MPs call for air pollution assessment before decision on Heathrow's third runway

2 December 2015

MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) have urged the government to withhold final approval to Heathrow Airport’s expansion until the airport can commit to meeting certain environmental improvements.

Examining the Airports Commission’s recommendation for a third runway, the committee said Heathrow must demonstrate that if it were to expand it would remain within legal air pollution limits.

At the same time the airport must commit to other improvements, such as paying for better surface transport, introducing a night flight ban and reducing noise below current levels.

The EAC said: “The communities living near to the roads around Heathrow already put up with noise and extra traffic; it would be quite unacceptable to subject them to a potentially significant deterioration in air quality as well.

“Increased pollution should certainly not be permitted on the grounds that other areas of London are even more polluted.”

The committee queried figures cited by the commission to show expansion could be achieved within CO2 limits.

MPs also questioned the commission’s interpretation of an EU air quality directive, saying it implied that significant increases in nitrogen dioxide emissions from an expanded Heathrow would be allowable because of worse performance elsewhere in London. The committee said the government should reject this interpretation when assessing whether Heathrow is complying with the directive.

EAC chairman and Labour MP Huw Irranca Davies said: “If the government decides to accept the commission’s recommendation for a third runway in principle, we will seek assurances from the secretary of state for transport that environmental conditions will be met before it is given final approval.”

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