The London Assemblyâ€™s Health and Environment Committee has criticised the governmentâ€™s aviation strategy as a â€œmissed opportunityâ€ for tackling air and noise pollution from aircraft
The governmentâ€™s new aviation emissions strategy is â€œdisappointingâ€ and has not responded to environmental concerns on air quality and noise, according to the London Assembly.
Unveiled in March, the Aviation Policy Framework sets out the governmentâ€™s objectives for tackling UK aviation emissions and noise as the sector grows. The framework document suggested that a focus on reducing airport noise could potentially impact on aviation air pollution levels (see airqualitynews.com story).
However, the London Assemblyâ€™s Health and Environment Committee today (May 7) published a letter online which it has sent to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin criticising the governmentâ€™s framework as a â€œmissed opportunityâ€ to respond to concerns about the environmental costs of aviation.
According to the Committee, there has been little improvement in pollution levels around Heathrow for more than a decade and areas around the airport already breach EU air quality limits.
The letter said that it was â€œdisappointingâ€ that the framework showed a â€œshift away from requiring decisions on new capacity to incorporate the least environmentally damaging solutionsâ€.
It is also criticised a perceived lack of commitment to national action, such as including aviation in the five-year national carbon budgets. The letter states that â€œdelays and uncertainty over the European emissions trading scheme should be an argument for decisive national action, not againstâ€.
The Committee was pleased, however, that the framework recognised that surface measures â€“ such as the greater use of public transport to and from airports â€“ were needed alongside using greener aircraft to improve air quality. The letter described this as a â€œstep in the right directionâ€.
The letter states: â€œWe need to ensure that any environmental safeguards put in place are fit for purpose and will make a positive difference to the environment and health of those individuals who live in close proximity to airports.â€
However, with regards to noise, the government has also not taken up the Committeeâ€™s recommendation for a new benchmark for identifying communities most affected by noise, according to the letter. It describes the final framework in this regard as â€œweakâ€.
The letter says: â€œThis system of self-regulation by the airport operators has so far failed to produce a scheme that is satisfactory to local residents around Heathrow Airport. It is difficult to understand how the government expects more of the same to yield a better system than presently exists.â€
Murad Qureshi, chair of the Assemblyâ€™s Health and Environment Committee, said: â€œWhen the government published its aviation policy framework in draft form, it asked the right questions about noise, air quality and climate change, but the final version fails to deliver on these.
â€œIt is disappointing that so few of the recommendations we and others made have been taken up by the government. This represents a missed opportunity to respond to the very real concerns people have about the environmental impacts of aviation. We very much hope any future regulations will remedy this.â€
The Committeeâ€™s letter to the transport secretary is available on the London Assembly website.