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Briefing: airport expansion and air pollution

19th December, 2014


Our new briefing sets out the issue of air pollution around Heathrow and Gatwick, the work done so far by the Airports Commission and the remaining gaps.

Key points of the briefing:

  1. Air pollution is described by the World Health Organisation as the world’s biggest environmental health risk.
  2. The European Court of Justice has ruled that the UK must take action to ensure air pollution is reduced to legal limits within the shortest time possible.
  3. Sites around Heathrow and Gatwick have breached legal air quality limits in recent years with at least one site around Heathrow having breached the limit for nitrogen dioxide annually over the past 10 years.
  4. The Airports Commission’s appraisal found that all short-listed expansion options would have an adverse impact on local air quality unless significant mitigation measures are put in place.
  5. A runway should not be built in a location already breaching air quality limits or where there is a risk of it happening.

Image credit: Annual nitrogen dioxide levels across London 2010 – Cleaner Air for London