Go to content

Air quality

We have been working to address the air quality impacts of Heathrow for more than 15 years and together with our partners, we have a strong track-record of reducing emissions from airport operations.

This includes the implementation of Air Quality Action Plans that have contributed to a 430 tonne, or 16%, reduction in total emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX) from ground-based sources associated with the airport between 2008/2009 and 2013.

Non-airport related road traffic is the dominant contributor to ground-level pollution outside of the airport boundary. We remain fully committed to playing our part in improving local air quality and managing emissions from airport related sources.

Expansion can be delivered while meeting all relevant legal air quality obligations. To underline this commitment we have given a ‘triple lock’ guarantee:

  • Meeting our existing commitment to play our part in improving air quality by targeting no increase in the amount of airport related vehicles on the road and by supporting improved surface access;
  • Ensuring further measures are ready to be introduced, if required, to reduce road journeys and emissions and encourage sustainable forms of transport;
  • Binding our commitment by guaranteeing that new capacity at an expanded airport will only be released when it is clear that the airport’s contribution will not delay the UK’s compliance with EU air quality limits.

To guide our approach to air quality we will:

  • Continue to accurately measure local air quality;
  • Work with stakeholders to increase understanding and awareness of air quality and how it affects the health and quality of life of local communities;
  • Engage with local communities, local planning authorities and other key organisations in preparing our proposals;
  • Develop a surface access strategy that encourages use of sustainable transport modes;
  • Complete a detailed air quality assessment of the scheme, using modelling to determine concentrations of airborne pollutants from sources associated with Heathrow.

To deliver our commitments relating to air quality we are proposing a number of approaches on which we would like to know your views.

Low Emission Design

We are continuing to make air quality a key consideration in developing the design of the expanded airport. In doing so, decisions taken on parts of the scheme which influence local air quality will take account of the commitments set out in this section.

This includes the positioning of realigned roads, the layout of the airfield and the provision of freight facilities to reduce the potential for emissions from traffic and aircraft to affect local air quality. In deciding where to locate parking and freight facilities, we are also considering how vehicle journeys to and from these locations could affect air quality in the surrounding area.

Managing Air Quality during Construction

This can be achieved through the use of low emission construction vehicles, the use of logistics hubs to combine deliveries and reduce the number of individual vehicle trips, moving bulk materials by rail rather than road and managing and coordinating construction traffic and workforce travel.

During construction we will put management plans in place to ensure that those responsible for building the scheme meet strict standards and carefully manage potential air quality impacts.

Managing Air Quality during Operation

The measures we could put in place for the operation of an expanded Heathrow include incentivising the use of cleaner aircraft and the more efficient operation of aircraft on the ground.

We could also potentially introduce an emissions based charge for vehicles accessing the airport to encourage use of the cleanest vehicles, sustainable and public transport modes, complementing our airside Ultra-Low Emission Zone.

Further information

We know that air quality and the emissions produced by the airport and vehicles both inside and outside the airport boundary are important to all those living and working in the wider local area and beyond. Further details about how we will meet our air quality and emissions commitments can be found in "Our Approach to Air Quality and Emissions" via the Documents & Resources section of this website.
Go there now