Heathrow’s third runway could harm efforts to stay under European Union air pollution limits, a report published by the government has warned.
An assessment by engineering consultancy WSP of the government’s 2017 Air Quality Plan, which was published in July following several legal battles with an environmental law group, said the proposed north-west runway at the west London airport could impact on compliance with the EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive.
“With proposed opening of the scheme between 2026 and 2030 it is unlikely that concentrations in central London will have fallen sufficiently to remove the risk of the airport expansion impacting on EU limit value compliance,” said the study.
The document was published amid a raft of information as ministers launched a fresh consultation on revised airports policy ahead of a vote on the controversial project next year.
It comes almost exactly a year after transport secretary Chris Grayling confirmed that a third runway at Heathrow was the government’s preferred way of boosting capacity in the South East.
An initial consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement concluded in May this year but the government has revised the policy in light of responses and fresh evidence, particularly about how the third runway could impact air quality. This week it launched a new consultation on the revised statement.
Amid the flurry of publications, a framework for balanced decisions on design and use of airspace signalled a U-turn on previous proposals to transfer noise control responsibility to certain airports.
And a forecasts document showed predictions that Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and City airports would be at full capacity by 2030, with Stansted reaching full capacity by 2040 along with Bristol and Southampton.
The government said it was on track to publish final proposals for expansion at Heathrow in the first half of 2018 before a vote in Parliament.
Grayling said: “The case for expanding Heathrow is as strong as ever and we want to hear your views on it. This is an important consultation and I encourage everybody to get involved across the UK.”
Heathrow described the latest consultation as a “key milestone”.
“The forecasts show expanding Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport, is even more important than previously realised,” said a spokesperson for the airport.
“A third runway will ensure Britain’s place in the world as an outward looking trading nation. That’s why the government has committed to a final vote on expansion in the first half of 2018.
“Today’s consultation will be welcomed by business groups, trade unions and the majority of MPs who all recognise that expanding Heathrow is the only option to connect all of Britain to global growth.”