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GLA Report – ‘Flights of Fancy’

17th February, 2010

The Environment Committee of the Greater London Authority (GLA) has issued a report on criticising the regime of environmental controls and targets proposed for Heathrow. The report is called ‘Flights of Fancy: Can an expanded Heathrow meet its environmental targets?

Extracts from the Executive Summary follow.


“We highlight drawbacks to the underlying methodology used for setting the noise condition – the base year used for establishing the noise contour is Summer 2002, the last full year of Concorde flights and the method for calculating the contour area is inconsistent with the EU directed method for drawing up noise action plans at airports.

“The noticeable absence of an overarching national policy and framework for managing ambient noise is a worry, as is the lack of definitive guidance on threshold levels at EU level. We recommend bringing the method for measuring noise levels in line with the requirement for noise action plans, revising the noise contour benchmark in line with 2007 study, Attitudes to Noise from Aviation Sources in England, and revising the 2002 base year to a more recent year.

Air pollution

“We expose the clear inadequacies in approaches to tackling air pollution levels around Heathrow. The lack of a readily visible structured approach towards achieving EU limits driven from the top levels of government and the Mayor is the main worry, not least because of the serious impact poor air quality will continue to have on Londoners’ health.

“We believe that a full independent health impact assessment should be commissioned, and call for clarity on how EU limits will be met around Heathrow, a clear and decisive strategy for improving air pollution levels, and the application of innovative mitigation measures in line with the Mayor’s draft Air Quality Strategy.

Climate change

“We point out limitations to meeting the aviation emissions target. There is a misplaced reliance on aircraft technology, such as blended wings and renewable fuels, particularly as the trend in technology improvements is relatively slow when compared to other industries.

“The failure to secure a binding international agreement on aviation emissions at Copenhagen in December, dealt another blow to the likelihood of meeting the Government emissions target. With the exception of the 2050 target, there is no mechanism in place, and consequently no means of prompting corrective action until it is far too late.

“We therefore recommend that in its planned consultation document the Government should set out a phased approach to reducing aviation emissions, setting out short, medium and long-term targets that will be legally binding.”

AEF comment

We were pleased to see that the GLA conclusions largely mirror our views.  We were gratified to see that the GLA referred to a couple of AEF’s web pages in the report.

An area of slight concern is the way that the committee seemed to accept without question the economic benefits of Heathrow expansion claimed by its supporters.

GLA Heathrow report.