A parliamentary commitee will examine possible environmental impacts of a potential new runway at Heathrow

Environmental impact of Heathrow runway under scrutiny

Environmental concerns surrounding the potential construction of a new runway at London’s Heathrow airport will be analysed by a parliamentary committee.

In what is set to be the first inquiry of the new Tory-dominated parliament, the Environmental Audit Committee will focus on the effects on air pollution, noise levels as well as the contribution to climate warming.

Building a new runway at Heathrow was selected as the preferred option to expand the UK’s airport capacity by the Airports Commission earlier this month but environmental campaigners as well as local groups protested against the recommendation.

The Environmental Audit Committee will now examine whether measures recommended by the Airports Commission’s report to mitigate the negative impact could achieve the needed effects. The measures include policies to curb aviation emissions, such as charging £330 per tonne of carbon dioxide from flights by 2050, and proposals to tackle local air pollution and noise.

It will also look at what it will mean for wider Government policy, whether there are achievable alternatives to the policies and proposals and what steps ministers should take to make sure their decision fits with commitments on sustainable development.

"Environmental concerns are a key part of the debate on airport expansion,” said committee chairman Huw Irranca-Davies.

"Critics of airport expansion have raised concerns about whether it is possible to expand airport capacity in the South-East while meeting the UK's binding commitments on air pollution and climate change."

The Heathrow expansion has several high-profile opponents among Tory politicians including the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

The Airports Commission, however, ruled that Heathrow is best positioned to cater for the growing demand for international long-haul flights to emerging countries in Asia, South America and Africa. The second option would be building a new runway at Gatwick, which, the Commission said, is not so well connected to the transport infrastructure and not positioned to address the growth in long-haul flights.

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