29th September, 2005
‘Project Heathrow’ was set up the publication of the Aviation White Paper. Its remit is to assess the impact of building a third runway at Heathrow, especally the air pollution. Because of concerns about the transparency of Project Heathrow’ work , a group called ‘Project Heathrow Watch’ has been set up.
‘Project Heathrow’ was set up by the Department for Transport (DfT) following the publication of the Aviation White Paper. Its remit is to assess the impact of building a third runway at Heathrow – in particular its impact on air pollution, noise and surface level transport.The impact on air pollution is the critical one. The air around Heathrow is already highly polluted due to the airport and also the high volumes of road traffic, both airport-related and not.The White Paper put a third runway at Heathrow on the back-burner because of the concern that levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) around Heathrow would exceed the EU legal limits (due to come into force in 2010) if it were to be built.It is interesting to note that the EU limits are the same as the UK ones, but the UK limits were never mentioned in the White Paper. Presumably the UK government would have no qualms about breaking its own limits due to a third runway; however it cannot prevent the EU from acting.The main activity has been the setting up of 3 ‘expert panels’, dealing respectively with: methodology for modelling pollution levels; monitoring actual pollution; sources of emissions.Project Heathrow is expected to publish its initial findings at the end of 2005. They will be used to inform the Government when it reviews the progress of the White Paper at the end of 2006.
There has been concern that the work of Project Heathrow has lacked transparency. Minutes of the panels has taken up to 6 months to be published on the web and there have been no attempts to communicate the project’s workings to the public.This led to the formation of ‘Project Heathrow Watch’, set up by John McDonnell MP. It includes MPs of all parties concerned about the expansion of Heathrow, as well as key local authorities in the area and two leading community groups – HACAN and the No Third Runway Action Group (NOTRAG).Project Heathrow Watch aims to monitor the work of Project Heathrow. It has already met with the Aviation minister and will meet on a regular basis with senior DfT civil servants.