Heathrow dismisses Supreme Court ruling on air quality

Those opposed to expansion of Heathrow are celebrating this week after an historic ruling by the UK Supreme Court that forces the incoming government after May 7 to tackle air pollution immediately. The airport has played down the ruling.

heathrow plane

The unanimous ruling by the UK Supreme Court on Thursday to effectively orders the Government to deliver an effective plan for dealing illegal levels of air pollution in the UK by the end of the year.  The Court ruled the:

“The new Government, whatever its political complexion, should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue.”

The historic ruling is the culmination of a five year legal battle fought by environmental lawyers ClientEarth for the right of British people to breathe clean air.

ClientEarth says the ruling will save thousands of lives a year by forcing the Government to urgently clean up pollution from diesel vehicles, the main source of the illegal levels of Nitrogen Dioxide found in many of the UK’s towns and cities.

ClientEarth Lawyer Alan Andrews said: “Air pollution kills tens of thousands of people in this country every year. We brought our case because we have a right to breathe clean air and today the Supreme Court has upheld that right.”

“This ruling will benefit everyone’s health but particularly children, older people and those with existing health conditions like asthma and heart and lung conditions.

The next Government, regardless of the political party or parties which take power, is now legally bound to take urgent action on this public health crisis.

“Before next week’s election all political parties need to make a clear commitment to policies which will deliver clean air and protect our health.”

The Supreme Court ruling means the Government must start work on a comprehensive plan to meet pollution limits as soon as possible. Among the measures that that it must consider are low emission zones, congestion charging and other economic incentives.

Various groups over the last few days have observed that the ruling could be the death knell for Heathrow’s expansion plans, and even potentially diesel cars, including Stop Heathrow Expansion.

John Stewart, chairman of Hacan, said:

It is difficult to see how any government will get away with backing a new runway at Heathrow when the plans it is now required to draw up urgently to present to the EU say it must come up with a coherent plan to cut air pollution.

Heathrow has played down the ruling, insisting that traffic is the main cause locally:

“The airport is a small but material contributor to air pollution levels in the area. By far the greatest contribution arises from non-airport traffic and background levels of air pollution.”

Its plans for expansion are based on 50% of passengers arriving to the expanded airport by public transport.

Heathrow Airport chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said:

“We have a good track record in reducing emissions, now we will go even further and continue to work with partners to reduce emissions in the roads around Heathrow. We have ambitions to be one of the most responsible airports in the world, and the best neighbour we can be to our local communities.”

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