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London Assembly says no to Heathrow expansion

The London Assembly will oppose plans for a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow, after an environmental impact assessment found the expansion plans exaggerated economic benefits, and would cause Heathrow to breach European air quality standards.

The Assembly will submit its evidence against Heathrow expansion to the Department for Transport's ongoing inquiry into Heathrow's expansion.

They believe Heathrow's expansion is inconsistent with government targets on noise, pollution and access.

Heathrow is the busiest international airport in the world, and currently handles 478,000 flights per year. Expansion plans could sent this figure up to more than 700,000 by 2030, an increase comperable to Gatwick's existing capacity.

Chair of the London Assembly's Environment Committee, Darren Johnson, said: "The Committee has carefully considered evidence from interest groups and individuals both in favour of and against expansion at Heathrow.

"It is our view that the noise and air quality conditions placed on a third runway and sixth terminal are inadequate and do not take into account the full impact the proposed expansion will have on Londoners.

"Expansion at Heathrow should not be considered while various local and international conditions continue to be overlooked or completely underestimated."

However, the Committee said expansion could go ahead if the following criteria are met:

- a full and independent health impact assessment is carried out on local residents;
- Crossrail (due to open in 2012) significantly increases the proportion of passengers accessing Heathrow using public transport;
- the Kyoto agreement includes aviation emissions as part of its binding criteria; and
- the EU's carbon emissions trading scheme demonstrates success in reducing the UK and Europe's carbon emissions in line with the revised Kyoto agreements.

They also question the way carbon pricing is factored-in to the Department for Transport's consultation, and call for an independent review of how carbon pricing is included in assessments of Heathrow's expansion.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone reiterated his opposition to Heathrow's expansion. "It is vital that all airport expansion in London and the South East, including Heathrow is halted now as it is completely contrary to the growing evidence on the role of aviation in contributing towards catastrophic climate change.

"Rather than more runways and plane journeys, we must cut carbon emissions by using energy more efficiently. The Government's own figures show air travel produces two to three times more carbon emissions than making the same trip by rail.

"Expansion would also have a huge impact on road congestion and pollution with more plane journeys leading to more traffic congestion and pollution from cars. Furthermore many communities in London will suffer with more noise and air pollution, affecting the health, well-being and quality of life for millions of Londoners. The expansion of Heathrow will take much needed green space and mean the complete destruction of Sipson village, home to over a thousand people.

"So on every test; environment, economic and quality of life, the argument for expanding Heathrow has not been made and I don’t believe it ever can. We have a duty to protect our environment not just for us, but the generations who will come after us," he said.

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