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Heathrow Airport Consultation

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 22 November 2007

I am today publishing a consultation “Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport” which covers a range of different proposals for the future development of the airport. The consultation responds to a number of commitments made in the 2003 Air Transport White Paper. It presents the conclusions from three years of detailed analysis to consider whether conditions set on noise, air quality and public transport could be met with the addition of a third runway and proposals for making better use of the existing runways. The White Paper recognised the key importance of Heathrow to both local and national economies, and to our competitiveness internationally. While Heathrow’s operations impact on people across and around London, the forecasts included in the consultation indicate that it is possible to add capacity at Heathrow in a way which satisfies the local conditions. We want to make the information widely accessible and are engaging extensively with interested parties to give them the opportunity to test the evidence presented and respond to the consultation.

Aviation plays an essential role in the UK’s economic growth and our continued prosperity. The Government consulted widely in 2002 on their air transport policy and set out their conclusions in the 2003 White Paper “The Future of Air Transport”. The White Paper set out a sustainable long-term strategy for the development of air travel out to 2030. This policy was reiterated last year in the 2006 “Future of Air Transport Progress Report”.

The White Paper identified an urgent need for additional runway capacity in the south-east and supported further development at Heathrow, including a new runway and additional terminal capacity, but only if three local conditions could be met.

First there should be no net increase in the total area of the 57 dBA noise contour. This would be measured at 127 sq km which was the size of the contour in the summer of 2002.

Secondly, being confident of meeting European air quality limits around the airport. The critical local pollutant at Heathrow is nitrogen dioxide (NO2) where the current European directive imposes limits from 2010.

Thirdly there would need to be improvements in access to the airport by public transport.

The White Paper also considered the scope for greater utilisation of the two existing runways by, for example, the use of mixed mode operations—where runways are used for both arriving and departing aircraft. It identified the need to study the impacts and benefits in detail, which would be subject to the same local conditions as a third runway.

Over the past three years, the Project for the Sustainable Development of Heathrow set up by the Department for Transport and including experts from the Highways Agency, the Civil Aviation Authority, the airport’s operator BAA, the Government Office for London and drawing on wider expertise from NATS and technical experts in air quality has considered these options further, including whether, and how, the local conditions could be met. The White Paper made a commitment to further consultation once the work was completed.

The White Paper also recognised the airport operator’s arguments for a sixth terminal north of the A4 to realise the full potential of the third runway and made a commitment to consult once further work had been completed on the proposals and their impacts. This consultation invites views on the airport operator’s revised proposal for adding a 2,200 m third runway (compared with 3,902 m and 3,658 m for the two existing runways) and a sixth terminal with access to the road and rail network which would enable the airport to handle around 702,000 air traffic movements a year by 2030.

The consultation also invites views on the introduction of ‘mixed mode’ operations as an interim measure ahead of a new runway subject to the same local conditions as a third runway. One option improves operational resilience at the airport but maintains the current 480,000 air transport movements cap, and another allows an extra 60,000 movements per year.

Depending on the outcome of this consultation, it will be for the airport operator to obtain the necessary consents in accordance with applicable planning rules and with relevant statutory and other criteria.

We would also like views on the results of a review of a number of operational procedures on the existing runways irrespective of any further capacity changes. For example the “Cranford agreement” which generally prohibits easterly departures off the northern runway.

We will make the information widely accessible and give all interested parties the opportunity to respond to the consultation. In addition to the standard consultation processes, my officials will also hold a series of public exhibitions to enable individuals and organisations to find out more and to register their views. All the consultation documentation and further details about how to respond are available on the Department’s website at:

I am also today publishing the report “UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts”. This report explains our passenger demand and CO2 forecasting methodologies and provides the latest CO2 forecasts. The White Paper argued that the aviation sector must fully meet its environmental costs and set out our policy to include aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme so that growth in emissions from 2004-06 levels would be compensated for by equivalent reductions elsewhere in the economy. This approach is entirely consistent with last year’s Stern review.

Final policy decisions on adding capacity at Heathrow will be taken at the earliest in the summer 2008 in the light of the results of the consultation.

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library of the House and are available in the Vote Office