Gatwick Airport says the UK Airports Commission’s analysis of a third runway for Heathrow is: “so flawed that the key environmental mitigation measures they propose for Heathrow expansion are effectively meaningless.”
It warns that: “unless the deficiencies are corrected, the measures cannot be relied on to overcome the legal risks associated with expanding the airport.” This is according to evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee published by Gatwick on September 9.
The Committee is investigating the potential environmental impacts of Heathrow expansion and the key measures include proposals to ban scheduled night flights, introduce a noise envelope, provide predictable noise respite, and that expansion is contingent on acceptable performance on air quality.
In its ten pages of evidence Gatwick Airport also said that:
· The Commission’s legal interpretation of air quality is inaccurate and, as it stands, would permit the creation of ‘pollution havens’ in numerous areas, including Heathrow, as long as air quality levels were exceeded in just one other London location. If Government accepts this interpretation, any project to expand Heathrow may prove undeliverable through the planning process or the courts as it would not be compliant with UK and EU law.
The correct interpretation is that regardless of air quality levels in any other part of London, Heathrow expansion must not cause any additional exceedances of legal limits, or delay the attainment of these legal limits.
· The Commission’s final recommendation is misguided as it has not adequately balanced the economic benefits of airport expansion with the environmental impacts associated with each option. Their own economic benefit analysis, using Treasury guidelines, found that there is little difference in economic benefits between Heathrow and Gatwick expansion, but the difference in environmental effects is substantial.
For example, 320,000 people would be newly impacted by noise with Heathrow expansion, compared to 18,000 at Gatwick. Heathrow also breaches legal air quality limits today, with only two runways, whereas Gatwick would continue to remain within legal limits if it expanded.
Alastair McDermid, Airports Commission Director, Gatwick Airport, said:
“The flaws in the Airports Commission’s final report are fundamental and I urge the Committee to look closely at the evidence before it. Without correcting these gaps and deficiencies Government will struggle to reach a balanced and responsible decision on which airport to expand.
“As they stand, the key Airports Commission’s proposals to reduce the noise and air quality impacts of Heathrow expansion will not provide acceptable mitigation and I would be surprised if they withstood legal scrutiny.”