Construction for Heathrow’s third runway could be held back until the airport can prove expansion will not make London’s air quality worse, deputy mayor for transport Val Shawcross has revealed.
In a letter to the Commons transport committee, Shawcross said the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), which MPs will vote on this summer, should include a clause banning construction until Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) can prove expansion will not impact air quality.
Shawcross claimed the airport’s current proposal to only release new capacity if it can prove it will not delay compliance with air quality laws is “flawed”.
“All the construction impacts should not have to be incurred with the attendant cost and time for the new runway then not to operate – it should be written into the NPS that construction should not start until future compliance with air quality legislation is demonstrated,” she wrote.
Problems proving compliance with air quality laws could block Heathrow from securing planning permission for expansion, Shawcross added.
“Even if HAL were able to show that a third runway could be delivered without jeopardising legal compliance with limit values it is doubtful that the scheme could legally be given planning permission on the basis that it was contributing to a significant worsening of air quality across a large area of London,” she wrote.
Shawcross was writing after several important figures in Heathrow’s expansion plans gave evidence to the transport committee earlier this year.
Last month Transport for London (TfL) director of city planning Alex Williams told New Civil Engineer that TfL could join a legal battle against expansion due to concerns over surface access provision.
A spokesperson for Heathrow said: “We understand that air quality is a real concern in London that needs to be addressed urgently and we are taking our own steps to tackle the key contributor to local air pollution: road vehicles.
“We remain confident in the ability of our proposals to expand Heathrow to deliver sustainable growth and we stand by our ‘triple lock’ guarantee to deliver expansion in accordance with the UK’s legal air quality obligations.
“This includes meeting our existing commitment to improving air quality by not increasing the amount of airport-related vehicle traffic on the road and supporting improved surface access connections, ensuring further measures are ready to be introduced if required to reduce traffic, and binding our commitment by guaranteeing that extra capacity at an expanded Heathrow will only be released when it is clear that the airport’s contribution will not delay compliance with legal obligations on air quality.”