Road pollution would make a Colnbrook Runway undeliverable and illegal

A new report examining the implications on air quality of expanding Heathrow was published yesterday.  It warns that air pollution generated by increased traffic during construction and once the new runway is operational would make the Third Runway undeliverable … and illegal.

Gatwick's 'dumbed down' version of the report is also published today in a leaflet entitled Over the Limit (click to view)

Gatwick’s ‘dumbed down’ version of the report is also published today in a leaflet entitled Over the Limit (click to view)

The report, produced by Roger Barrowcliffe of Clean Air Thinking and Gavin Bollan from Environmental Resources Management, was funded by Gatwick and its conclusions may therefore be considered inevitable.  However, it draws upon figures from other studies, including evidence submitted by Heathrow itself, to question the viability of a new runway for at least another decade.

The report concludes that construction of a Third Runway could delay compliance with NO2 limits currently being breached, and questions where limits could ever be met once a new runway becomes operational.

If the Commission was to recommend one of the Heathrow schemes, there is a significant risk that the scheme will prove to be undeliverable.

The 47 page report finds that:

  • Heathrow Airport Ltd’s submission to the Airports Commission includes data that is “without evidential foundation” and “may well not prove to be correct”.  It is critical of modelling submitted to the Commission in June last year that used a methodology that continues to use the outdated emission performance of vehicles that significantly underestimates impact on local pollution levels.
  • Figures from Heathrow’s own engineering partner, Arup, which whom it worked on the Terminal 5 development,  show that background concentrations of NO2 could be exceeded at 70 residential locations around the airport by 2025 should the Third Runway go ahead.
  • During six years of construction many local roads will see additional pollution impact from 2,000 vehicles daily, with some roads likely to see up to 10,000.  Breaches of legal limits would be seen in 107 out of 162 locations. Close to parts of the A40, levels could be double the existing limit.
  • 112 nearby properties could could exceed the EU limit value during construction.
  • Airside mitigation measures proposed by Heathrow, such as lower emission aircraft, vehicle fleet, fixed electrical ground power and pre-conditioned air when on stands, will have little effect outside the airport’s boundaries where traffic generated by Heathrow is the biggest cause of pollution.  Locations near the road network, particularly those close to the M4 such as the Westfield estate, will be worst impacted.
  • Measures proposed by Heathrow to reduce pollution from the road network such as zero or ultra-low emission zones or congestion charging lack detail and could simply redistribute pollution to other areas.
  • The SMART motorway scheme for the M4 between Junctions 3 and 12 will see road vehicles on the M4 closer to residential properties already identified as being at risk and could increase NO2 concentrations at these receptors.

The report also questions whether, legally, the Government could give permission for a new runway.

It says that the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010 (which encompasses the EU Directive on ambient air quality) imposes a legal duty on the UK to ensure that levels of nitrogen dioxide do not exceed the 40 μg/m3 as an annual mean for NO2. It also notes that the Government’s National Networks National Policy Statement (NN NPS) for nationally significant infrastructure projects, published in December, states that planning should be refused where air quality impacts would breach EU limits or delay compliance.

According to yesterday’s Times, Heathrow reportedly dismissed the findings.

Heathrow’s expansion will only go ahead if it is meets strict environmental limits on local air quality, and with a comprehensive surface access strategy that will allow airport expansion without increasing airport related road traffic.

“We will incentivise staff and passengers to use our enhanced public transport network, that will include Crossrail, western and southern rail access and improved Tube services, reduce staff car parking spaces, and look at a potential congestion charge to help reduce the number of people travelling to the airport by car.”

Sir Howard Davies’ recommendation is now expected within weeks of the election, some are predicting.


Related links

Read more analysis of the report on Colnbrook Views:

Heathrow’s pollution strategy will “transfer air quality problems to other areas”

Dodgy figures are the basis of Heathrow’s air quality claims, says report

Or read the full report here.

or the dumbed down version here.

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