Noise and air pollution from a potential third runway at Heathrow is to be investigated by MPs, as the Airports Commission’s report comes under growing criticism.
The Commons environmental audit committee is also to examine the climate change impact of a bigger airport in west London, in its first inquiry of the new parliament.
MPs will assess whether plans to curb aviation emissions — including charging £330 per ton of carbon dioxide from flights by 2050 — and proposals to tackle local air pollution and noise set out in the commission’s report are realistic and achievable.
The commission, led by the new Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Sir Howard Davies, has strongly favoured expanding Heathrow.
But committee chairman Huw Irranca-Davies said: “Critics of airport expansion have raised concerns on whether it is possible to enlarge capacity in the South-East while meeting the UK’s binding commitments on air pollution and climate change.
“We will be examining the Airports Commission’s assessment of these issues in order to inform the debate about the future of aviation in the South-East.”
Separately, a group of six town hall leaders in London, eight MPs, academics, peers, environmental experts and London Assembly members have written to David Cameron.
They are urging the Prime Minister either to re-open the commission’s consultation on air quality, which they branded “flawed”, or rule out another runway in west London.
The group of council leaders comprises Tories Ray Puddifoot of Hillingdon, Lord True for Richmond, Ravi Govindia of Wandsworth and Kevin Davis at Kingston, as well as Labour’s Stephen Cowan of Hammersmith & Fulham and Liberal Democrat Ruth Dombey in Sutton.
The eight MPs who have also signed the letter are Conservatives Zac Goldsmith of Richmond Park, Tania Mathias for Twickenham, Adam Afriyie of Windsor and Bob Blackman in Harrow East, plus Labour’s John McDonnell of Hayes and Harlington, Kate Hoey for Vauxhall, Ruth Cadbury in Brentford and Isleworth and Andy Slaughter of Hammersmith.
They argued that an air quality consultation announced on May 8, the day after the General Election, did not give enough time to respond to highly complex reports, spatial maps and data sheets. They alleged that it was seen as a “tick box exercise” ahead of the commission’s final report, published this month.
The commission’s conclusions in- clude that another runway could be built at Heathrow even if it did not meet EU limits on air pollution — provided it did not delay London complying with them.
It also believes fewer people would be affected by noise from a three-runway Heathrow than currently as quieter planes come on stream.