Heathrow pledges to meet air quality rules for third runway

Heathrow has announced plans for new measures to tackle noise and air pollution in its push towards building a third runway.

And, the measures would allow it to expand only in line with air quality rules, Heathrow claimed.

Zaha Hadid's vision for the third runway at Heathrow

Zaha Hadid’s concept for the Heathrow expansion

The proposals from the airport build on conditions for the new runway by the Airports Commission last year, which has backed construction of a third runway at Heathrow. Now, with its latest proposals the airport says it will exceed the overall package of conditions the Commission set when giving its support for the third runway.

Among the ideas put forward by Heathrow today (11 May) is the creation of an ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) for airport vehicles by 2025 and an emissions charging scheme for all vehicles accessing the airport.

Air quality rules

Heathrow also suggests that the Environment Agency be given a new role as an “independent aviation air quality authority”. This said the airport, will “provide transparent scrutiny of the measures Heathrow will introduce to enable it to expand only in accordance with air quality rules.”

Heathrow also hope the issue of noise pollution will be improved with a proposed ban on night flights between 11:30pm to 5:30am although the Commission had proposed a ban from 11:30pm to 6am.

Last year the Airports Commission had set air quality conditions for a new runway at Heathrow, outlining that “additional operations at an expanded Heathrow will be contingent on acceptable performance on air quality and will be in accordance with air quality rules.”

“New capacity at an expanded airport will not be released unless we can do so without delaying UK compliance with EU air quality limits” – Airports Commission

The details of today’s Heathrow announcement were sent in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron from Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye.

John Holland-Kaye,

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye

Mr Holland Kaye wrote: “You set up the Airports Commission and it unanimously recommended expanding Heathrow. You demanded ambitious plans from my team to deliver expansion with a bold and fair deal for our neighbours.

“Today, I am proud to submit a comprehensive plan that meets and exceeds your demands. This is a big commitment from us, but it is the right choice for the country, local communities and jobs across Britain.”

Mary Creagh MP

However, the Heathrow package drew a lukewarm response from Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, who argued that the air pollution proposals need “to go much further much faster”.

Ms Creagh said: “Promises on future rail links and air pollution charges are 7-10 years away. People living near the airport need action on air quality much sooner and one quick win would be slashing fares on Heathrow Express to encourage more people to use it.”

The Committee chair added: “Whatever the government decides on airport expansion, it needs a strategy for reducing carbon emissions from aviation. We will scrutinise the government’s plans to limit the noise, air quality, and climate change impacts of a third runway carefully.”