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Airports Commission publishes assessment framework for considering new runway sites

The Airports Commission has published its final assessment framework for the three options shortlisted for the building of a new runway, and to guide consideration of a Thames Estuary option pending a decision later this year on whether it should be included.

AEF maintains that new airport capacity is unlikely to be compatible with environmental objectives, and that the maximum growth in flying possible under a carbon cap can be accommodated within existing infrastructure. Our response to the draft framework therefore highlighted ways in which the assessment criteria should be used to rigorously test the Commission’s view that a runway can be built without unacceptable environmental impacts.

The final framework reflects our suggestions that:

  • scheme promoters should show how noise can be reduced as well as simply minimised
  • air quality impacts should be assessed in the context of the need to improve on current levels of pollution and to achieve compliance with EU law (the Heathrow area has been in breach for some years); schemes will now  be required ‘to demonstrate how they expect to be able to operate within the UK’s emissions ceilings and contribute to overall compliance with relevant European and national legislation and requirements’
  • levels of PM 2.5 (fine particulates) should be assessed in all cases
  • impacts of air pollution on the natural and physical environment should be assessed, in addition to impacts on public health

The framework still lacks any meaningful noise targets or thresholds however, despite the existence of clear recommendations from the World Health Organisation, and of WHO Europe, regarding maximum safe levels of environmental noise.

A copy of the final assessment framework is available here, or on the Commission’s own site here.

The consultation document and our response are here.