GLA Report on Heathrow – ‘Flights of Fancy’

17.2.2010   (AEF – the Aviation Environment Federation website)

The Environment Committee of the Greater London Authority (GLA) has issued a
report on environmental controls for Heathrow. The    report is critical of the
regime of environmental controls and targets  proposed.   The report  is called ‘Flights of Fancy: Can an expanded Heathrow meet its environmental targets?’ and refers particularly  to expansion of Heathrow.

The report is quite critical of the regime of environmental controls proposed
for Heathrow as the following extracts from the Executive Summary show.


We highlight drawbacks to the underlying methodology used for setting the noise
condition – the base year used for establishing the noise contour is Summer 2002,
the last full year of Concorde flights and the method for calculating the contour
area is inconsistent with the EU directed method for drawing up noise action plans
at airports.

The noticeable absence of an overarching national policy and framework for managing
ambient noise is a worry, as is the lack of definitive guidance on threshold levels
at EU level. We recommend bringing the method for measuring noise levels in line
with the requirement for noise action plans, revising the noise contour benchmark
in line with 2007 study, Attitudes to Noise from Aviation Sources in England,
and revising the 2002 base year to a more recent year.

Air pollution

We expose the clear inadequacies in approaches to tackling air pollution levels
around Heathrow. The lack of a readily visible structured approach towards achieving
EU limits driven from the top levels of government and the Mayor is the main worry,
not least because of the serious impact poor air quality will continue to have
on Londoners’ health.

We believe that a full independent health impact assessment should be commissioned,
and call for clarity on how EU limits will be met around Heathrow, a clear and
decisive strategy for improving air pollution levels, and the application of innovative
mitigation measures in line with the Mayor’s draft Air Quality Strategy.

Climate change

We point out limitations to meeting the aviation emissions target. There is a
misplaced reliance on aircraft technology, such as blended wings and renewable
fuels, particularly as the trend in technology improvements is relatively slow
when compared to other industries.

The failure to secure a binding international agreement on aviation emissions
at Copenhagen in December, dealt another blow to the likelihood of meeting the
Government emissions target. With the exception of the 2050 target, there is no
mechanism in place, and consequently no means of prompting corrective action until
it is far too late.

We therefore recommend that in its planned consultation document the Government
should set out a phased approach to reducing aviation emissions, setting out short,
medium and long-term targets that will be legally binding.

AEF comment

We were pleased to see that the GLA conclusions largely mirror our views.   We
were gratified to see that the GLA referred to a couple of AEF’s web pages in
the report.

An area of slight concern is the way that the committee seemed to accept without
question the economic benefits of Heathrow expansion claimed by its supporters.  

GLA Heathrow report.