Join the mailing list

 

Wildlife sites threatened by proposed Heathrow expansion

Wednesday 1st July 2015

Low flying plane at Crane Meadows near Heathrowe AirportLow flying plane at Crane Meadows near Heathrowe Airport

A new runway at Heathrow Airport will be bad for London and bad for Britain.  

The proposed loss of Green Belt will result in the single largest reduction of London’s Green Belt since it was designated.

London Wildlife Trust is disappointed – but unsurprised - to learn of the recommendation from the Davies Commission that a new North West runway at Heathrow Airport is the preferred option for airport expansion. 

The options considered by the Commission didn’t even consider expansion outside of London, or consider the case of no expansion; a fundamental flaw if the UK is to effectively meet its carbon emission targets and be a world leader on climate change adaptation.

Specifically we are not convinced by the business case for expansion; official figures point to the trend of a 'general decline' in business flights, acknowledged by the Airports Commission itself. Only about 11% of flights abroad are now accounted for by business travel. UK regional airports have ample capacity to accommodate additional business routes if needed.

However, there has been a huge growth of short-haul leisure flights including within Europe. Seven out of 10 of all flights are taken by just 15% of UK residents, yet all of London’s residents will be impacted by this recommendation. We urge the Government to reject the recommendation.

If built there will be adverse impacts on biodiversity, air quality, noise and carbon emissions.

The North West runway proposal at Heathrow, if built, will result in:

  • land take of 906 hectares, of which 432 hectares lie within the Green Belt
  • direct land take on three sites of nature conservation importance including Lower Colne Site of Metropolitan Importance
  • direct loss of over 35 hectares of woodland
  • direct impact on the nationally rare plant, pennyroyal
  • 13km of river will be affected.

There are 39 wildlife sites within 5km of the proposal, including the South West London Water Bodies Special Protection Area (SPA), and London Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves at Crane Meadows, and Frays Island.

The South West London Water Bodies SPA is internationally important for wildfowl, especially gulls and ducks, and there will be significant implications for potential birdstrike.

Seven out of 10 of all flights are taken by just 15% of UK residents, yet all of London’s residents will be impacted by this recommendation.

The proposed loss of Green Belt will result in the single largest reduction of London’s Green Belt since it was designated. Significant changes to water courses, including the River Colne, will also be required.

Local air pollution levels, already breaching legal limits, risk being further worsened if this proposal is built.

This proposed third Heathrow runway is cast as a temporary solution to the 'London airport capacity problem'. A second additional runway is still a real prospect. The Airport Commission’s report notes that “Even with a third runway at Heathrow, there would be likely to be sufficient demand to justify a second additional runway by 2050…”

The estimated cost for building the North West runway is £18.6 billion. London Wildlife Trust – and The Wildlife Trusts collectively - have made clear in our responses to public consultations that increasing capacity at airports is environmentally unsustainable. A new runway at Heathrow Airport will be bad for London and bad for Britain.