Heathrow plans to ban night flights as part of third runway bid
Heathrow has announced plans to ban night flights in an attempt to boost its bid to build a third runway.
The airport revealed the measure as part of a package designed to reduce the impact of expansion on the local community and the environment.
It will support the introduction of an independent noise authority, and pledged not to add new capacity unless it can do so without delaying UK compliance with EU air quality limits.
The west London hub also revealed it would accept any Government decision to rule out building a fourth runway in the future.
In July last year the Airports Commission recommended that a third runway should be built at Heathrow alongside a "significant" package of measures to make Heathrow's expansion more acceptable to nearby residents.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye has written to Prime Minister David Cameron claiming that expansion would provide a boost to the economy while balancing the impact on the environment.
The letter stated: "You set up the Airports Commission and it unanimously recommended expanding Heathrow. You demanded ambitious plans from my team to deliver expansion with a bold and fair deal for our neighbours.
"Today, I am proud to submit a comprehensive plan that meets and exceeds your demands. This is a big commitment from us, but it is the right choice for the country, local communities and jobs across Britain.
"We have acted now to let you and your government make the right choice, in the long-term interest of our country. It will enable you to choose Heathrow and secure a stronger economy and Britain's place in the world.
"Expanding Heathrow can help Britain win thousands more jobs and ensure that future generations have the same economic opportunity that we have enjoyed."
London's newly-elected mayor Sadiq Khan's manifesto stated that he would oppose a third runway at Heathrow.
He pledged to continue to call for expansion at Gatwick as a "more viable, cheaper and easier to build alternative" even if the Government pursues the Heathrow option.
The Commons' Transport Select Committee published a report last week which urged ministers to set out a clear timetable for airport expansion after claiming the arguments for and against increasing aviation capacity "have changed little in a quarter of a century".
Mr Holland-Kaye claimed the airport is "going beyond" the commission's recommendations.
"That means a cleaner, quieter Heathrow delivering more for the UK economy and that clears the way for the Prime Minister to make the right choice to expand Heathrow and deliver a stronger economy," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Heathrow has proposed that the Environment Agency should be given the role of an independent aviation air quality authority to scrutinise the airport's plans.
Mr Holland-Kaye said: "We have had no more cars on the road even though over the last 25 years ... Heathrow has almost doubled the number of passengers, and that is because we have invested in better road connections, better bus services and better rail services.
"That is part of our plan. We can make sure that Heathrow will expand within EU air quality limits."
Two air quality monitoring stations near Heathrow have average annual concentrations of NO2 above legal limits.
But airport officials insist that "by far" the greatest contribution to local air pollution in the Heathrow area arises from non-airport related road traffic.
Heathrow has pledged to create an ultra-low emissions zone for airport vehicles by 2025 and develop an emissions charging scheme for all vehicles accessing the airport.
Mary Creagh, chair of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, welcomed Heathrow's support for a ban on night flights and the introduction of an independent noise authority.
But she claimed the proposals to tackle air pollution "need to go much further, much faster", adding: "Promises on future rail links and air pollution charges are seven to 10 years away. People living near the airport need action on air quality much sooner and one quick win would be slashing fares on (rail service) Heathrow Express to encourage more people to use it.
"Whatever the Government decides on airport expansion, it needs a strategy for reducing carbon emissions from aviation. We will scrutinise the Government's plans to limit the noise, air quality, and climate change impacts of a third runway carefully."
Gavin Hayes, director of campaign group Let Britain Fly, said Heathrow's announcement "could be a game changer".
He added: "After years of dithering the ball is now firmly in the Government's court to get on and make a final decision on airport expansion as swiftly as possible.
"With this package of measures now on the table it's decision time. There can be no more excuses for delay."