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Emissions Impossible (March 2006)

An assessment of the noise and air pollution problems at Heathrow airport and the measures proposed to tackle them.


An AEF report was published in March 06 called ‘Emissions Impossible’. The full title is ‘An assessment of the noise and air pollution problems at Heathrow airport and the measures proposed to tackle them.The report was commissioned by Heathrow-area MPs, local authorities and the Mayor of London and was intended to ensure that the real facts and issues were made available to those outside the charmed circle of the Department for Transport (DfT) and BAA. The DfT is currently carrying out studies (throughout 2005 and 2006) to ascertain whether a third runway or ‘mixed mode’ operation would meet EU air pollution limits and its self-imposed target on noise. However, these studies are impenetrable and inaccessible to all except the DfT and BAA.The AEF study found that it would be virtually impossible to meet air pollution limits and noise targets if a third runway were added at Heathrow.

The report furthermore argues that even the present growth of the airport up to the cap of 480,000 ATMs is probably unlawful, since air pollution limits are already being exceeded.

Abandoning runway alternation would be a further derogation of the Government’s duty to maintain air quality, while any predictions showing that a third runway could legally be built rely on wild assumptions about technology and ambitious traffic reduction measures – funding for which is but a distant prospect.

The report also investigates the ‘noise climate’ around the airport. AEF suggests that this is currently deteriorating, despite the Government’s promise to the contrary. If runway alternation were ended, it might be possible to keep within the ‘average noise’ contour target, but this would simply show the inadequacy of this measure, since annoyance would self-evidently increase. If a third runway is built, it is unlikely that even this inadequate target could be met.

See link below for the report. For general information on air pollution, see the ‘Aviation and the Environment part of this site; ‘Air Quality’ section.

Emissions Impossible