The expansion of Heathrow Airport has experienced strong setbacks after the UK’s Supreme Court enforced the reduction of air pollution as one of its main priorities.
The court said that the airport must make a viable effort to tackle the high levels of emissions that exist within the area. The largest proportion of this pollution comes from nitrogen dioxide- a by-product of diesel engines, these dangerous fumes are known to cause health problems and aggravate conditions such as asthma.
Richard Gane, a transport expert with the Vendigital consultancy, said the ruling “would add weight to the growing environmental lobby against diesel-engine vehicles and potentially could lead to them being phased out.”
However it is not just Heathrow that has seen a rise in pollution. The UK has consistently been seen to breach pollution limits that the EU brought into the system half a decade ago.
These rulings have put doubt on Heathrow’s runway expansion bid. John Stewart, chairman of the Hacan residents group, 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.”
The Airports Commission will meet again this summer to debate whether a third runway should be built at Heathrow, extend an existing runway, or a build a second one at Gatwick. Gatwick’s chief executive Stewart Wingate said “This may be a showstopper for Heathrow expansion.
“Heathrow currently breaches legal air quality limits and [a new runway] will obviously make things worse… Gatwick has never breached air quality limits and has guaranteed that it never will.”
Despite the courts concerns over the airports pollution levels, a spokesman for Heathrow contends that “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.”
This does not look like good news for Heathrow’s expansion bid, however the full impact of this news will not be known until the next Airport Commission meeting.
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