1.In 2015, we carried out an inquiry into the environmental aspects of the Airports Commission’s recommendation for airport expansion in the South East of England. We set out the key environmental issues that the Government would need to address in respect of carbon emissions, air quality and noise when making its decision. We published an interim report and said we would invite the Secretary of State for Transport to appear before the Committee, should the Government proceed with expansion in line with the Commission’s recommendation.
2.On 25th October 2016 the Government announced its support for a new north-west runway at Heathrow Airport as its preferred option to deliver airport expansion in the South East. On the same day we announced our intention to call the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon. Chris Grayling MP to scrutinise how environmental concerns would be addressed.
3.We contacted those who provided oral evidence during our previous inquiry, inviting them to submit further evidence in light of recent developments for this one-off evidence session. We are grateful to those who submitted written evidence for taking the time to do so.
4.The aim of this hearing was to focus on the action that Government has taken since our previous report. The purpose of this report is to build on our interim report and identify areas that require more consideration and action by the Government if it is to deliver the “step change” in approach to environmental mitigation that we called for in our previous report.
5.The Secretary of State for Transport published a draft National Policy Statement (NPS) for airports expansion on 2 February 2017. This will be consulted on, examined by a departmental Select Committee (or Members of several such Select Committees meeting together) and a final National Policy Statement is likely to be debated on and voted on by the House. If it is approved, then a detailed planning application will follow. Due to the timing of publication, the Committee has not had time to analyse the draft National Policy Statement or the accompanying documentation in great detail. However, where relevant, we have drawn attention to areas of concern.
1 Environmental Audit Committee, The Airports Commission Report, page 4, HC 389
2 Environmental Audit Committee, The Airports Commission Report, page 3, HC 389
3 House of Commons Debates, 25 October 2016, Col. 162; 2 February 2017, Col. 1183
20 February 2017