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Media: Govt. to approve 3rd runway for Heathrow

Media: Govt. to approve 3rd runway for Heathrow

The British government will approve plans to add a controversial third runway to London's chronically congested Heathrow Airport, British media said Wednesday.
The British government has said it favors adding capacity at Heathrow if it does not lead to Britain violating European air pollution targets, but an official announcement was not due until later this month. However the British Broadcasting Corp. and Sky News said the government had agreed to the third runway. The BBC cited unidentified government sources; Sky did not identify its sources.
No one picked up the phone at British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street office late Wednesday. The Department for Transport declined comment ahead of the announcement, due to be made to British lawmakers.
Environmental groups are strongly opposed to the proposed expansion, saying it makes a mockery of the British government's ambitious pledge to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Green-conscious Brits are particularly sensitive to the environmental impact of the aviation industry, blamed by some for contributing disproportionately to global warming.
The prospect of expanding Heathrow, which could more than double the amount of carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere to 6.4 million tonnes (7.2 million U.S. tons) a year, is decried by campaigners.
"If it's a green light it will shred the last vestiges of Brown's environmental credibility," Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said. "These proposals would make Heathrow the single biggest emitter of CO2 in the country and would be a disaster for the fight against climate change."
Proponents say the runway would allow Heathrow to keep its position as Europe's top travel hub and help create 65,000 new jobs. The airport is the busiest airport in Europe by passenger volume, but limited capacity and overcrowding has allowed competing airports in Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam to threaten its position.
But area residents are upset at the increased noise pollution and the loss of hundreds of family homes if the runway project goes forward, and the issue has ignited fierce debate in London, whose Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson is opposed to the expansion.
"I don't think the arguments stack up," Johnson said last year. "It's not just a question of pollution _ it's the noise."
There has also been dissent from within British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party; Labour lawmaker John McDonnell, whose constituency includes the airport, called the proposal disastrous and on Wednesday predicted a storm of protest against the move. He said a legal challenge was likely within days and that direct action was also a possibility.
Britain's Cabinet had also appeared divided over the issue, and last year a decision was delayed to give ministers more time to think it over.
The BBC said the additional runway would be part of a wider transport plan including a high-speed rail link _ Sky News added that the expansion would be conditional on meeting emissions target.
But Labour lawmaker Martin Salter, another opponent of the expansion, said those were merely attempts to pacify the environmental lobby.
"There will be attempts to sweeten the pill," Salter said. "But it is difficult to conceive of measures that can mitigate the environmental effect of increasing flights out of Heathrow, over one of the most densely populated parts of England, by 50 percent."


Updated : 2021-05-15 19:28 GMT+08:00