Heathrow Expansion Likely to Go Ahead

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The controversial plan to expand Heathrow airport appears to be going ahead as ministers are launching a public consultation on the project.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly will begin the three month consultation as well as publish a recently completed four year study. The study is expected to say that noise and pollution limits would not be breached by a third runway and sixth terminal at the airport.

The consultation will attempt to seek public support for the project as well as using runways in “mixed mode”, or for take-off and landings together, rather than one runway for each as is used now.

Before the plan goes through, however, airport operator BAA must clear a few hurdles, not least of which are questions data which the company provided the government. Some have suggested that the data, particularly on potential pollution levels, is flawed due to interference. The BAA must also formally apply for planning.

Some have raised questions about having the company provide data on a project it stands to gain from. Tory MP Justine Greening, from the Putney constituency affected by the expansion, said: ‘What’s concerning is the extent to which the Department for Transport have allowed BAA to [draw up a] model with no independent scrutiny. To have somebody who is benefiting from any decision to expand Heathrow providing and modelling data to prove it’s OK raises questions about the credibility of the information that the public will be asked to respond to.’

The BAA responded that its expertise was needed to truly understand the project. A spokesman said: ‘It would be impossible for the DfT to assess the viability of growth of the airport without input from the airport operator or relevant organisations such as Nats, which manages air traffic control, or the Highways Agency.’

Environmental groups have been fighting the expansion tooth and nail. Months ago there were repeated protests, including a camp in, against the airport’s expansion. Heathrow has been facing extreme problems with overcrowding recently, leading to the idea for expansion.

Source: Guardian

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