Last week, I wrote to the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, about the government’s decision to expand London Heathrow airport. I called upon the Secretary of State to provide a range of specific local assurances, for our communities in Elmbridge, so that we can secure the economic benefits, but also deal effectively with the potential impact on noise levels and air quality.
Expanding Heathrow is important for the local economy, and Britain’s international competitiveness. But, living so close to Heathrow, there are understandable concerns about the impact on our local quality of life.
So, I am seeking to nail down a range of local assurances for Elmbridge, derived from the government’s national package of mitigation measures it is committed to taking. First, it is vital that noise levels are limited, and reduced over time. For that to happen, noise limits must be legally binding and independently verified. We need to understand the ‘noise envelope’, and how it will be independently monitored before expansion takes place. In the same vein, I want to see the national policy on flight paths change from the current policy of ‘concentration’ to a more fairly distributed policy of ‘dispersal’. That way, we will end the unfairness of a small number of residents being disproportionately blighted by high levels of noise.
Second, the government has committed to delivering a third runway within national air quality limits. Again, these need to be legally binding limits and independently verified. I have urged the government to authorise the Environment Agency to act as the independent monitoring body, and to review the impact not just of aviation, but also road traffic emissions. Heathrow and the Civil Aviation Authority say that expansion should not have a negative effect on air quality in Elmbridge. This is the surest way to hold them to that, and give residents the peace of mind they need.