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Airport expansion should be ruled out in the interest of protecting public health says AEF

29th May, 2015


Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) [1] today submitted a response to the Airports Commission calling on the body to rule out both expansion options at Heathrow Airport and one at Gatwick on air quality grounds.

AEF’s response [2] was to the Airports Commission’s consultation on local air quality impacts following airport expansion [3] which closed today.

The Airports Commission’s air pollution assessment revealed that using the Government’s environment department model, expansion at Heathrow would lead to the area having the highest level of air pollution in the UK, delaying compliance with European air quality limits [4]. At Gatwick there was a high risk of exceeding the air quality limits and the area would have the highest pollution in the South East zone.

Tim Johnson, Director, Aviation Environment Federation said:

“The health costs associated with poor air pollution in the UK run to billions of pounds. The Commission’s analysis shows an increase in pollution potentially affecting tens of thousands of people, rising to over one hundred thousand people in one scenario, around Heathrow or Gatwick, with a high or likely risk of air pollution levels being above the legal limit. All three options, particularly Heathrow, fail the Commission’s own objective on air pollution and should be ruled out.”

The Airports Commission’s assessment also revealed that there was continued doubt that measures to mitigate the increased air pollution from a new runway would be sufficient to enable expansion to be compatible with air pollution limits.

Tim added:

“We are left none-the-wiser following the Commission’s review of options to reduce the levels of pollution about whether or not a new runway could be built and operated at capacity while remaining within legal limits. Until all doubt is removed, the Davies Commission cannot recommend building a new runway anywhere.”


Notes to editors:

[1] The Aviation Environment Federation is the leading UK organisation campaigning exclusively on the environmental impacts of aviation. We represent community groups and individuals around many of the UK’s airports and airfields.

[2] The AEF response is available here.

[3] Airports contribute to increased air pollution through aircraft (a significant source of NOx pollution), air side ground traffic and surface transport accessing the airport. Our briefing on airport expansion and air pollution is available here.

[4] Data published under freedom of information had already revealed that the Defra model used to assess compliance with EU legal limits currently forecasts Heathrow to have the second worst air pollution in the UK, with only the current two runways.


James Lees / 020 3102 1509