Skip to content

Campaigning against unsustainable expansion


In October 2016, the Government announced its support for Heathrow expansion. To deliver this, however, it needs parliamentary approval of the National Policy Statement (NPS) that sets out the rationale for the plan, as well as any key conditions. If voted through, the NPS would be passed to the Planning Inspectorate to work out the details of implementation together with the airport. A three-month consultation on the draft NPS was published in February 2017. Parliamentary scrutiny is currently ongoing.

The draft NPS fails, however, to show how the runway would be compatible with key environmental targets and legal requirements:

  • It fails to show how expansion will meet air quality targets. The Government’s latest air quality plan indicates London may remain in breach of air quality targets even in 2030. This is without accounting for the impact of a third runway at Heathrow, which is due to be completed by 2025 if given the go-ahead.
  • It does not demonstrate how the UK’s climate change obligations will be met if Heathrow expands. The Committee on Climate Change recommends aviation CO2 emissions should not exceed 37.5 Mt by 2050. But even without a third runway, the sector is not on course to meet this goal.
  • It fails to provide precise mapping of all of those newly overflown as a result of expansion. This means hundreds of thousands of people may not be aware that they will be directly impacted by the third runway.

What we want to see

  • Any decision to approve a third runway at Heathrow, or other airport expansion plan, must demonstrate how it can avoid jeopardising compliance with the UK’s legal obligations on climate change and air quality
  • MPs must have accurate information about what a third runway would mean for their constituents in terms of noise and public health impacts, and about the economic case for expansion after taking full account of the environmental costs and the wider implications for airports across the UK – before they vote on whether or not the project should go ahead

What we’re doing

  • We submitted evidence to the Parliamentary Transport Committee as part of its formal scrutiny of the NPS and gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee’s earlier inquiry into the impact of Heathrow expansion
  • We responded in detail to the Government’s consultation on the NPS for Heathrow
  • We wrote to Jeremy Sullivan QC, who was appointed to oversee the consultation, arguing that the deficiencies in information are so significant that many issues will require further consultation
  • We are engaging with MPs across the country to raise awareness of the environmental shortcomings of the NPS. We have launched the Why the third runway plan can’t fly campaign, highlighting the NPS’s failure to adequately address and account for climate change, air quality and noise pollution. We are publishing a series of briefings which further detail these inadequacies and how they must be addressed before the NPS can be passed by Government. See resources section below.


Why the third runway plan can’t fly infographic

Briefing 1 Heathrow third runway: climate change

Briefing 2 Heathrow third runway: noise pollution 

Briefing 3 Heathrow third runway: air quality 

Briefing 4 Heathrow third runway: economics and UK-wide impacts