Heathrow’s third runway must deliver for the environment

The Supreme Court has reversed a decision to block plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. It means that developers can now seek planning permission for the project.

The British Safety Council is calling on Heathrow Airport to now provide concrete assurances that the expansion would not breach acceptable levels of noise and air pollution, and that it is compatible with the UK's climate policy. This means the addition of a new runway would not contravene the Government’s ambition to cut its carbon emissions by at least 68% of what they were in 1990 by the end of 2030, as well as deliver the Government’s Net Zero target by 2050.

The British Safety Council has been highlighting for some time in its Time to Breathe campaign that outdoor air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. Research shows 40,000 lives a year across the country are lost which costs the economy £20 billion annually in healthcare and impact on businesses.

The Time to Breathe campaign calls for:

  • The UK to adopt World Health Organisation (WHO) exposure limits for the main pollutants of nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and ozone; and
  • Improvement in air quality for outdoor workers. These include construction workers, maintenance workers, refuse workers, traffic police and security guards.

Mike Robinson, the British Safety Council’s Chief Executive, commented,

“Heathrow is already the busiest airport in Europe, serving over 80 million passengers a year. A third runway means even more flights adding to the UK's carbon emissions and pollution levels. Unless the airport reduces its current levels of noise, air pollution and carbon emissions, the expansion is not compatible with the UK’s climate policy.  As the 2050 Net Zero target is legally binding, Heathrow Airport must set out tangible policies and actions to achieve this target.  

There is a massive opportunity for Heathrow Airport to propel the UK to the forefront of green aviation. But, if it fails to deliver, the impact on local people and outdoor workers, including those employed at the airport, could be severe for many years to come.”