Heathrow expansion blow
Airport told to reduce illegal pollution levels ‘as soon as possible’
HOPES for expanding Heathrow Airport were said to have been dealt a ‘major blow’, after the UK’s Supreme Court assumed responsibility for enforcing EU pollution law.
Nitrogen dioxide levels at the airport are already in breach of the EU Air Quality Directive, although management blame nearby traffic.
The government had agreed to reduce pollution levels in line with the directive by 2025, but the date has since slipped to ‘post 2030’.
The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) has now rejected this plan, saying UK ministers will have to prepare new measures for reducing illegal pollution levels ‘as soon as possible’.
The CJEU has given the Supreme Court responsibility for enforcing compliance with air quality law.
Judges will examine the case next year.
The cross-party 2M Group of councils opposing expansion says this is a ‘major blow’ for the plans.
Hillingdon Council leader Councillor Ray Puddifoot, a spokesman for the group, said: “Before this ruling Heathrow believed it had over a decade to meet the legal pollution limits.
“Even then the airport was making some highly optimistic assumptions about cleaner aircraft being invented and then rushed into service.
“There is no way out of this for Heathrow. Ministers may have given them an easy ride but now the Supreme Court will have to be convinced pollution will be reduced ‘as soon as possible’ while increasing flights, road traffic and freight.”
But Heathrow’s management say the ruling will have ‘no impact’ on their plans.
A spokesman said: “We take air quality very seriously and have always said we will only go ahead with Heathrow expansion if we can do so within strict air quality limits.
“Within two kilometres of the airport, the only air quality monitoring site to exceed the EU limit value for NO2 [nitrogen dioxide] is located alongside the M4. The results at that location are largely as a result of road traffic, approximately three quarters of which is not airport-related.
“In the last decade Heathrow has achieved significant reductions in emissions – even though the numbers of people and aircraft using Heathrow have increased.”
The case for a new
The airport was making some highly
optimistic assumptions about
runway at Gatwick, rather than Heathrow, seems to have strengthened as five separate polls showed support for the move.
The polls, commissioned by Gatwick Airport but conducted independently by YouGov, showed stronger support for expanding Gatwick than for Heathrow among London councillors and residents, people living near Gatwick and Heathrow, as well as UK small businesses, although some of the margins were small.
The poll surveyed 235 councillors in the capital, asking which airport would be the best choice for expansion in relation to nine separate categories.