In Depth

'Third Heathrow runway is not enough,' say business leaders

Institute of Directors calls for further expansion at UK's airports, saying country is 'lagging behind'

A third runway at Heathrow is "not enough" to solve the UK's airports capacity squeeze, says the Institute of Directors, which has called on the next government to commit to another two new runways.

Dan Lewis, senior infrastructure adviser at the Institute of Directors, said: "The growth in passenger numbers is far ahead of what the Airports Commission said it would be. This is a fast-moving target.

“Whoever wins the next election, they will face a serious challenge in upgrading the UK’s transport and communications network. The years of dawdling on new airport capacity have left us lagging well behind European competitors."

John Stewart, chair of the anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said the IoD was “living in a fantasy world”, reports The Guardian

He told the paper: “To try to build three at a time would create a nationwide network of opposition from local resident groups and climate change activists, the likes of which the UK has not seen before.”

History provides an indicator of how hard it will be to get eventual approval for airport expansion in south-east England.

A third runway at Heathrow was first suggested by the International Air Transport Association in 2002, along with a second and perhaps a third at Stansted, or the final runway going to Gatwick.

Labour gave the go-ahead to Heathrow's expansion in 2009, following a white paper in 2003 and then a public consultation in 2007, but this was cancelled by the coalition government in 2010.

However, two years later, the capacity issue reared its head again and a commission was established, which in 2015 finally recommended a third runway be built at Heathrow after all.

After much wrangling - with the government facing intense internal opposition - the plan got the official green light earlier this year.

However, parliament is yet to formally vote on the plans and the runway is not expected to be finished until 2025. An expanded Heathrow must also comply with legal air pollution limits, which critics doubt is possible.

Conditions put on Heathrow third runway approval

2 February 

Plans for the controversial expansion of Heathrow airport were published today, as the government started a four-month consultation on the move.

But while the paper gets the ball rolling, it also sets out conditions that could derail the planned third runway.

In particular, the government said the expanded airport will have to comply with existing air pollution limits and climate change targets, says Sky News.

At the moment, London is in breach of legally binding EU rules on particulates and noxious nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the Commons today the government had "to do much more" to meet the targets - and that Heathrow's development was dependent on these being met.

Answering a question from shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald's about air pollution caused by the UK's biggest airport, Grayling said: "On the question of NOx emissions, it's a broader issue than simply the airport.

"We've already made a start with incentives for low-emission vehicles and we will be seeing very shortly a bill… But I'm very aware - the government's very aware - we are going to have to do much more on the emissions front.

"We cannot possibly wait to do more... and we won't."

An independent study by Cambridge University last year said the expanded airport would not add meaningfully to NOx emissions, in part because of the introduction of cleaner car engines.

Opponents, including Greenpeace and four Tory-controlled councils, say the airport will never meet pollution or climate change targets.

Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, said: "Nothing is going to change to make this scheme any less polluting".

In addition to the air quality, the plans say Heathrow must increase the number of overnight flightless hours to six and a half, something it agreed to last year.

Reuters adds that the paper also contains details of a £2.6bn compensation scheme for those affected by the plans, including above market-rate compensation for people whose homes will be destroyed to build the runway.

High Court grounds legal big to block third runway at Heathrow

31 January

A coalition of opponents of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, including four Conservative-controlled councils, has suffered a legal blow in its plans to prevent the development.

Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils, along with Greenpeace UK and one local resident, were seeking a judicial review against the government's decision to back the expansion last year.

They argued that the government had failed to consult on the plans despite it having "abandoned a previous promise that a third runway would never be built", says Sky News.

They also claimed that the increased air traffic would breach EU air pollution laws.

But the High Court says that until the government publishes its national policy statement (NPS) on aviation later this year, which will set out the project in more detail (and only after parliament votes on the expansion), it has no jurisdiction.

"Once the Secretary of State adopts and publishes an NPS the court will have jurisdiction to entertain the challenges the claimants advance," said the judge, Mr Justice Cranston.

"For the present this claim must be struck out."

The fact the court has said it is willing to hear a challenge at a later date means this is a set-back, rather than a full-on defeat, for the opponents of a third runway.

Ray Puddifoot, leader of Hillingdon Council, told the BBC the ruling was just the first step in what would be "a losing battle for the government".

He added that ministers could not get around "unlawful air quality impacts". Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, also said: "nothing is going to change to make this scheme any less polluting".

London already breaches the pollution limits set by the EU, but a study by academics at Cambridge University last year found the third runway at Heathrow would not meaningfully add to noxious nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions.

Professor Rod Jones told the BBC: "We expect there to be a marginal increase in NO2 coming from the airport itself, but that would be against the background of reduced NO2 from other traffic, because of [cleaner car] engines and electrification of the traffic fleet."

It's also worth noting that by 2025, which is the earliest the runway is likely to become operational, the UK should have long since left the EU. This means Britain will no longer be subject to the pollution limits set by Brussels.

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