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Gaping holes in the Airports Commission’s analysis of airport expansion conceal a potential environmental disaster, a green group claims today.
The Aviation Environment Federation suggests on the closing day of the commission’s final public consultation that a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick would be an “environmental disaster”.
It claims that the commission ran out of time to complete key pieces of research on greenhouse gas emissions and on air quality.
The AEF is calling on political parties not to accept the commission’s recommendations until all relevant evidence has been gathered and made available for public scrutiny.
In its response to the consultation, AEF criticised the commission for leaving “major gaps” in its evidence, notably:
- Failure to complete local air quality modelling in time for the consultation, despite the Commission’s assessment objective being “to improve air quality in line with EU air quality laws”
- Failure to follow the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation that the economic impact assessment of expansion must include the costs associated with meeting emissions targets, and
- Failure to provide any analysis of how noise impacts would vary if different assumptions were made about the location of flight paths, especially as these have been labelled ‘indicative and not representative’.
Deputy director Cait Hewitt said: “A new runway at any of the shortlisted sites would be an environmental disaster, the commission’s evidence suggests. But without a proper environmental analysis having been completed, the next government will struggle to get an accurate picture of the full costs and benefits of expansion.
“We are very disappointed that despite the thousands of pages of analysis the commission has published on its short-listed proposals, the environmental analysis it committed to undertaking has not been finished in time. By its own admission, the commission has not completed a detailed enough assessment of the impacts of a new runway either on air quality or on the cost of meeting national carbon commitments.
“The environmental assessment presented so far is a patchwork of often damning, though incomplete, evidence about the impact of expansion, which could take place in areas described by the Commission as already suffering from ‘environmental stress’.
“Several new pieces of evidence have appeared during the consultation, meanwhile, sometimes within weeks of the deadline, leaving little time for the public to respond, while gaping holes in the analysis suggest that the overall environmental impact may have been significantly underestimated.”
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