Third Heathrow runway ‘unbuildable’

Release Date: 06 December 2017

Councils opposed to expansion at Heathrow have told the 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.

They say that if ministers continue to support a third runway it will blight the area around the airport while failing to solve the need for extra airport capacity in the South East.

The latest evidence which has been published as part of the Government’s revised National Policy Statement (NPS) fails to show how an expanded airport could meet air quality limits in an area where pollution levels are deteriorating. This makes a third Heathrow runway unbuildable while expansion at Gatwick could go ahead without this risk.

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 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 the Secretary of State has effectively made up his mind to support Heathrow and that this is affecting the fairness of the consultation.

The councils also warn 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.

Cllr Paul Hodgins, Leader of Richmond Council said:

“Expanding Heathrow is more than a West London issue, it affects every community in the country.

“The evidence is clear that expanding Gatwick can deliver more domestic routes and more competition, with less impact on quality of life for local residents, all while leaving billions available for public infrastructure investment elsewhere.

“The only argument the Government has left is that Heathrow and the country needs a massive hub. In other words, it is simply a trophy project to boost Heathrow in the league table of world airports, as there is no league table that combines the network of airports serving a city.

“In Britain, we should be promoting competition, and a better quality of life for our residents.”

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council said:

“The latest evidence proves that a third runway at Heathrow Airport will exceed air quality limits. Expansion will not only cause increased noise pollution, but will damage the environment and will be detrimental to the health and well-being of people in London. Gatwick has always been the better option, with more economic benefits and less impact on the environment."

Cllr Simon Dudley, leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, said:

“We are yet to see any evidence that the proposed expansion of Heathrow would do anything other than increase air pollution and have a detrimental effect on those living near to the airport.

“As the revised National Policy Statement shows, and as we have said from the very beginning, Gatwick is the obvious location for airport expansion in the south east and the proposals at Heathrow should no longer be considered a viable option.

“I understand that proposals have been submitted from a private company and there could be other proposals that could save public funds as well as reduce the impact on residents. 

“It is clearly time to establish a new Airports Commission and revisit this flawed decision to expand Heathrow as proposed.”

The submission to the Transport Select Committee has been compiled by Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils. You can read the full submission on the TSC website.

Notes for editors

If you are a journalist and would like further information about this press release, contact Lyle Skipsey on 020 8487 5182.

Reference: P567/17

Updated: 14 December 2017