UK details moves to mitigate impact of new Heathrow runway

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UK transport minister Geoff Hoon has outlined several measures aimed at mitigating the impact of Heathrow's third runway, which secured government approval today.

The measures include so-called 'green slots', a stringent new aviation emissions target, a cap on the number of additional flights which will be allowed and new UK CAA oversight duties. Access issues will be addressed in part through enhancements to the country's rail network.

Speaking during an address to the UK House of Commons this afternoon, Hoon said: "Additional flights will only be allowed when the CAA is satisfied that the [noise and air quality] limits can be met."

He says that the number of additional aircraft movements will be limited to 125,000 per year, compared with the 225,000 contained in the government consultation.

The CAA also will be awarded new duties to ensure that environmental interests are protected, with enforcement powers for noise infringements. Air quality issues, which represent another key concern, will be overseen by the government's environments agency. "[These] independent regulators will have the legal duty to take action," says Hoon.

Under the plan so-called 'green slots' will be introduced, favouring the newest, quietest and most efficient aircraft, bringing benefits in terms of air quality and noise reductions.

"Noise conditions can be met, even with the new runway," he says. "Only the cleanest aircraft will be able to use green slots once they become available."

The government also plans to introduce stringent new targets, demanding that aviation emissions are cut to 2005 levels by 2050. "This will be the toughest climate change regime for aviation of any country in the world," says Hoon.

Development at Heathrow is "critical" in terms of economic development, says Hoon, as the airport is already losing ground to rival overseas hubs. "Doing nothing will damage the economy and will have no impact whatsoever on climate change," he concludes.

In today's decision the government backed plans to add a third runway and sixth terminal at London Heathrow, but proposals for a switch to 'mixed-mode' operations were rejected.