Question mark over Heathrow air quality claims

In a statement, the Government announced a number of noise mitigation measures and assurances around air quality in a bid to quell opposition to a decision that has for years been dogged by delays and indecision. Announcing the move,  transport secretary Chris Grayling called the decision to expand airport capacity in the south-east as ‘truly momentous’ moment.

Grayling said, “Of course it is also hugely important for those living near the airport. That is why we have made clear that expansion will only be allowed to proceed on the basis of a world class package of compensation and mitigation worth up to £2.6 billion, including community support, insulation, and respite from noise – balancing the benefits and the impacts of expansion.”

The Government is proposing for the first time to introduce a six-and-a-half-hour ban on scheduled night flights at Heathrow and will be making more stringent night noise restrictions a requirement of expansion. The timing of the ban will be determined through consultation.

Critics of the development argue that the third runway will inflict intolerable noise on hundreds of thousands of residents in west London. As a result the decision is almost certain to be the subject of a judicial review by four west London local authorities as well as Windsor and Maidenhead council, where Prime Minister Theresa May’s Maidenhead constituency is situated.

Dealing with concerns around air quality the Government has said it believes that Heathrow is deliverable within air quality limits with plans in place for improved public transport links and an ultra-low emissions zone for all airport vehicles by 2025. Meeting air quality legal requirements will also be a condition of planning approval.

The Airport Commission report led by Sir Howard Davies concluded that a third runway at Heathrow presented the strongest case for expansion. The recommendation came with a caveat that there would have to be a ‘significant package’ of measures to mitigate increases in air pollution to ensure compliance with EU air quality standards. The CIEH has raised concerns that the suggested mitigations are over reliant on technological vehicle fixes to cut NOx emissions from the motorway and local road networks that surround the airport.

According to the Government an extra runway at Heathrow will deliver:

  • Economic benefits to passengers and the wider economy worth up to £61 billion over 60 years
  • Lower fares relative to no expansion, fewer delays, better connections to destinations including to Asia and South America
  • Up to 77,000 additional local jobs created by 2030
  • Heathrow have committed to 5,000 new apprenticeships by 2030
  • An extra 16 million long haul passenger seats in 2040
  • Six new regional routes proposed by Heathrow – giving 14 in total
  • Following consultation a six-and-a-half hour ban on scheduled night flights will be introduced for the first time at Heathrow
  • A mitigation package for the local community most affected by expansion worth up to £2.6 billion


This includes:

  • People with homes subject to compulsory purchase receiving 125 per cent of full market value for their homes, plus stamp duty, legal fees and moving costs
  • A package of over £700 million of noise insulation for homes
  • £40 million to insulate and ventilate schools and other community buildings


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