London's Heathrow Airport has renewed its pledge to curb night flights and reduce noise levels in a bid to secure approval to build a third runway. The UK's busiest and biggest airport also said it would accept any government decision against building a fourth runway in the future, adding it would not increase capacity unless it could do so while continuing to be compliant with European Union air-quality limits.
The company running London's main airport hub indicated it would support the introduction of an independent noise authority, aimed at reducing the impact of a third runway on both the environment and on the local community.
"You set up the Airports Commission and it unanimously recommended expanding Heathrow," Heathrow's chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, wrote in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister.
"You demanded ambitious plans from my team to deliver expansion with a bold and fair deal for our neighbours. Today [10 May 2016], I am proud to submit a comprehensive plan that meets and exceeds your demands. This is a big commitment from us, but it is the right choice for the country, local communities and jobs across Britain."
Holland-Kaye added that Heathrow's expansion would be hugely beneficial to Britain's economy. "We have acted now to let you and your government make the right choice, in the long-term interest of our country," he said.
"It will enable you to choose Heathrow and secure a stronger economy and Britain's place in the world. Expanding Heathrow can help Britain win thousands more jobs and ensure that future generations have the same economic opportunity that we have enjoyed."
In 2015, the government-appointed Airports Commission stated that Britain's biggest airport would only be allowed to build a third runway if it agreed to a ban on scheduled flights between 11.30pm and 6am after local residents complained of noise pollution.
However, London's main airport has so far said it would extend its quiet period overnight, with flights not allowed to land between 11pm and 5.30am, from the current 11.30pm finish and 4.30am start.
John Stewart, chair of the anti-noise group HACAN ClearSkies, said it was disappointing that Heathrow was yet to follow the commission's recommendations to extend the quiet period until 6am. "The bigger problem with air pollution is most of it comes from traffic and it's out of Heathrow's control to deal with air pollution from traffic. They can't really guarantee that air pollution levels can be brought down to EU legal limits."
However, news of Heathrow's commitment to a ban on night flights and the introduction of an independent noise authority was met with approval by Mary Creagh MP, the chair of the Commons Environmental Audit committee.
"Heathrow's proposals to tackle air pollution, however, need to go much further much faster," she said. "Promises on future rail links and air pollution charges are seven to 10 years away. People living near the airport need action on air quality much sooner and one quick win would be slashing fares on Heathrow express to encourage more people to use it.
"Whatever the government decides on airport expansion, it needs a strategy for reducing carbon emissions from aviation. We will scrutinise the government's plans to limit the noise, air quality and climate change impacts of a third runway carefully."