Setback for Heathrow as MPs warn against a third runway
HEATHROW should be barred from building a third runway until the airport can demonstrate its ability to meet pollution targets, MPs will say today.
After years of prevarication, Cabinet ministers are expected to hold talks today on whether to give the green light to expansion at Heathrow.
Chancellor George Osborne is pushing for approval, arguing that Heathrow is the best short-term option to give Britain the extra airport capacity it needs to maintain economic growth and competitiveness.
And a review of airport capacity by former CBI chief Sir Howard Davies this year recommended building a third runway at Heathrow, rather than expansion at Gatwick.
But the move is opposed by a number of senior Tories, including London Mayor Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Theresa May, International Development Secretary Justine Greening and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. In a major report today, the cross-party Commons environmental audit committee is expected to say that Heathrow has not yet shown its plans for a third runway can comply with pollution laws.
A source on the committee said the report would warn that Heathrow expansion
‘Should not go ahead’
‘should not go ahead’ until Heathrow can show environmental conditions can be met.
It will also suggest that both the Government and Heathrow could face ‘protracted legal disputes’ if they fail to demonstrate compliance, introducing an ‘element of commercial risk’ to the project.
One aviation industry source said the warning could be used by ministers as an excuse to delay a final decision until after next year’s London mayoral election.
Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith has pledged to resign his Westminster seat and force an embarrassing by-election if David Cameron goes back on his 2010 pledge to ban expansion at Heathrow.
Today’s report will call for a ‘step change’ in the Government’s approach to limiting the impact that any airport expansion will have on the environment.
Heathrow insists that its plans will allow it to meet strict legal limits on pollution, noise and carbon emissions. However today’s report is expected to raise serious doubts about the claims.
It will question whether expansion at Heathrow is compliant with the Government’s commitments on climate change – warning that even with improved aircraft efficiency, the increase in flights could breach greenhouse gas emissions.
The committee will also raise serious concerns about the likely impact on pollution in west London, saying that a ‘significant deterioration’ in air quality on local roads would be unacceptable.
And MPs will call for a ban on night flights to limit the noise impact on millions of people living under flight paths.