ClientEarth says delaying decision on expansion until 2016 would give government time to stop and think about air quality impacts
Air quality campaigners have welcomed recent reports suggesting that the government will delay its final decision over whether to expand Heathrow Airport until next year as a victory for air quality and common sense.
Concerns over air pollution and noise impacts from adding a third runway at Heathrow have reportedly raised the possibility that the government will now not make a final decision on UK airport capacity until 2016 in order to allow more time to consider environmental impacts.
Commenting on the possibility of a delay, ClientEarth clean air lawyer Alan Andrews said: If true, we welcome the news that the PM has seen sense and decided to stop and think about the impact that this would have on air quality.
But others, including Labour candidate for London Mayor Sadiq Khan MP and the Engineering Employers Federation, have criticised the ducking of a decision as fostering uncertainty among British businesses.
The Prime Minister has previously said he would make a decision before the end of 2015 and an announcement was expected imminently, with a cabinet sub-committee set to look at the issue and potentially release a statement on Thursday (December 10).
Nevertheless, a spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) told AirQualityNews.com that governments position remains the same and would only confirm that it would be setting out its response to the Davies Commissions report before the end of the year.
The Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, recommended in the summer that a third runway should be built at Heathrow in West London, as long as certain environmental and air quality questions are addressed (see AirQualityNews.com story).
However, Mr Andrews said: The Supreme Court ordered the government to come up with a plan to achieve limits as soon as possible and it is hard to see how increased capacity at Heathrow can be compatible with that duty.Pollution needs to be brought within legal limits before they can even think about adding further capacity.
Environmental NGO ClientEarth has said it will take the UK government back to the Supreme Court unless drastic changes are made to its air quality plan, on which a public consultation closed last month.
Mr Andrews added: Thousands of people are dying early every year in London because of illegal levels of air pollution so we cant allow major new projects which will lead to more diesel emissions, more delays and more deaths.
Last week the Environmental Audit Committee of MPs said that final approval for expansion should not be granted until Heathrow demonstrates that it can meet key air quality and noise conditions (see AirQualityNews.com story).