have no more cars on the road as a result of Heathrow expansion. Now that sounds like a surprising statement but if you look back at history the number of passengers using Heathrow has doubled with no more cars on the road. The reason for that is the point that we were just talking about, which is improvements in alternative surface access. Give people an opportunity to get there by public transport and they take it. When we invested in Heathrow Express, which is just one of the rail routes we have into London at the moment, we increased modeshare—the proportion of people coming to the airport by rail—by 11%. It took us from just over 30% to 41% today. That is just one increase in surface access and that is just into the centre of London. We have no rail links today to the north, to the west or to the south, but with expansion and for the most part with committed projects such as HS2 and Western Rail and Crossrail, we will have significantly more capacity coming into the airport. Give people a choice to get out of their cars and they take it.
“On top of that we are making a number of changes that will encourage people to do so whether they are working at the airport or coming to the airport to travel. This is part of what we have designed into the new layout for the airport. Today if you are working in one of the hotels or the offices to the north of the airport, around the Bath Road, you have very little choice other than to get into your car, particularly if you are coming from the west or the north. With expansion we will be relocating all of those offices and hotels next to the public transport interchange, next to the railway station and the coach and bus station at Terminal 5. That means that if you are living out in Reading or Slough and working at BA head office, you will be able to get there by public transport. There is a big change and we have seen that if you give people the choice of going by public transport they take it”
Q127 Peter Heaton-Jones: ……. It is going back to air quality, not particularly around the perimeter of the airport, but in the surrounding boroughs. We took some evidence from Hounslow, for instance, and whether or not they accept the particular points you are making about what the air quality will be around the airport perimeter itself, they are worried about beyond that. They are saying that the difficulty is that some of the transport modelling that has been done in effect pushes the problem out. So you find your targets fine, you hit your targets, but in the surrounding boroughs they get the problem exported to them. Is that a difficulty?
Matt Gorman: Not from the modelling that we have done. So just to be absolutely clear, the commitment that we are making is no more airport-related vehicles on the road. In future those vehicles coming to Heathrow will be cleaner, because the whole vehicle fleet in the UK will be shifting away from petrol and diesel over time to hybrid electric and hydrogen. We are saying we will, if you like, solve the airport contribution to the air quality issue.
What we have also been absolutely clear on is our action needs to go hand in hand with action from city hall and from central government to both improve public transport, back to our earlier debate with Mr Goldsmith, but also to improve vehicle standards across not just London but the whole of the UK. The two we see going hand in hand.
John Holland-Kaye: Can I just build on that? One of the great opportunities with Heathrow expansion is we take something that has developed in a fairly piecemeal manner, the master plan around Heathrow, over the last 60 years with buildings popping up all over the place wherever is available and we turn it into something that is master plan, where things are in the right place. My example of moving hotels and offices is one of those.
We can also redesign the routes around the airport. We can build a new tunnel to the south of the airport that makes it easier to balance flows of traffic and get them off local roads. There is an opportunity here to sort out some of the concerns about local road connectivity that exists today with this massive privately-funded infrastructure investment.”
On the proposed condition, by the Airports Commission, that the new runway could only be partly used if the levels of air pollution ended up being too high:
Q104 Zac Goldsmith: Just as a business, how do you anticipate raising nearly £18 billion of finance to build a runway that you may theoretically not be able to use? How do you square that? That does not include the £20 billion or so that would be required for surface access. So the £18 billion, excluding surface access improvements: how are you going to do that? How will you make the case to investors that we want this vast sum of money to build something that the law may prevent us from using?
John Holland-Kaye: Let’s pick up on the plan first. We have got a good record of increasing the use of surface access to get to the airport and encouraging people to shift out of their cars on to public transport.
Zac Goldsmith: I know. We are coming to surface transport. On the first point.
John Holland-Kaye: So I am very confident in the plan that we will deliver because we have a good record of doing exactly that. ”
Full EAC transcript from 4th November is at
There are many stories about aviation and air quality over the past few years at