John Holland-Kaye and Sir Howard Davies give evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee

The Environmental Audit Committee is holding an inquiry into the implications for Government commitments on carbon emissions, air quality and noise should the Airport Commission’s recommendation of a 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport be adopted.  It is holding its second evidence session, hearing from John Holland-Kaye and Matt Gorman, of Heathrow – and Sir Howard Davies and Phil Graham, from the (now closed) Airports Commission. They will be asked questions on noise, air pollution and CO2. The Airports Commission, in their final report on 1st July and in supporting documents, gave unsatisfactory answers on all these. There are no details of flight paths from a new runway, with no information on which areas would be newly overflown. There is no certainty that levels of NO2 around the airport, already sometimes over EU legal limits, would not rise with a 50% increase in the size of the airport, and massive increase in road traffic. There is no satisfactory answer on how the UK could meet its aviation carbon target, while building a new runway. Heathrow has put forward various ideas on how it might slightly reduce its noise and NO2 impacts, many speculative (eg. marginally less noisy planes). The airport is not keen on ceasing night flights (11pm to 6am) though that was one of the Commission’s suggested conditions for a runway.


The Airports Commission report: Carbon emissions, air quality and noise inquiry

Scope of the EAC inquiry

The Environmental Audit Committee is holding an inquiry into the implications for Government commitments on carbon emissions, air quality and noise should the Airport Commission’s recommendation of a third runway at Heathrow Airport be adopted.

Full terms of reference

Link to EAC website     

Link to all written evidence submitted to the EAC   

The full transcript of the session is here 


The session can be viewed live on Parliament TV at

MPs to hear about Heathrow expansion’s effect on environment


Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, will try to convince a Parliamentary committee on Wednesday that it can still meet environmental standards if it expands.

The airport has been campaigning for years to be allowed to add a third runway because it is operating at full capacity. But it faces opposition from some politicians, local residents and environmental groups.

A government-appointed Airports Commission named Heathrow as the preferred site for a London airport expansion in July, and Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will decide by the end of the year whether a new 23 billion-pound ($35 billion) runway should be built there.

Reassurances that the site can meet environmental standards could help provide political cover for the final decision.

Members of parliament on Britain’s Environmental Audit Committee will hear evidence on a bigger Heathrow’s carbon emissions, air quality and noise levels, from Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye; its sustainability and environment director, Matt Gorman; and Howard Davies, former chairman of the Airports Commission.

The Commission’s support for Heathrow was conditional on further restrictions to night flights, introducing a noise levy and a legal commitment on air quality. The conditions were attempt to win over critics, who battled to get a previous expansion plan scrapped five years ago.

The Heathrow executives will outline the steps the airport is taking. Among the steps being taken is a 20 million-pound investment in plug-in electric air conditioners at gates to cool the planes, so they don’t need to use engines on stand and emit extra pollution.

“Improved air quality around Heathrow is not negotiable. We’ve made clear that Heathrow is already playing its part in tackling emissions around the airport – we’ve reduced them by 16 percent over a five-year period, and that will continue,” Gorman said in an interview.

A trial is also underway for aircraft to approach Heathrow’s two runways at a steeper angle to help reduce noise, one of the biggest concerns for residents of west London, who live under the flight paths Gorman said.

On the outskirts of Heathrow’s vast patchwork site of tarmac and concrete, the airport has also set up a giant reed bed to allow it to purify run-off water polluted with de-icer.

The airport is stepping up plans to use more electric vehicles within the airport, Gorman said. It is also set to benefit from improved rail connections when London’s new east to west rail link, Crossrail, opens in 2018. That should reduce emissions from people travelling there by car.

Hidden under one of its terminals, Heathrow has an empty rail station structure, to help boost arrivals at the airport via public transport from their current level of over 40 percent, should additional rail expansion be allowed in future.

However, the campaign group Stop Heathrow Expansion remains opposed to the plans for Heathrow. It says the airport “is the only major UK airport where air pollution levels remains stubbornly above EU legal limits.

According to their website, the campaigners favour expanding at Gatwick, Britain’s second-busiest airport. The Commission decided against Gatwick, but the airport says the Commission’s environmental analysis on Heathrow was flawed.

Heathrow’s largest shareholder is Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial. Other partners include Qatar Holding, China Investment Corp and the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.

(Reporting by Sarah Young, editing by Larry King)



Environmental Audit Committee

04 November 2015
2:15 PM

The Airports Commission Report: Carbon Emissions, Air Quality and Noise

View details

Witness(es): John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer, Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd Matt Gorman, Director Sustainability & Environment Director, Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd
Sir Howard Davies, Former Chairman, Airports Commission Phillip Graham, Former Secretary, Airports Commission Julia King, former Commissioner, Airports Commission Eirik Pitkethly, Former Deputy Head of Secretariat, Airports Commission

Location   The Thatcher Room, Portcullis House


The earlier session was on 14th October 2015

The transcript of that is at

  • | Published 19 Oct 2015Evidence given by Dr Andy Jefferson, Director, Sustainable Aviation, and Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director, Aviation Environment Federation;
  • Lord True CBE, 2M Boroughs, Daniel Moylan, Board Member/Mayor’s Adviser on Aviation and Crossrail 2, Richard de Cani, Managing Director, Planning, Transport for London, and Councillor Amrit Mann, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment, London Borough of Hounslow (at 3.00pm).



Chairman of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says Cameron must answer questions on Heathrow expansion

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee recently set up an Inquiry on the “Airports Commission report: Carbon emissions, air quality and noise.” It closed on 3rd September. A considerable number of submissions have been made, from councils, organisations, individuals (and a few from the aviation industry or its consultants). The Chairman of the Committee, Hugh Irranca-Davies, has said that the Government has “big questions to answer” over how it could meet the legally binding EU air quality rules while backing a 3rd Heathrow runway. The submissions, including the one from Transport for London (Boris Johnson) raised a series of objections to a bigger Heathrow. Boris said: “The Commission has failed to demonstrate that a three-runway Heathrow, even with mitigation, will not have the worst NO2 concentration in Greater London, so risking the compliance of the entire zone and EU fines on the UK.” He said the Commission failed to recognise the impact of increased road traffic. Clean Air in London said: “If the Commission is suggesting that the only relevant requirement is that additional runway capacity should not delay in time average compliance throughout the London zone, then it has misdirected itself on the law.”  Sections on air quality from a number of submissions are copied below.



Environmental Audit Committee – membership

Huw Irranca-Davies was elected as Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee on Thursday 18 June 2015.

The remaining members of the Committee were appointed on Monday 20 July 2015.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Chair)Labour
Peter AldousConservative
Caroline AnsellConservative
Jo ChurchillConservative
Mary CreaghLabour
Geraint DaviesLabour (Co-op)
Zac GoldsmithConservative
Margaret GreenwoodLabour
Luke HallConservative
Carolyn HarrisLabour
Peter Heaton-JonesConservative
Mr Peter LilleyConservative
Caroline LucasGreen Party
John Mc NallyScottish National Party
Rebecca PowConservative
Rory StewartConservative