Safeguards should be added before Parliamentary debate
Government now has the opportunity to make changes to the NPS, before it is laid before both Houses of Parliament for debate. In today’s Report on the Airports National Policy Statement, the Committee warns that important safeguards should be strengthened or added to the NPS before this happens.
A decision by Parliament to approve the Airports NPS would allow the planning process to move onto detailed work around scheme design and in effect gives outline planning permission for the Government’s preferred scheme, a Northwest runway at Heathrow Airport.
The Committee accepted there was a case for additional runway capacity, particularly hub capacity and that expansion at Heathrow could deliver the Government’s strategic objectives for greater connectivity for passengers and freight.
Passenger interest, environmental, social and health impact
MPs recognised the efforts made by the Government and Heathrow Airport Ltd to mitigate the significant social and environmental impacts arising from expansion at Heathrow.
Additional safeguards are needed to ensure that the interests of passengers are protected, and the adverse environmental, social and health impacts on affected communities are addressed. These include:
- Air quality
- Surface access
- Regional connectivity
- Scheme costs and airport charges
- Community impacts and compensation
- Resource and waste management
Sections of the draft NPS dealing with these matters should be revised before a final NPS is tabled for approval by both Houses of Parliament.
Extra policy measures required for effective delivery
The Committee also identified associated policy measures that were required if expansion at Heathrow was to be delivered effectively. These include:
- policy on airspace change
- wider Government policies on air quality, noise and surface access improvements
- effective use of existing airport capacity
The Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said:
"The Committee’s recommendations improve the NPS and reduce the chance of a successful legal challenge.
The Northwest Runway scheme, as set out in the draft NPS, is the highest cost expansion option and one of the largest privately financed infrastructure projects anywhere in the world.
At present, the draft NPS does not guarantee that passengers will be protected from the cost risks associated with the scheme. The Secretary of State must set out how airport charges will be held down.
During our inquiry, we heard how communities might be affected. Thousands of people across London could be exposed to worse levels of noise, air quality and traffic congestion - there must be sufficient measures to protect or compensate them.
The Government and Heathrow have made efforts to mitigate these significant impacts, but safeguards on air quality, surface access, connectivity, costs and charges and noise should be strengthened. As a matter of urgency, we also want to see how the Government plans to deliver the necessary airspace change.
This must all be done before a final NPS is laid before Parliament for debate."
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