Plans to expand Heathrow would be ‘unlawful’ due to legally-binding air quality limits which would be breached if a third runway was built, its rival Gatwick claimed today.
Gatwick said expansion at Heathrow would worsen the existing poor air quality conditions around the airport and cause further delay to the attainment of legal limits.
The West Sussex airport was responding to the consultation recently launched on air quality by the Airports Commission that ends today.
Heathrow has said its plans “go beyond meeting local air quality limits” and its new approach will make sure it “meets our environmental commitments”.
“The Government has set up an independent commission to recommend how we can maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub,” Heathrow’s sustainability and environment director Matt Gorman said.
“After three years of extensive consultation, evidence gathering and analysis, the Commission has confirmed that Heathrow can expand well within local air quality limits,” he added.
Gatwick said recent data from DEFRA has indicated that under current projections, Heathrow would be the most polluted part of London by 2030 even without a third runway.
The airport’s CEO Stewart Wingate said today Heathrow remains “politically toxic” and even if the Commission chooses one of the two Heathrow options the chances of it being built is “zero”.
“Air quality concerns have prevented Heathrow expansion in the past and the air quality in West London continues to exceed the legal limits and is forecast to do so until beyond 2030,” said Wingate.
“The country cannot afford to make the wrong choice and risk years of delay on a project that is eventually halted because of its unacceptable impact. There is now an alternative - Gatwick has never breached legal air quality limits and would operate comfortably within these standards with a second runway.
“Gatwick’s expansion plans strike the right balance between delivering the extra airport capacity and taking the right steps to protect the environment.”
The Airports Commission is considering three options to increase the UK’s runway capacity and is expected to make its recommendation to the UK government in the coming weeks.