Four London council leaders warn MPs that third runway cannot lawfully be built
Four local councils opposed to expansion at Heathrow have told the House of Commons Transport Select Committee that the most recent evidence published by the Government continues to demonstrate that a third runway could not be built at the airport without causing unacceptable air and noise pollution.
Wandsworth, Hillingdon, Richmond and Windsor & Maidenhead councils say that if ministers continue to support a third runway it will blight the area around the airport with illegal levels of air pollution while failing to solve the need for extra airport capacity in the South East.
The four councils say that the latest evidence which has been published as part of the Government’s revised Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), fails to show how an expanded airport could meet air quality limits in an area where pollution levels are deteriorating.
Councillor Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, said, “Given the hurdles that would have to be overcome it is clear that a third Heathrow runway is not deliverable within the new timescale of an opening in 2026. The shorter the timescale the more likely that illegal air pollution will result.
“If there is a need for more capacity in the South East it can be built more quickly at Gatwick. It would be achieved at a lower cost and within lawful pollution limits with fewer people affected by noise. It would also offer more domestic routes than Heathrow.”
The councils say that despite the new third runway opening date of 2026 and the projected rapid increase in early passenger demand, the targets set for increased public transport share remain set at 2030 and 2040. In these circumstances increased air pollution from road traffic is inevitable.
The councils have also warned the Transport Select Committe (TSC) that the Government’s refusal to allow more time for the new evidence produced for the revised NPS to be analysed supports the view that Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, has effectively made up his mind to support Heathrow and that this is affecting the fairness of the consultation.
In addition the councils claim that other parts of the UK could have to pay huge sums for the increased investment in rail projects around the airport. Currently the Government is offering no information on what the costs of improved surface access will be, what proportion of the cost will be met by the taxpayer and whether they will be completed on time.
The Transport Select Committee is to carry out an inquiry into the revised proposal for an Airports National Policy Statement. Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said, "The Committee has a vital role in scrutiny when it comes to the important issue of expanding runway capacity in the South East. The Department for Transport has launched consultation on the revised version of the draft Airports National Policy Statement.
"Our inquiry will examine, in detail, the Government’s plans for delivering the new runway, including the economic benefits, mitigating the environmental impact and the action proposed to support affected communities. The Committee will report back with findings, making sure that the evidence base and supporting measures are sufficient for the third runway at Heathrow to gain Parliamentary approval."
In October 2016, the Government announced that the third Heathrow runway was its preferred scheme. The NPS must receive Parliamentary approval before Heathrow Airport can submit a development consent application to the Planning Inspectorate, which then makes a recommendation to the Secretary of State on whether planning consent should be granted.
The submission to the Transport Select Committee has been complied by Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor & Maidenhead councils. You can read the full submission on the TSC website.
December 7, 2017