Heathrow expansion should rely on environmental safeguards, say MPs

Approval of expansion at London Heathrow should rely on a strong environmental plan says a new government report. 

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has been looking at the Airports Commission's recommendation for a third runway and the impact this would have in terms of climate-changing emissions, air quality and noise.

The committee advised the government and Heathrow to commit to a ban on night flights and said the airport should be able to prove it could be quieter with three runways than with two. 

The committee also recommended that Heathrow should look at improving surface transport. 

It particularly expressed concerns about the achievability of air quality targets.  

EAC chair, Huw Irranca Davies MP said: "Planes are becoming more fuel efficient, but this alone will not keep aviation emissions in line with the Government's climate change targets given the growth in passenger numbers. Even without expansion, aviation is on track to exceed its climate change target. 

"We heard evidence that those targets might be met in theory, but at present there is a policy vacuum and evidence-based scepticism as to whether they can be met in practice."

Criticising the Airports Commission's interpretation of the Air Quality Directive, Davies added: "Increased pollution should certainly not be permitted on the grounds that other areas of London are even more polluted."

In conclusion, Davies said: "If the Government decides to accept the Commission's recommendation for a third runway in principle, we will seek assurances from the secretary of state for transport that environmental conditions will be met before it is given final approval."