Heathrow and Gatwick airports last week argued about the air quality impacts of their proposed expansion plans.
The two airports responded to the Airports Commission’s extra consultation on air quality, which closed today.
The Sir Howard Davies-led commission will shortly decide which of three expansion options to recommend to the government to tackle the air capacity crisis in the South East. Two options for a third runway at Heathrow, and one for a second at Gatwick, are under consideration.
The latest row centred on the interpretation of latest data from the commission from detailed dispersion modelling on the impact of each proposal air quality.
Heathrow insisted the data showed it could safely expand while keeping local air quality below legal limits, while Gatwick claimed the consultation showed only it could add a runway within legal air quality levels.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “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.
“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.”
Heathrow argued in its own response to the consultation that it was non-airport emissions, mainly from the M4, that took certain areas above the specified air pollution limit.
Heathrow sustainability and environment director Matt Gorman said: “The Airports Commission air quality analysis has confirmed an expanded Heathrow will go beyond meeting local air quality limits.
“We worked with local communities and campaign groups so that our new approach to Heathrow expansion would deliver the right environmental solution as well as the right solution for the economy. Now let’s get on with it.”
The UK Supreme Court last month followed the European Court of Justice in ordering the government to produce plans to cut nitrogen dioxide levels to below the limits set out in the Air Quality Directive.