Heathrow and Gatwick have continued their war of words over the impact on air quality if Heathrow is allowed to build a third runway.

Both airports gave evidence at the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee yesterday to set out their arguments to MPs following the Airports Commission’s recommendation in favour of a third runway at Heathrow.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said it would provide a “triple lock” guarantee to address the issue of air quality around the hub airport and claimed that a new runway would not increase the number of cars on the road travelling to Heathrow.

But Gatwick has questioned whether Heathrow expansion can be delivered lawfully in terms of air quality.

Holland-Kaye said that a third runway could be delivered “within EU air quality limits”.

“Heathrow expansion is not a choice between the economy or the environment – we can deliver both,” he added.

“We will boost the economy for the whole of the UK by £211 billion, create 180,000 jobs, the potential to eliminate local youth unemployment, and double the number of our apprenticeships, while ensuring we remove people from our noise footprint and meet both EU air quality limits and carbon targets.”

Holland-Kaye said Heathrow would take several steps to limit pollution such as working with train operators to increase public transport use to more than 50% of passengers, charging fines for aircraft that break departure noise limits and spending £700 million on a noise insulation scheme.

Gatwick disputes Heathrow’s assertions and has published its own response to the government’s Air Quality Plan.

CEO Stewart Wingate said: “Air quality remains the single most important issue in the runway expansion debate – just as it was in 2003 when it prevented Heathrow expansion, and again in 2010.

“Unlike Gatwick, the Heathrow area currently breaches EU air quality limits. In some areas pollution is worse than it was five years ago. A third runway at Heathrow would mean millions more car journeys.”

Wingate added the Volkswagen scandal over the measurement of car emissions would make it more difficult to Heathrow to expand.

“The VW scandal broke just days after the start of the government’s air quality consultation and calls in to question current projections, as ministers themselves have acknowledged,” said Wingate.

“It makes it extremely hard to see how there could currently be a legal basis for approving Heathrow expansion.”

The government has promised to give its views on airport expansion by the end of this year.


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