Air­ports get noisy in battle for ex­pan­sion

Gatwick and Heathrow chiefs at log­ger­heads over pol­lu­tion statis­tics

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - by Robert Cum­ber robert.cum­ber@trin­i­tymir­

A NEW war of words has bro­ken out be­tween Gatwick and Heathrow as D-Day looms over which air­port will get a new run­way.

This time, the air­ports’ chiefs are at log­ger­heads over pol­lu­tion, fol­low­ing the end of a public con­sul­ta­tion on air qual­ity.

Gatwick claims Heathrow ex­pan­sion would be “un­law­ful” as it would cause more pol­lu­tion around the air­port, which al­ready breaches legally bind­ing EU lim­its in places.

How­ever, Heathrow in­sists it could op­er­ate a third run­way with­out de­lay­ing the UK’s com­pli­ance with those lim­its – a case it claims is backed up by the Air­ports Com­mis­sion’s own mod­el­ling.

The com­mis­sion, which was set up to con­sider ri­val bids for air­port ex­pan­sion and is ex­pected to make a fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tion shortly, closed its con­sul­ta­tion on air qual­ity on Fri­day.

Gatwick chief ex­ec­u­tive Ste­wart Win­gate said: “Air qual­ity con­cerns have pre­vented Heathrow ex­pan­sion in the past and the air qual­ity in west Lon­don con­tin­ues to ex­ceed the legal lim­its and is fore­cast to do so un­til be­yond 2030. The coun­try can­not af­ford to make the wrong choice and risk years of de­lay on a project that is even­tu­ally halted be­cause of its un­ac­cept­able im­pact.

“There is now an al­ter­na­tive – Gatwick has never breached legal air qual­ity lim­its and would op­er­ate com­fort­ably within th­ese stan­dards with a sec­ond run­way.”

The UK’s Supreme Court re­cently gave the gov­ern­ment un­til the end of the year to draw up plans to meet EU pol­lu­tion lim­its – a rul­ing Mr Win­gate de­scribed at the time as a po­ten­tial ‘show­stop­per’ for a third run­way at Heathrow.

Heathrow has said traf­fic on the M4 and M25, most of which it claims is un­con­nected to the air­port, is largely to blame for pol­lu­tion lev­els north of Heathrow. It says its own fore­casts and those of the com­mis­sion both show air pol­lu­tion around Heathrow would fall within EU lim­its by 2030 even with a third run­way.

How­ever, the air­port has ac­cepted it does have a part to play in re­duc­ing air pol­lu­tion lo­cally. It re­cently pub­lished a 10-point plan for a greener Heathrow, in which it said it would look at cre­at­ing a low emis­sions zone at the air­port.

Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s sus­tain­abil­ity and en­vi­ron­ment direc­tor, said: “The com­mis­sion’s air qual­ity anal­y­sis has con­firmed an ex­panded Heathrow will go be­yond meet­ing lo­cal air qual­ity lim­its.

“We worked with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and cam­paign groups so that our new ap­proach to Heathrow ex­pan­sion would de­liver the right en­vi­ron­men­tal so­lu­tion as well as the right so­lu­tion for the econ­omy.

“Now let’s get on with it.”

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